Irish Mountain
Running Association

Mountain Rescue Benefit Race


Brian KitsonMikey FryRobert Costello

Arms Race

Onwards and upwards with these lovely little post-league mid-weekender races. Unlike last week’s Mountain Meitheal, a race to raise money to build mountain paths that didn’t actually run on any mountain paths, the Mountain Rescue lads organising their fundraiser this week looked keen and ready to offer their services. My arrival must have caused a frisson of excitement among the MR Team. Having taken wrong turns in several recent races, hopes were no doubt raised that some of the impressive array of gleaming rescue equipment on display might see some action. I sensed officials nodding solemnly in my direction, identifying their ‘mark’. Hushed and serious exchanges over crackling radios as night-vision goggles were unpacked and fuel levels rechecked. A drone was even deployed. Brian Kitson showing up to a mountain rescue gig must be like Messi showing up to their friendly 5-side kick-a-bout. Nobody does wrong turns better than me.

The slightly smaller entry field gave the start line an even more intimate and friendly buzz than some of the bigger races. The usual craic listening to folk get their excuses in early. Mikey Fry was hardly going to be able to run because he had ‘lunch’ earlier. ‘Marathon training’, usually a factor to make one run faster, was the reason Rob Costello and Warren Swords gave for their anticipated poor performance before Warren took off and duly blitzed the entire field. Get in!

My unexpected victory over Rob Costello at the Meitheal last week has led me to become unwittingly embroiled in some uncouth rematch showdown tonight. 'Les jeux sont fait, Mr Bueller'. So, as Race Director, Mike Jordan, set us off promising all manner of raffle riches in Kavanagh’s hostelry later, I resolve to do my best to give Costello a run for his money. We take off along a long spruce-lined fire road. Costello is tucked in with the tight group of leaders setting a decent pace. I’m several metres behind taking a mental note of those cruising past me on the gentle climb as I try to keep the leaders in sight. We turn left onto a woody single track and I find some rhythm as the climb steepens through the forest and leads onto the open hill proper. It’s a gorgeous evening but the stunning vista of the Wicklow mountains from Paddock hill is utterly ruined by the tiny spec that is Costello disappearing off into the distance.

I push on and pass a few of those who passed me earlier on the fire road. The climb is runnable but long. Working hard now. My legs are heavy but I feel strength in my arms that carries me up. This is an arms race. There is a MR van perched high on a distant ridge. I can sense the dismay of the crew member manning the post when I finally pass (“Victor Charlie, the mark is still unlost. I repeat, the mark is unlost! Over!!”). The trail flattens and I pick up the pace but I’m not making any significant gains on Rob. There is a turn onto open mountain and I kind of lunge my way through the bushy heather and try not to roll an ankle. I’ve closed the gap, but it’s still the length of a football field. The game is up. Bragging rights deservedly go to Mr Costello until our rematch at the Amsterdam Marathon in October.

The drone closely, dejectedly, monitors my unwavering progress up the final climb by the forest edge. A leap of a stile and a marshal’s call that, ‘it’s all downhill from here” sets me off towards home. I absolutely loved the fast descent through the forest rapidly calculating footfalls to ensure my stride wouldn’t be broken by cross beams on the wooden boards. More in flight than on foot as the cares of the week are left behind. Blast my way back down the fire road and cross the line, my own look of joy at odds with disappointment etched on the faces of the crew members as they packed away their unused jet-pack. An excellent race and one in which I somehow managed to join many of my greatest trail-running pals among the top ten.

Where’s the chocolate

So sea swim with the lads platform pizza at lunch bad idea as I was heading up after warren and Tim till pat and Caoimhin then Sean pass me out and I’m struggling but keep going across the heathery lovely part boom onto fire road push on around sharp bend look behind and see rob no way he’s going past I hope struggle after Caoimhin left turn fly down forest hit last fire road safe behind over line nice ice pops nice chats hit pub lovely cup of tea nice grub raffle and there’s no chocolate brendan disappointed what do you give a person that needs rescue in the mountains chocolate please chocolate please thanks again to Mike and mountain rescue for super race..and warren Gavin chris mags the Munster lady rob Brian fir the turn table chats and how records still so good …rob and Brian for the great parenting chats after they do grow so fast later Imra people till the next race…mikey

Round 2

As I settle down at home to watch Platoon, the mid week movie about a young idealistic man who goes to war in Vietnam only for his idealism to fade in the heat of battle.
Tonight we went to battle around Paddock Hill. The great and the good Trailrunners were out in force. Caoimhín back from warm weather training camp in France, Chris sans jacket, Liam pre another ultra, James, BK and Warren hopefully of a win while Peter Bell sauntered around the Dolomites for the week.
The night began with a long warmup past Trooperstown house and along the firetrail. It wasn’t long before Mike arrived for the race briefing and the promise of lots of Mountain Rescue swag to be won back at Kavanaghs, guaranteeing a good post race turn out.
5-4-3-2-1, we’re off. A 1km firetrail ascent until we hit the mountain proper. I was pretty wrecked after an interval session on Tuesday so unlike last week my plan was to start steady and take it from there. Luckily my climbing legs were dialled in and I pushed on through the ascent up the saddle to Scarr. Nicking a few places, including passing Paul Mahon - still reeling from the Sugar Bowl scandal, I got to the 3km mark feeling better than at the start. Then the right turn onto open mountain and energy sapping leg lifts over the heather as we crested across to the Wicklow Way. Oh shit, this was my downfall last week when I lost 3 places including one to Brian Kitson. And like clockwork, the overtaking started. Three places lost including to Mahon. But this time it was different, I stuck with them and felt good as we approached the Wicklow Way and pushed on to regain all but one of the places. Mahon ahead, but he wasn’t conceding without a fight. We grappled to get to the style first but he got it. Then a short uphill where we exchanged words and I made my move passing Paul but not without a fight. Fortunately for us, we also passed two more lads. 3km to go. My company for the next 5 minutes was the hum of Gareth’s drone getting some great coverage of us suffering on the hills. A quick salute to the camera and I was back focusing on making sure Mahon or Kitson didn’t pass me. Then I spotted Mikey. Track him, I thought, and you may even catch up. Back to the Wicklow Way and the last decent. Mikey may have had pizza belly tonight which slowed his climbing but his descending didn’t let him down. The objective now was to hold my position. Crossed the line in 7th for a Mr. Freeze and a greeting from my good friend Caoimhín. 5th for him in an excellent display. Also a shout out to Warren. His second win of the year. It’s amazing how he peaks when Peter is away.
Back to Kavanagh’s for a drink and some sambos followed by a raffle of the much anticipated mountain rescue swag. No wins for me and some dubious mug wins but an all round good night. I’ll miss IMRA Wednesdays.
Well done to Mike and the mountain rescue team on a really well organised race and another great night. A few people groaned about how runnable it was but sure it’s mountain running after all.
Kitson 1 Costello 1.