DIARY: Tony and Ben, meet Camaderry

Jason and I were kicking each other as we ran on St. Kevin’s Way on Friday morning. Tony Riddle and Ben Medder were joining us for a run up Camaderry, to show them one of the local “hill runs”. We wanted to ensure that it wasn’t all work for the chaps when they came over and give them some time out in the green surroundings of Wicklow ahead of the drive to Cork and a packed schedule.

Suddenly Tony wanders out of the house without any shoes on. “Is that some sort of statement,” I said, “no, mate, I just don’t want the new Breathos all dirty ahead of the talk tonight", Tony responded.

Barefoot on Kevin’s Way

Everyone who knows Kevin’s Way, will recognise it’s a bit of a challenge in bare feet as there are basically rocks galore and no soft spots. Amazingly Tony trotted over the rocks without losing any of his customary good form and at fair click. With Ben being there, we all felt obliged to clear the gate with a vault rather than run around it (a key rule for learning to cope with obstacles: don’t run around it, find a way over/through or under it!).

Everyone was breathing heavily once we got into the soft and sloppy forest trail that is the “back door” to Camaderry and that continues rising relentlessly onto hard fire-road and then eventually soft grass. “My heart rate took a little while to settle there,” Tony said, “running on the rocks is an extreme so the body got a bit of an emotional response.” “Lydiard would say that you are unfit,” Jason retorted, a sentence that would become a running joke over the weekend (yes, I know, you had to be there and all that!). At one stage on the very steepest bit, Tony and I went down into quadruped, almost galloping with arms and legs working together up the slope. We’d do plenty more of this over the weekend, and it has to be tried up a really steep slope. Surprisingly effective and a hell of a workout too!

Deer, sheep and grass – that’s Camaderry for you

We met the customary hordes of deer and herds of sheep once we got to the grass and chatted away on the possibilities of using the whole area as a training ground for the master class workshop on hill running. Once we began our descent, Ben stormed off downhill like a bullet, showing that free running transfers pretty well to descending.

“I’ve got a surprise lads”, I told them after the first zig-zag was reached. Through the ferns I pointed at the faint trail that cuts across all the bends in the fire-road. “Ben, show us how we should get fast down this sorta stuff”. It’s difficult to stay fast on your feet, and reasonably safe, when terrain is treacherous and gradients are at a level were staying upright is challenging.

Parkour meets mountain running

Ben showcased a form of movement that could be best described as “surfing” down, one arm flailing  behind us to help bounce off the inevitable falls. Once you’re planning with a few skips and trust your arm enough to do it, we could get into a good flow. On Sunday we’d end up practicing it more as we had three hill runners in the group and an inviting steep grassy bank just outside the facility.

Coming back, I turned straight left down through the trees so we could practice sliding purposefully through obstacles. Ben again hammered past us, immediately transitioned into a trot at the bottom and vaulted over the rocky wall with the rest of us close behind. Two confused hikers saw these four mud-covered figures come out of the woods and must have been somewhat puzzled as we crossed the road and ran straight into the river to wash off.

Some start to a day, as we came home to a full Irish breakfast prepared by Aoife. That was just the beginning of a long weekend of activity, but it set the tone and personally I can’t wait to get to a point were we have a class skilled enough to do a master class on ascending and descending.