REPORT: Lap of the Gap 2017

The second running of the Lap of the Gap Marathon began at the Lower Lake of Glendalough in clear weather but with midges and the promise of rain in the air. By the time the field left at 8:30 am, temperatures were pleasant and conditions fair. This would not last as the skies opened on us and a heavy incessant rain beat down on the participants. Conditions were particularly wet and windy around the high point at Sallygap. By the time Adrian Hennessy arrived there after 1 hour 37 minutes, he had built a lead of almost 4 minutes on Parnell's Ray Kenny and looked to be cruising. We could follow this from HQ courtesy of the tripod timing system placed in the pass earlier that morning by MyRunResults's Lucy Darcy.

Lead pack during mile 1 of Glen to Glen

Podium spots

With such a lead at halfway the men's race was looking to turn into a bit of a procession but still nothing was certain as going too hard uphill may secure the 'King of the Hill' title but can leave a runner dangerously exposed to blow-ups on the sneaky climbs on the return leg via Lough Tay and Oldbridge. But Adrian Hennessy made no mistake and looked to be powering across the line with little sign of fatigue. The clock read '2:59:51' - the fourth fastest time ever run on the course - but a time that should be considered in the context that Adrian ran alone from the third kilometre to the finish. In the sunnier and fairer 2016 incarnation Torben Dahl, Rory Campbell,  Sean Brosnan and Brian O'Murhcue had pushed each other to Sallygap and the first three continued their battle until late in the race yielding three sub-3 hour times and Adrian will likely feel had would have had a crack a the record in better conditions with runners to share the pace with.

A wet grey morning greeted the volunteers at 6:45 am at the Brockagh Centre!

Ray Kenny crossed the line in 3:09:18 to secure second and Andre Van Barnevel (who finished 6th in 3:21 in 2016) improved both his time and his finish position usurping the last podium spot and running 3:15:27 this year. Rob McDonald was only about a further minute back and took the M40. 

The first woman was not long in coming and if the men's race had lacked some element of drama, the women's provided it in spades. Ann-Marie Kenny from Parnell AC took the race out hard and reclaimed the Queen of the Hill title she had secured by a whisker in 2016 ahead of Lucy O'Malley. Last year Lucy managed to build a 2 minute gap on Ann-Marie on the return leg and this year proved likewise a close affair as two Aislings were not far behind: Aisling Kirwan - club mate from Parnell - and Edenderry AC's Aisling O'Connor. O'Connor overtook Kirwan on the return stretch and caught Ann-Marie in Laragh - going up the brutal School Lane to the finish a gap of a mere 30 metres separated them but at this stage Aisling had the momentum and literally hammered across the finish line in 3:36:03 with Ann-Marie 47 seconds back. It was a cruel way to concede victory - perhaps it will be third time lucky for Ann-Marie. Aisling Kirwan held onto a strong third in 3:38:03. 

To get an idea of conditions and hills consider this: only 22 runners broke the 4 hours (it had been 29 last year). The field was heavily populated with Marathon Club Runners from MCI, Wexford Marathon Club and others - many who will be running the Newry Marathon tomorrow. Among them was the winner of the M60 category Eugene Winters. The F60 category also featured a very familiar name in Mary Nolan Hickey - the only woman to have run all Dublin City Marathons. MCI took care of the M50 category through Rock Pender's 3:37 time and 13th place overall with the F50 going to Michele Geoghegan of Arklow club Inbhear Mor. 

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Torben arrives in third at the bottom of the final descent (Glendalough Green)
Speaking to a participant in the Brockagh Centre after, he perfectly summed up the marathon:

"There are three types of marathons: those advertised as flat that are really flat, those advertised as flat which aren't really, and those that call themselves 'scenic' and are hillier. And then there's this one..." - Ali Onur Uyar 
Remarkably an analysis of Strava shows that Adrian Hennessy did the main climb to Sallygap from Laragh at an average heart rate of 146 bpm. He was about 3 minutes slower than last years' front-4 but returned home in what is likely the fastest time for the 19.8 km from Sallygap to Laragh (82:06) and with an incredibly sedate heart rate of only 134 bpm on average! We don't know if this was a purposeful strategy with a race that looked wrapped up - all we know is that had he run 2:53 faster he would have gone home with an additional €100 prize money. For now 2:57 remains the record to break.

