Athletics is primarily an individual sport. It’s up to the individual to put in the work and deliver on the day. There is a ‘team’ element to most races, but often it’s a coincidental group of club mates running the same race rather than specifically by design. The Wicklow Way Relay is an exception. It’s truly a team event and perhaps that’s why it has grabbed the attention of so many. The event started as a once-off fund raiser for international competitions – 10 years later and it has arguably become IMRA’s most popular race.
This year the event sold out quicker than a U2 gig. Rathfarnham were lucky to get possibly the last of the 30 golden tickets. Peter O’Farrell took over the captaincy from John Farrelly and quickly started to assemble a formidable team. Rathfarnham actually wanted to enter two teams, but it just wasn’t possible due to event demand. 8 coveted spots for a club with a huge hill running population. I didn’t envy Peter’s role as several were going to be disappointed. Criteria for selection was simple – reccy of an appropriate leg and recent race performances. The rules stipulate two women and two vets for an 8 person team – these spots were filled relatively quickly. In Donna Mahon and Eilis Connery we had two ladies with greater leg speed than 90% of the male club running population. John Brennan was also an easy choice, building on last year’s super marathon run with several excellent recent hill running performances. John was so eager he ran leg 4 enough times in training to do it blindfolded. Padraig MacCroistal was given the last masters spot. Pressure was really on Padraig to deliver after costing Rathfarnham the title in 2010 with a completely unnecessary 40 minute detour J
The four senior male spots were particularly difficult for Peter to fill. Contenders included myself, Peter, Jason Reid, Kevin Keane, Kevin Bolger, Niall Sommers, Mark Ryan, and Brian Furey. 8 into 4 just doesn’t go. There were several twists and turns on route to confirming the final line up – including some last minute transfer activity. Kevin Keane was unlucky with a recent bike crash ruling him out – amazingly he still managed to put in a solid run for the Boards AC team. Jason was also unfortunate with a recent illness setting him back. Mark had to pull out with a last minute hamstring injury. Thankfully, Rathfarnham has strength and depth in the hills these days ...
The weeks of planning and reconnaissance trips to Wicklow paid off with a flawless performance by team Rathfarnham. No other race has logistics like it – it’s so easy get lost on route to your leg, let along during your leg – so preparation and planning a necessity. Brian Furey had us 2 minutes up after leg one. Kevin Bolger dedication to the team paid off with an excellent sub-70 run on challenging leg 2. We slipped into 2nd place after this leg due to the Motley Cru using their trump card in Ian Conroy, but it was still very early in the race. We regained the lead after an excellent performance from Eilis and were out of sight after John Brennan’s demolition job on leg 4. Now it was a matter of minimising mistakes to stay on course for a record setting team run. Captain Fantastic, Peter, led by example on leg 5 and handed over to Padraig who found redemption at Iron Bridge. I had the hilly half marathon leg 7. Felt very bouncy and surprisingly fresh, passing the old course finish 72:40 and onto the new finish in 77:54. Donna Mahon had the glory leg and she finished in style with a overall new WWR record of 7:03:13 – not bad J
|Team Rathfarnham: Top Row - Peter, Brian, Eilis, Kevin. Bottom Row - Padraig, Barry, Donna, John|
There was a real buzz after the race – we were all visibly high and relieved. There is so much pressure to deliver in a race like this – there is a team depending on you and I think it brings the best out in people from both a performance and exhilaration perspective. The race always has some drama – amazingly the fight for second came to within 10 seconds, with Crusaders hanging on from Boards! The Nifty Fifties were particularly unluckily, missing out on a potential podium finish with Martin MacDonald unfortunately going wrong. The President’s Men were pessimistic in their planning, with some runners not arriving in time to receive the invisible baton. This is all part of parcel of an excellent event. Amazingly all 30 teams finished.
For team Rathfarnham it was redemption after three years of hurt. The endorphin buzz continued well into the evening, with a fab night on the tiles. Perhaps a little too much alcohol consumed, but these events have to be celebrated. My long run was painful this morning, but still managed a solid 28km. From a personal perspective yesterday was the first time since January that I felt I was actually running. Training is going well recently, but with no sessions at the moment it is difficult to gauge form. Confidence is increasing and hopefully I can still put in a good summer. Today I’m finished my aerobic base phase for the national 10km track championships - volume to give way for speed. Looking forward to some interval training – bring it on ...