TRAINING: Scarr–a mountain with an edge

Coming back from injury is a process of patiently dipping your toe into the hot tub until you’re happy you can handle the heat. I ramp up my running both in terms of intensity and frequency from zero six weeks ago over thirty to forty to sixty this last week. On any sign of trouble, I take two days off running, easy as that.

Running 4-5 times per week can maintain most of your fitness quiet effectively especially if you manage to inject a bit of quality. I have eased back into a program that reflects that doing some progress calibration runs, some reps sessions and the ubiquitous long run, keeping things balanced before the winter training.

Today was the time to attempt a return to the hills and a band consisting of Jason Kehoe, Colm Hill, Aoife, Dee, Diarmuid and myself set off to one of my favourite peaks: Scarr – the green spine of the false summits peering out at the landscape at 641m.

A different approach

If you approach Scarr from our home in Glendalough you get quite a different experience from the race route and significantly more climb. The toughness of the route is deceptive as a few longer flat stretches on the ascent makes it feel less vertical.

Our starting point at the Glendalough Hotel takes us back North up the Wicklow Way for what constitutes a very steep start before a flatter stretch leaves you to intersect with the Brockagh race route. A small woodland path veers off to the left (easily missed) towards the bridge where the Circuit of Glenmacnass races takes its beginning.

Being very wobbly after the recent storms, we crossed the bridge one at a time hoping no one would have to dive into the cold water to retrieve fallen runners. Once crossed, boardwalks lead you to a road-crossing and a lovely grassy climb up Paddock Hill. You are still on the Wicklow Way as you skirt the coniferous tree line to the stile taking you onto the Scarr race route.

You’ve had a let-off for a while here and the route takes it’s revenge with with a messy path on hard gradient before you finally clear the trees and have the open mountain to enjoy. The cool day made it feel very frosty in the shade of the woods Colm, Jason and myself climbed easily up-front and even the accursed false summits where welcome today.

On a splendid autumn day few tops open up more of the Wicklow landscape, Kanturk below you and the Western mountains in front of you as you reach the cairn, look to the left and you see Brockagh and Tonelagee and the frost-rimmed frame of Lugnacoille in the far distance. Right you behold the rocky southern slopes of Luggala from a rare angle.

The climb from Glendalough is a surprising 742m vertical, the largest bit of which you can ascending Paddock Hill and the final two kilometres to the summit. At 9.5km length, this will not match the many Lugnacoille approaches for severity and steepness, but provides a very consistent running workout which at our easy pace keeps you going upwards for seventy minutes.

For the Glendalough-based runner it serves as a fabulous alternative to the long Camaderry climb and could certainly be used for a hard aerobic uphill session and done under the hour.

The descent, you ask? Well, if you don’t know it already suffice it to say it offers all you need: variety of terrain, technical challenges, fast running, woodland trails and fire-road, grass and bog, and perhaps the best views of Glendalough.

The route can be viewed here.