DIARY: Spink Stairmaster

Forget about the fancy steppers, Stairmasters, or choosing your office staircase over the lift at work. If you like stepping up to the task, the Spink is your place! The Spink is an innocuous little hill forming part of the majestic cliff faces that surround the lakes at Glendalough in Laragh, County Wicklow, standing 504m high. From its viewing points, you can see Camaderry to the North, while Derrybawn and Mullacor are mostly hidden by forest to the South.

I've never run up the Spink in Glendalough before and while it isn't exactly the most enjoyable uphill trod, the views are spectacular and the descent back down to the lakes offers a real technical treat for the swift of feet. (when the weather is good you do spend as much time dodging hikers as you do trying not to get your foot stuck in some of the bear-trap formed stone-formations).

Rumour has it that ex-IMRA president Cormac O'Ceallaigh uses this descent for his tempo-run which beggars the question how he has stayed relatively injury-free for so long. The man certainly does not have ankle issues! (incidentally, ankle issues, while the scourge of the running world, probably compares favourably with the distress issues that harrow the general population!).

The Route
To run the Spink a good place to start is the Glendalough carpark from where you follow the Wicklow Way (the part that constitutes Leg 5 of the Wicklow Way Relay, for those "in the know") for the first few kilometres before you depart the ancient tradeway up through the forest following an endless staircase of boardwalks.

The run starts relatively flat for the first 2km with only a short (but steep) 50m climb eating away at your pace. From the 2nd to the 5th kilometre, however, you climb a full 350m (or thereabouts, the total climb of this run is a tough 575m). The ascent grade is a good bit higher than most Leinster League races at 10.5% (37.5% maximum!) and that most of it takes place on what is literally a staircase, only adds to the rigour of conquering the Spink.

Given this, the route is certainly a perfect training run, especially if you are looking to build raw strength. Once over the top, the descent quickly turns rough with a very stony and uneven path leading down at a sharp angle. Running this little baby backwards would arguably be even harder: While the average grade is only 8.8%, it tops out at 44.8% in places. A word comes to mind. "Auch", yes that's it....

If you were a true sadist (you know who you are) and brought some friends along, you would take a detour up Camaderry shortly after you hit the last long flat stretch back to the car park (the last 4.5km are almost all flat). Incidentally, Aoife suggested this today, but I politely declined, as I've already seen the mountain, and last I went a herd of angry goats ogled me with distrust (actually I was just knackered, but the story about the goats is true!).

For those who like a bit of history, the run offers some interesting sights too as you pass the few remains of a miner's village that used to occupy the final stretch of this run.

All in all, a pretty decent hill run out. I would give it a solid 7 rating out of 10.