Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I ran out to the tiny little island which only bears itself when the tide is very far out...

I may need to change my diet... and by diet, I mean:  cut down on sweets, chocolates, crisps, pizzas, bread and worst of all, wine and beer.  Yes, I have slipped dramatically since the heady days of 2010 when I strode through the year on a healthy diet of salads, fresh meat and fish and only 24 pints in the entire year!
It really can have a dramatic effect - this year I feel sluggish and slow and it's hard for me to get beyond a plodding 5 miler.  Thank God I did plod that amount today - up the village and down again in brilliant April sunshine.  
The little square cut holy well on the island...

Last week was a write-off thanks to a nasty bug that visited our house via Louth, but I did manage to get a few miles done on Friday.  I even managed to get out to the little island that bears itself to the world whenever the tide is very far out.  On it is a holy well (a square shape cut into the rock!).  Good to be alive on these days...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Buggin Me...

Heathery field on the way to Trá Pháidín.

I was about to declare that 'I am back', but then a bloody bug has cut the legs from under me and everyone else within touching distance!  Last week I completed a couple of five milers, as well as a three and four miler, and then, following young Murty's christening on Sunday morning I took to the roads of An Cheathrú Rua with Benny and Mary and brought them on a lovely run, down to the beach and then off track and across country until we connected with concrete and civilisation again!  It was a great run and I really felt like I was flying.
Then it happened...
Liam got sick, Cormac got sick, Caitriona got sick, Deirdre got sick, Sandra got sick, Eve got sick, Carol got sick, Andrew got sick... I kid you not.
I was the last one standing, but yesterday the bug hit me and drained every last bit of energy from my body!  
However, I'm not giving in... a day or two of rest and I'll be out on the roads again... I'm determined say 'I'm back' soon!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why Boston was an attack on the spirit.

Everyone who has ever run a long distance race knows about the Boston Marathon, and it's strict time requirements for qualification.  I wouldn't have come close to qualifying for Boston - my best marathon being 3.43 in Dublin, but at one point, when training and fitness was going well, it was a target that I felt I could aim for. 
Running a marathon is more for the soul than for the body.  If truth be told, marathons attack the body - tearing your muscles and limbs as you pound 26 miles of pavement in 3, 4, or 5 hours.  But for the many thousands who take to the streets for a marathon the body takes second place to the spiritual task that lies ahead - to achieve something beyond the norm.  To call on reserves of strength beyond your normal bodily ability.  To push yourself to the limit.  Whether you wish to achieve a sub 3 hour run, complete your 100th marathon or simply cross the finish line for the very first time, your aim is always to raise the spirit.

And every runner will tell you that what really 'makes' a marathon special, are those very special people who come to cheer on their loved ones, and who are so buoyed up by the uplifting atmosphere that they take the time to cheer you and every other runner on as well. Most runners will write their first name on a bib in order to hear the crowd cheer: 'Go for it John', 'You can do it Rachel', 'Almost their Brendan, keep going'.  It is the highest level of human decency and an act of spiritual kindness, whether knowingly made or not.
What happened in Boston on the weekend was an attack on the spirit, on joy and on human decency.  God love all who were affected.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

4 Miles... The Comeback Continues!

Up and down the road today with a four miler that showed the tinest little improvement in form!  My thighs were heavy for sure after Monday's climb of Croagh Patrick but the chest didn't wheeze as much and my stamina is beginning to settle a bit.  All told, happy enough.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ireland's Holy Reek.

For all my sporting achievements (don't laugh), it took 38 years for me to fulfil the most basic test of West of Ireland mettle - the climbing of Ireland's holy reek - Cruach Phádraig (Croagh Patrick). I put this black mark on my character to right yesterday in the company of hardy mountain climbing Mayo friend, Micí Mac an Ghabhair.

