BOOK: Hard Men of the Fells - A Tribute Part 2

Today I am going to make a slight detour from my tribute to the heroes of Richard Askwith's book "Feet in the Clouds", to look at a champion closer to home. A man who is perhaps the greatest of the "purebreed" mountain runners the Isle of Erin has seen for a generation, a true son of the rugged Kerry, who withstood terrible injury to set a nigh unbreakable record on the highest mountain of Ireland: Mighty Carrauntoohil!

This man, whose legend grew to such extent that bad (very bad!) poetry was written to honour him, is of course, John Lenihan, The King of the Hills...

King of the Hills

Who is John Lenihan? Who is the gaint runner the long flowing hair and green attire who courts a seemingly lifelong love affair with Carrauntoohil?

Well as normal a guy in some ways as he is extraordinary in other ways, if some of the comments from fellow Irish Mountain runners can be believed: "The nicest man you'd ever meet", "The sheep farmer from Kerry". Who, as the story goes, returned from the American Tour because he missed his farm. Now if that is not a man cut in the same ilk as the all-time great hill runners Joss Naylor (who once commented, on getting lost on the Mountain Trial, "my sheep don't range that far!"), Billy Bland, and Kenny "the Eagle" Stuart. Maybe its just a story, but if so, its a good one.

Like Joss Naylor, the cougar like man who did the impossible in the face of atrocious injuries, the story of John Lenihan has a hint of the unreal, the seemingly physically impossible, about it. And that is what draws us in, what inspires us. If he can do it, could we?
The Story of John

I could write much more of John Lenihan, but his story has already been told in full. How he won the Irish Championship 15 times in 16 years (he was injured one year), how he set the all-time record on Carrauntoohil, and how he was crowned World Champion in Mountain Running. It tells of the lowlight of his career, when he crawled down Carrauntoohil with a broken legs for 4 long icy-cold hours, only to have doctors tell him he would never run competitively again, and of the highlights when the pride of Kerry, to everyone's amazement, won the WMRA Trophy and became World Champion. Truly on top of the world.

Read John's story here.
And me? Well, I'll never run alongside Joss, Billy, Bob, or Kenny, but come 3rd of June, if my injury has healed, I may run alongside a true mountain running legend, albeit only for a few seconds, as John Lenihan has returned to IMRA action. I would be surprised if I do not see the man from Toureen come June.
The race result? John won it, beating last year's Luc, Mangerton, and Carraountoohil winner Eoin McKenna by a second, and, naturally, setting a new course record. Its safe to say, John is back...