PREVIEW: Wicklow Way Relay 2011

It feels like a long time ago I entered our Crusaders team for the year to the relay. Since then we’ve had to replace three runners due to the injury, and we are a “little less Cru” because of it, as we’ve had to bring in an ex-Crusader and two other runners from fellow traditional clubs. I suppose when the opposition is the “Manchester United of hill running”, e.g. Rathfarnham, it is only fair, and now we live up to our “Motley” Cru name even more.

The original squad had six runners that I work with in it, counting myself, so you could say I was heavily invested. With the changes that is down to four but my investment is no less, and everyone on-board the present team is fired up for the challenge and looking forward to the day.

The favourites
If the Rathfarnham team members run up to their normal potential then there is no other team in the relay that will keep up pace with them beyond the half-way point and any lingering pretensions will be ruthlessly extinguished when Barry Minnock takes the field on Leg 7 where the Marathon Mission man is in a class of entirely his own.

But as we well know, logistics and mishaps play a large part in the Wicklow Way Relay and there are 3-4 other teams with just enough quality to take advantage of a 10-20 minute, or worse, time-drop. Several teams look very equally matched for the first half and you would expect a group of five to six teams to be still in contact by then. After this point, my prediction is that Rathfarnham should begin to build an insurmountable lead as long as they can keep their path clean. As for the challengers, you would see the field narrow down further as the relay progresses and the breadth of each squad is tested to the maximum.

The first leg will certainly provide an intriguing appetiser for the wider battle, with Brian Furey taking on team-mate Kevin Keane and our own Richie Healy, among others. Kevin, in a twist of events, represents the Boards AC “A” team, who having found themselves in a similar predicament to us, have been strengthened despite injuries and have some classy runners from Clonliffe, CNOC and GEN to aid their cause. It is very difficult to put in a full competitive tea from one club colour and Rathfarnham’s continued ability to do so speaks volumes of their depth.

An invested captain
I have a few runners representing other teams as well, so I hope they do well (but not too well!). One is certainly prepared as I know on good authority he recced his route out and back as a way of getting around the obligatory hard Sunday long run that is part of the Lydiard system.

Any predictions? Well, I think you can never rate a competition that you are yourself a part of objectively, so suffice it to say that Rathfarnham are firm favourites and that the Boards A team, UCD, and “All the President’s Men” look to have the most strength in depth of the thirty teams lined up. Once again a few mistakes could see one of these plummet and perhaps a dark horse come to the fore.

Sometimes to find out what will happen you should look to the past, so let’s remind ourselves how the winners have done previously:
  • 2002: Free Cobh 8:46:52 (Eoin Keith and Hugh McLindon alone!)
  • 2003: Setanta Scallywags 7:59:30
  • 2004: Blister Bunch 7:17:21 (RECORD)
  • 2005: Amphibians 7:36:06
  • 2006: Hellfire Hustlers 7:38:38
  • 2007: Johnnie’s Flying Foxes 7:22:23
  • 2008: Clonliffe and Guests 7:25:20
  • 2009: Clonliffe Harriers A 7:24:45
  • 2010: Surfing Boards 07:58:44
What the results don’t show is that Rathfarnham have usually had a team in close second or third in the period from 2007-2009 where the big Dublin clubs started to field teams organised with “Big Guns”.

Who will it be this year?

And the injury?
It’s steadily getting better and I have got a few tricks up my sleeve in terms of heel inserts and taping. Beyond that I have to bank on the miles logged back in January-March to do the job for me and hope nothing happens which would force me to stop running. I take it as a test of character, similarly to what Three-Peaks represented for the last 26km after my fall off Pen-y-Ghent. If I could do it then, I can do it again. Running, to me, is about sacrifice. Nothing can be won without sacrifice. I could train less, and get injured less often. I could train less seriously and go have more fun. But that’s not why I run. It’s also why I run tomorrow.
Best of luck to everyone and see you in Shillelagh!