We left Galway at a little past 10am and arrived at the foot of the hill, just 3km outside the picturesque town of Westport, at a little after 11am.  After a scone and coffee in the tourist information shop we set off on our 764 metre climb, with two little sticks that the tourist info woman had kindly given us. 
The reek itself is no Everest and certainly not Ireland's highest mountain, but it is a sharper climb than many of it's more imposing cousins.  It's also Ireland's most popular climb and is populated at every turn with a great mix of first-time climbers, spiritual seekers, and experienced hillwakers.  At the top we met with a Liverpudlian who lived in Germany, an elderly man from Wisconsin who was completing his third climb of the reek and a couple from the continent who were sipping a bottle of beer.  Thousands take to the hill every year on Reek Sunday (the last Sunday in July) as part of a pilgrimage in honour of Ireland's patron saint, who spent 40 days fasting on the mountain in the year 441 (it was all over Sky news at the time).  

The climb begins with a few well laid out wooden steps that bring you up past a little gate entrance where you are met by the statue of Patrick and the wilds of the mountain side.  The incline slowly increases as you pass a beautiful little stream and slowly make your way up to the first real section of the climb. There follows a steep gravely gradient that stretches and winds upwards for a few hundred metres until the mountain turns again on the shoulder, giving the walker a nice little respite before having to tackle the head of the hill.  The views at this point are spectacular - down to our left we could see stretches of bog and woodland, whilst behind us the islands of the bay grew smaller with every step.  Of course, ahead of us we could see that the toughest section of the climb was still to come.  

The head of the mountain is a very sharp climb and deceptive in that you think at every turn that the end must be around the corner, only to see another tough incline ahead.  Mící sprung ahead of me like a cat climbing a shed and my lack of fitness really told on this section.  'One foot ahead of the other', I said to myself as I puffed my way up slowly to the top.  

The very last section of the climb was undeniably a spiritual experience as the fierce wind blew us up towards the little church that magically sits at the summit.  Micí was there before me, huddling for shelter inside of the church wall.  We sat and ate a few sandwiches while we met and chatted to our fellow climbers.  Our fingers were stinging cold at the summit - even though we wore gloves! 

The first part of the descent was very difficult as the ferocious wind that had helped us summit was now pushing us back and throwing grit at our eyes.  It settled as we got further down and eventually the descent itself became a real pleasure.  

We reached the bottom again after a round trip of about 2 and a half hours and met a very nice old Kerry man at the foot of the hill.  There was nothing to do then but to celebrate our achievement with a pint of plain in Matt Molloy's in Westport... legends of the Reek!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

3 Miles, 4 Miles and a Bloody Leg.

I had just completed a nice three miler and was walking back into the house when I decided to take a few twigs from the briar patch, to help start a fire later that evening.  Note to self:  never do this in a pair of shorts!  As bad luck would have it my laces got caught in the briars and I fell head over heals, tearing my legs on the briary ground.  What a mess!

The run itself had been lovely - in beautiful April weather.  Everyone seemed to be out and about - either walking or working, or in my case running!  I passed Margaret who was out washing her windows, Pádraic and Ciarán chatting on the roadside and Máire Nan taking the air on one of her daily walks.  Smiles on faces... a spat of good weather can really work wonders.

I huffed and puffed again - this was only my second run this week and it is proving to be a tough comeback.  But, glad was I when I finished up.

This morning I got out for a four miler - my legs still stinging from the briary scrapes.  It was a bit colder and overcast, but it was still a gorgeous day for a run.  I was happy to add a mile to my recent plodding.  And I felt a small bit better than I did either yesterday or Monday.  If tomorrow is fine I hope to get out to climb Ireland's most famous reek - Croak Patrick, with the bould McGowan.  Now that's something to look forward to!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Lovely Three Miler.

Spring at last?

The natives were complaining about the cold.  I being one of them.  But today had at least a hint of Spring about it, with clear blue skies and the sound of chirping birds.  Late March was harsh but April is hanging it's brightest colours out to dry. 
Today I ran 3 miles and loved every inch of road.  Out from the house, down to the sea and then back up to the village and back down to the house!  There were times when my chest wheezed and my legs were leaden, but what else could I expect from them - I haven't been the best of trainers these days.  Still, no time to dwell on the downs - this was a wonderful, if short, run.