Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pilgrimage or Purgatory?

I should start with an open apology to St. Patrick. I took his name in vain more than once on today's run / scramble / crawl / suicide attempt.

Croagh Patrick is renowned as a site of pilgrimage in honour of Saint Patrick, Ireland's patron saint. It was on the summit of the mountain that Saint Patrick fasted for forty days in 441 AD and the custom has been faithfully handed down from generation to generation.

Instead of 40 days at the summit I spent the 40 seconds it took to circle the little stone church and made my way back down... 100% kamikaze style trail running all the way to the base. At one point I hit my left foot off my right calf, veered off to the right and caught myself just in the nick of time. I don't want to think what state I'd be in if I went down.

It was cruel. But, oh so much fun!!!

There were about 35 runners, maybe 8 or 9 of them women. Finished in around 1:10. First female was just under the hour, missing the course record by seconds, and then another girl between us. Not sure what the first guy finished in but he was way ahead of the pack when I met him. The best part of the day - getting passed by a 12 year old kid. He was unreal - his Dad was running it also. I ran with him for a few minutes (before he sped off up the steepest part) and we had a quick chat...

So, have you done this before?

Oh aye, a few times.

Good on you.

Aye, I run a lot of the races up around home, in the Mourne Mountains. [Co. Down in Northern Ireland]

Nice one.

Oh aye, it's not for the craic I'm down here.

Oh. Right. [I'll shut up now]

In fairness, the young lad is probably sick of people patronizing him when he's taking this mountain running business seriously.

And it is serious business. From January to October the IMRA calendar is stacked with races of all distances - from the 2.5K run up Killiney Hill to the 120K Wicklow Way relay - and many of them over rough terrain. This weekend is the Connaught Championships so many of today's runners will be taking part in the Ben Gorm race tomorrow. At one point on the ascent, while traveling at around 2 miles an hour, I swore there was no chance of me doing it. Of course, no more than 30 seconds after finishing I was chatting to some of the other runners about it and was telling them I'd see them there!!

Headed down to the sea after the finish for a dip to cool the calves and quads. Felt great. Legs are tired but no aches or pains. Not sure how they'll be in the morning. Tomorrow's race is a midday start, about a 2 hour drive from home, so I guess I'll just see how I feel in the morning. And more importantly how the weather is. It was an absolutely beautiful day today - unfortunately I couldn't exactly enjoy the views out over Clew Bay from the summit - a quick 2 second glance around and that was it. My eyes were fixed firmly on the ground at all other times.