Second-placed Ray Kenny made the trip from Laragh to Sallygap in 87:34 with a low heart rate of 146 bpm whereas 3rd placed Andre Van Barneveld worked at around 154 bpm. Compare Sean Brosnan who was 4th to Sallygap last year (having run Laragh to Sallygap in 84:02) - he exerted an average of 172 and managed to improve one position by keeping this intensiy all the way to the finish. Heart rates are individual, of course, and the higher heat last year would have driven them up but there's no doubt a determined field that stay together to Sallygap will be able to substantially lower the current times when both conditions and field are right. We'll look forward to it!

Glen to Glen

30 minutes after the marathon battle commenced, the Glen to Glen Half-marathoners set off with a field almost twice the size of the previous year. A nice group of five formed including Eoin McManus (Cellbridge), Robert Frewen (Raheny), last year's winner Amidou Dembele and Lap of the Gap winner Torben Dahl (both Glendalough AC). The group began to split once they hit the first serious climb at the Glendalough Green just beyond the 3 mile mark and after the turn-point the Glenmacnass Waterfall Robert Frewen made his move, creating a gap to Torben. Eoin McManus also went on ahead and eventually took the lead. Defending champion Amidou fell off the early pace and struggled in the later stages having to stop for cramps on occasion and finishing 6th in 1:29:19 - just under 6 minutes slower than his winning time last year. Eoin held to his lead - but only by 13 seconds ahead of Robert. Glendalough AC still secured a podium spot when Torben arrived 31 seconds later in third. The times of 1:21::59, 1:22:12 and 1:22:43 all broke the existing course record. The front trios running established broke daylight to the rest with 4th placed Darragh Canavan arriving in 1:26:48. 

Donna Quinn - 2nd lady in Glen to Glen

Ladies winner was Hannah Carroll in 7th overall and a time of 1:29:25 - a new ladies' course record by over 6 minutes. She was coming on so strong up School Lane that she had Amidou looking worried over his shoulder. 8th was M40 winner Graeme Warren whereas Eugene Doherty (of SBR) and Bill Porter of Parnell AC took the M60 and M50 victories in 13th and 14th overall. Robert's father Paul was next in 15th and then there was more good news for the local club when Donna Quinn finished 2nd lady in 20th overall and a new personal best time of 1:39:20. Third lady was Beth Stephens of MSR with a time of 1:44:43. Aoife Tunney and Maeve O'Reilly dead-heated on the line for the ladies over-40 prize and with the image inconclusive we are awarding two prizes. All in all it was a good day for our neighbours Parnell AC taking 

All in all, the event grew from 166 entrants in 2016 to 220 entries in 2017. What 2018 brings, we'll see!


I have a confession to make: while it may suit the mythology of the race better to say that we include the late 'School Lane Climb' out of sadism, the real reason is practical  That said, yes we do take pleasure at seeing people's faces as they are turned up to the right! This decision may be one of the few practical things about the whole race - the fact that a whole community has backed up around the idea of sending 200 plus runners up one of the most popular touring and cycling roads in Ireland, to a high point that is notoriously bad and weather-prone, a start in the most congested tourist spot in the country shows and on a course that, while scenic, certainly does not cater to the mass-market tells you everything you need to know about the locals down here!

Supporters everywhere

The rain kept the outside atmosphere a bit subdued but inside the Brockagh Centre Main Hall there was plenty of applause, banter and post-race reviewing going and the centre's crew were busy pouring tea and serving coffee assisted by our own volunteers. The hall had been a hive of activity since the first on-the-day entries arrived at 7 am and the first volunteers were on the road working from 6:30 am. Lynhams of Laragh provide one of the most essential functions of the race: the sweeper shuttle, driven this year by our 'man of every task' Derek Cullen who not only watched the back of the race but drove back and forth providing updates and looking after runners. When the final finisher - Paul Power - came into Laragh, he drove ahead to ensure there'd be sufficient welcome and it's safe to say Paul got it - one volunteer retrieved his car from the field where it was parked while other volunteers served him cake and poured him tea. After 7 hours and 13 minutes on tough wet roads - he earned it!

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It's a wrap - the last finisher crosses the line!

Across the road we got parking in Cullen's Field at a heavily discounted rate - so thanks to Seamus for facilitating this. Avon Motors provided us two shiny lead cars for the duration of the day. Kinetica contacted us ahead of the race and kindly offered 250 bottles of their protein drinks which were gladly devoured - along with Helen Ward's delicious cake spread - post-race. A special mention goes to Ann-Marie Kenny who gifted the race this beautiful cake before going on to reclaiming her Queen of the Hill title and another 2nd place finish:

Finally, the race could not have happened without - owned by Paul Mahon - whose signs and other essential racing kit (tables etc.) were vital cogs in teh machine.