Robbie Brysons Run and Ride Round of Irish Munroes

Robbie's Run & Ride Round in 1999

by Robin Bryson

When I was short and yet to reach my prime I used to wear long trousers and funny plastic shoes. On Sundays I would run around in ever increasing circles and call myself an orienteer. On the way back, being an Ajax offspring, I would stop off in Roundwood for a couple of scoops. There was Eoin in the Beetle, Paddy and Joan and the clan, Niall Rice, most of the Banjax and many others. By then Id started hill running so I could wander aimlessly even more quickly and with so little effort I would stay out all day on a 10km course. Id also read Stud Marks on the Summits and was filled with all sorts of plans for big days out in the hills. Niall was a great man for the ideas too but I had one I couldnt shake  the Irish Munros in a self propelled journey of less than 24 hours.

But then I started wearing very large tracksuits and travelling to foreign climes to run up long hills with no prospect of getting lost. In those days I called myself a mountain runner and put behind me thoughts of childish adventure. After many ups and not too many downs my legs got sore so I started wearing longer shorts and very odd shoes with metal bits. Sometimes I would waddle about like a duck but mostly I rode a bike and called myself a cyclist. But even then I couldnt resist the little green numbers with the funny studs and every so often would take them out for a run. Then one fine day this spring at the wall corner on Donard with a distant view to the Wicklow hills I thought of that pub in Roundwood and I thought its time. Time those 3000 foot pies in the sky were ate (though actually there are fifteen). It's time, I thought, for a little adventure, a little bit of pain and ecstasy, a little test of the inner man to see what a little man with short legs is made of.

Here's the plan. Start at the top of Lugnaquilla in Wicklow, the most easterly Irish 3000 footer, run off it to the bike, pedal the 100 odd miles to Galteemore, shuffle it, cycle the 80 plus miles to the Reeks and traverse the 12 summits and tops there. After that its all downhill. All there is to do is a 50-mile spin through Dingle for a last gasp dander to Brandon summit. All in a day's work. Sub 24 hours is the target. You could do it the other way round but where's the Guinness pleasure in finishing in the morning in Wicklow when you could round off the day at a Sculpture and Poetry Festival in Dan Foley's in Annascaul. Culture! Apart from Greek Yoghurt where would you get it, except in the west

Rules No pacing on the bike, use the same bike except if major mechanical breakdown occurs and always return to the point where you left your bike to go wandering. Why summit to summit Because in terms of start/finish points it's unambiguous and in the 24-hour time scale it looks feasible.

Thirstday evening. A pub in the Mournes after the hill race. Nobody knows but Jim and Mike. Nods and winks and pints of porter all round. Heady thoughts of anticipation. Could be thirsty work  more porter. This is the best bit of any plan  the planning. More porter  its going to be easy.

Satallday Morning then Im off. Slim Jim Brown's role is high altitude sherpa, recorder and raconteur, while Mike Two Dogs' Hunter is along as driver, cook and DJ - two sound and steady men. The wind's blowing from the North and is forecast to do so until Monday so we settle for the favoured East-West crossing to benefit from a marginal tail-wind at least as far as Clonmel. I want to get going anyway and East-West means an evening start so as to be safely beavering away at Galteemore while the mad men are leaving the pubs.

In the van you've got the essentials, Bike, PB's, 120 fig rolls, a weighty rucksack for Slim and a box of tapes for Two Dogs. By Lunchtime we three and some 'Fine Young Cannibals' are rocking across the Liffey. By 3:20 p.m. Jim and I are off up Camarahill track with nothing to lug but fear and anticipation to Lug.

4:45 p.m. and reality has jellied the calves. Oh Shit! Thats what I want to do but Slim says go and he's started the watch and he's taking the photo and I've missed my chance and so off we go with 237 miles of road and maybe 24 miles of bog land and maybe 15,000 feet of up and down before I get to use the bog. Shit! 120 fig rolls! Bad idea. Gerrys McGrath and Brady are there on the way down for moral support and it's great to be cheered on by Noel and Niamh Richardson and family in Kilkenny but strangely I've not much to tell of the actual traverse. Of course I struggle in a few places, mainly on the bike, between Kilkenny and Clonmel over the shoulder of Slievenamon, between Mallow and Killarney in the darkest hours before dawn and the last 7 miles on the bike into a strengthening wind to the foot of Brandon. All the way Im hitting the scheduled times but Ive only 20 minutes to spare and Im hoping to gain time for a rainy hill. Galteemore is dangerous in the dark and rain and mist but I get away with it with Slim's help. Maybe I lose 5 minutes but nearly lose much more when on the fast, narrow drop to the main road Im nearly mowed down by a mad man just out of the pub. Mitchelstown at 3 a.m. is buzzing. So much for the drunk avoidance theory.

The lads are always there, every 12 miles or so with a tantalising choice of High 5, Coke or water. Choices, choices. During the night Two Dogs and Slim nod to REM - taped not slept variety. I can't get their 'Do you believe they put a man on the moon, man on the moon' out of my head. Its driving me mad. At the foot of the Reeks Im starting to lose it, a real space cadet. My eyes are red and raw like two sushi dinners and Im rambling. But Two Dogs says he'll be there at the top of the Hags Glen with water and Slim has packed the fig rolls. Im more than 14 hours into it and I can't stop now and let the lads down and after that, miraculously, I start making time up on the schedule. Though Im tired now and Beenkeeragh, Caher and Caurantoohill are all done in wet mist and strong winds when the mist clears, I can appreciate the grandeur and magic of the Reeks like I may not do again. By the time I struggle to the foot of Brandon I know it's in the bag and the comers of my gub are starting to curl upward like the Saint's Road.

Sorebunsday. 4:04 p.m. 23 hours 19 minutes and 32 seconds. Brandon summit and Im elated and buggered (must be the saddle) at the same time. Satisfied Yes. Anti-climax No.

On the way down Jim (whose been on all the tops) and I look out to Skellig Michael and beyond and think of Brendan rowing a Curragh to America, and the things a body could do in a month or two. Would I do it again Well that's not up to me. You see I've done it and some one like you has got to do it better before I'll to do it again. Actually I probably wont. These things are a personal challenge so it matters not a whit what others do.

Maybe soon Ill wear a harness, a helmet, a life jacket, some sexy cross trainers, ride a camel and call myself an Adventure Racer but that would be silly. I prefer increasing circles.

 

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