3 mountain peaks, 1855 m vertical climb, 7 hours and 40 minutes running and sixty kilometres covered are figures that do not do justice to four day Kerry weekend just past. This was our fifth year organising and it remains perhaps our favourite holiday of the year.
Kerry, rarely disappoints!
The event was originally started by Irish international Barry Minnock and after a short hiatus we picked up the baton. Thirty two mountain runners made the trip down this year which started, for my own part, with a short morning run of 4 km in the morning before the drive to Kerry to shake my legs out after the evening’s 3000m race in Shanganagh.
Kenmare we return
Upon arrival, new clubmates in Glendalough AC, Claire O’Callaghan and Marcus Murphy, joined me for a slow evening trot over 10 km. This was part of my completion of the six week fundamental training period where my objective had been to not leave a single day with less than 10 km and one hour running done. As the weekend ended on the Monday, with an 11.7km run around Muckross Estate with Amidou, Dave, Jason, and James Clancy, my job was done with 43 days consecutive running and the last 42 featuring and average of 12.1 km. Job done. Consistency returned. I will see the benefits to heart and blood vessels in the coming period when the adaptations take effect.
The final steep climb of Bennaunmore (44m)
Sandwiched in between these two ‘leisurely’ runs were the real meat of the weekend: a long run from Torc Waterfall up the long ascent to Mangerton (839m) from where we continued along the ridge line to Stoompa (705m). From here the ‘mountain climb’ turned into a wild adventure as we dropped vertically into the Cappagh Valley and then ascended the wall like sides of Bennaunmore (454m) before a long descent to the Rossacroo trailhead north of Kilgarvan. While this sort of terrain, especially the torturously slow descent to Cappagh River, was uncharted territory for many in the group, spirits generally stayed high and we had an enjoyable outing which took over 3 and a half hours effective running time and a good bit more than that if you count the breaks.
Kerry Way Run
The second day we had decided to tone down a bit from the previous years. The group’s appetite for long rough sojourns on open mountain had been well and truly sated, so we had decided to roll out an old favourite in the shape of a run on the Kerry Way section from Torc Waterfall (lower) to Kenmare. Despite finishing with a long undulating road section, it is easily one of the finest section of the Kerry Way. A few hardcore members of the group including up and coming Ultra runner Linda O’Connor decided to add in the ‘extra’ section up and back to Torc Mountain. Jason and I ran along behind the two lead groups, chatting, for a while and then decided the legs where loose enough to run a bit faster. We caught up with the next group before the crossroads where the Kerry Way splits towards either Black Valley or Kenmare. Jason had gone up ahead to the lead group with Emma Donlon, Kevin Deery and a few others. I found myself in complete nostalgia picking my way down rocky descents at speed with Amidou and James Clancy. Like the old days.
At the final pass at Windy Gap, Jason had stopped to wait and take photos and a big group gathered here for the long final push into Kenmare including Catherine Devitt, Emma Hand, Brian O’Murchu, Matthew Sammon as well as Jason, Amidou, James and myself. The presence of so many runners egged us all on and a few frisky 3:30 min/km where added in as we arrived in Kenmare town centre in just under 1:47 for the 17.7 km. A few hours of sunbathing in the park with coffee and icecream and then the real endurance test of the weekend started: a three course dinner in a restaurant followed by a night out in a pub and a house party until five in the morning! Train hard, party hard is a mentality well alive in Ireland!
A few cold dips in Kenmare Bay had helped recovery along. Three years ago, Aoife and I found ourselves doing the recovery run at Muckross alone in the rain. This year we had a group of six running. James Clancy had the special distinction of being the only man to complete the full ‘official’ itinerary, having done every run as well as the Good Friday Five Mile race in Killarney where he also was first ‘Weekender’ home beating Emma Donlon and Kevin Deery to the finish line.
Runners in silhouette after a dip in the sea with Alice Clancy
Despite the late night I woke up on Tuesday somehow disappointed not just that the weekend had flown by (again!) but also that I ‘only’ had to do five kilometres as I ramp down slowly to the 3 day of total rest I had scheduled in for my trip to Denmark this weekend. The body has finally gotten back to the point where it just wants more running. I call this ‘normalising the experience’. Running is what we are born to do, the body and mind just need to convinced the activity is normal again and not ‘a workout’.
Body and mind felt stronger than in a long time, a feeling I often leave these Kerry weekends with. It was always about combining the social side with the serious side of running in the scenery we all enjoy. When I first chased after Barry Minnock after five sessions in three days as he cantered up another mountain, it gave me an idea of what was possible. Two days previous, during the cooldown after a fast morning session, I had bonked so completely I could barely walk back to the hotel. Later that day I found myself running up Carrauntoohil and the next day I was running up another mountain feeling great. Our modern conceptions of rest, recovery and what is possible has been skewed. I won’t say the Kerry weekend is a cure for that, we keep the event going because it’s great fun as much as anything, but I hope new runners take away what I did or something equally important to them. Until 201