Report from Tom Lynch:
I headed over to Ireland with Liam and his brother-in-law (and new Otley member) Dean Clark for the IMRA Croagh Patrick race, this year it was an Irish and Connacht championship counting race. For those unfamiliar, it’s a holy mountain in the west of Ireland near Westport in Co. Mayo. and it’s a bit steep. St Patrick is supposed to have fasted on it for 40 days (the name means St. Patrick’s Stack) and people do pilgrimages up it every year on ‘Reek Sunday’, sometimes in bare feet, we all opted for holy(/holey) X-talons this time though.
The race is about 7.5 km and has roughly 850 m of climbing, it follows a well marked but very rocky pilgrim track to the summit, and then the route goes over the top and down the other side on a less well trodden route. The top third of the ascent/descent is barren and covered in very difficult blocky scree and Liam finished with a badly swollen/bruised foot as a result.
The organisation for the race was low key but good, being run under the Irish Mountain Running Association, it’s a fairly cooperative setup, with people volunteering for different jobs in the race. It included a bus back from the finish which was along the mountain from the start, free tea and cake at the end, and a prize giving in the pub with spot prizes, there was also a beach BBQ later that night but we missed it. I’ll definitely be going back to do some more, especially if they are anywhere near the west coast.
and from Liam:
The mountain of Croagh Patrick and its surroundings is a special place for me and brings back many happy memories of visiting the area, running and walking up the mountain over the last few decades. I’ve never raced up the mountain before so I’ve been keen to enter this event for a while. As the race was held on a Sunday in recent years, it didn’t suit me to enter it. However, this year I spotted on the IMRA calendar that it was being held on a Saturday and logistically this was perfect for me. It would also incorporate the Connaught and Irish Championships.
I’m going to be biased now and suggest that the IMRA scene is really friendly and well organised and possibly the best running scene anywhere as it includes Irish mountains. Tom Lynch’s ancestry originates from the west coast of Ireland and he hasn’t been back since he was a kid, so when I mentioned the race to him he was keen to join me for the event. I flew to Dublin on Friday evening with Tom, my sister, Maria and brother in-law, Dean and drove the 3hr+ journey to get to Westport, Co. Mayo on the west coast of Ireland.
The race began at 13.30 in the afternoon and weather conditions were sunny and warm. After taking a few photos and chatting with some new and old faces that I’ve met over the years it was time to say goodbye to my mum and 3 sisters, stretch the legs and line up at the start.
The mountain is full of walkers who often offered encouragement and also an American who asked the stupid question “Geez, is this really a race you guys are doing?” I didn’t have time or energy to explain that the only time I ever wear my club vest with a number on it is when I’m racing. Instead, I said ‘What do you think?!’
The route is pretty steep and technical all the way apart from a short section in the middle where it levels off for a brief spell. I was just behind Tom for most of the climb but on the steep section just before the top he seemed to pull a small gap which widened even more before we reached the church at the summit.
Underfoot conditions were tough as the ground was always moving with loose rock and gravel and this made it difficult with tiring legs. I have never been over the southern side of the mountain and thought the decent would have suited me and maybe I could close the gap on Tom, but no, it consisted of moving rock, bog and steep rocky descents. I caught my foot between two rocks and remained in a bit of discomfort for the full decent. Tom proved to be in good form as he disappeared into the distance to finish 10th overall, I came in 11th but well behind, and soon after the third OAC member Dean came in only 6 minutes behind which was a fantastic result for him.
After the finish we were bused back to the pub for the prize giving and refreshments. If there was a team prize we would have got 1st, but there wasn’t! However, it was a super event and great weekend and just glad I’ve now ticked it off my ‘races to do’ list. Next year anyone?
The winner of the race was Jason Kehoe (Crusaders AC) in 52:58 and first woman was Deirdre Galvin (U/A) in 1:10:56. I came in 10th in 59:47, followed by Liam Dunne in 11th in 1:01:19 and Dean Clark 15th in 1:07:48. Full results are here.