Track and Field running by Ken Higgs

I got into running during the 1980’s running boom and in 1983 I joined the newly-formed Bray Runners club in County Wicklow. The club was totally focused on long distance running but after three agonising marathons I finally realised marathon running wasn’t for me. In 1986, I moved to Cork to start a new job in UCC where I joined the Staff AC , but shortly afterwards I decided to pack in running all together. Fast forward 27 years to 2013 and early retirement. It was time to start running again. So, I joined a local running club Carrigaline Runners and the UCC Staff AC (again). In late 2015, a group of us transferred to Eagle AC which in the long run turned out to be a really great decision. Perhaps I should have said ‘in the short run’, because since joining the club I have discovered I am much better suited to the shorter stuff.

I took up track racing in 2018 with no previous background or experience. The seed of an idea was planted at a 5k road race in Coolagown. I had been trailing behind two runners in my age group, then with 200m to go I produced a sprint finish and claimed the age category win. John Desmond (who had been lurking near the finish with his camera) came up to me afterwards and said I should give track racing a go. Several months later,  Captain Damian was encouraging club members to go to Nenagh for the Munster Masters Indoor Track Championships , so the time had come to give it a go. I really enjoyed it and ran surprisingly well in the 800 and 1500m.So a month later I decided to try the National Master Indoors in Athlone. That turned out to be great too. I got such a buzz in the 800m race. I was racing against a guy who a few weeks earlier had won the National Masters XC in my age group ( I was a good 2 minutes behind him), but on the track I out sprinted him over the last lap to win the race. I was totally hooked! So I am now part of a small but dedicated group of Eagles who enjoy flying the club flag at provincial and national track championships.

Training

Since 2018, my racing schedule comprises: cross country and indoor track in the winter, road racing in the spring and early summer, outdoor track in the late summer and cross country in the autumn. I plan my training around this schedule. My weekly mileage isn’t very high, 20-30mile max, but it always includes a speed session. I gradually increase the intensity of the speed sessions closer to the indoor (Feb-March) and outdoor (June -August) track seasons. In this respect I sought advice and guidance from two of our most experienced track runners – Richard Piotrowski and Hugh McSweeney. However, since the Covid restrictions came in last March my training and race plans have gone pear-shaped, with no group training and no races. So like everyone else I have been training alone. Weather permitting, I try to run four days a week (at my age you need more time to recover). My four running days involve- 1 long slow run with hills (about 80mins),a 60min off-road easy run(park or woods), a 2 mile tempo run, and a speed session. The speed session would either be8x400m intervals at 85-90 seconds or 8x200m intervals at 35-40 seconds. The intervals are done either on the track(when available) or on the Crosshaven greenway (riverside) path, but sometimes I run the 200 intervals upa local hill.

Future plans

My favourite race distances are the 400m and 800m but I would like to improve my speed endurance to be more competitive at 1500m. So, my plan is to increase the tempo running component of my training in the coming year.. but I need to get some advice on this. With regard to future events, if all goes well with Covid (and everyone gets the jab) I hope we will be racing again this summer. I will be aiming for the National Masters outdoor Track champs in August and the Irish Masters XC trials in October. Finally, I am really looking forward to meeting up again with all my running friends and clubmates, so until then, follow the words of the Spencer Davis group..‘Keep on running’

Eagle AC-Trail running by Olga O’Sullivan

Despite having grown up in a large city, I should start with the fact that I’m an outdoor nut rather than a typical road runner. In addition to running, I love hiking, climbing, surfing and open water swimming. The mountains and ocean are my happy place. I never use a treadmill or go to the gym; vertigo aside, the indoor exercise just doesn’t do it for me.

Not sure why I’m here writing this article, when there are many club members, who are better trail runners than me, and we probably crossed paths at the IMRA races! With the unexpected circumstances, which we found ourselves in over the last 2 years, I find more and more road runners are willing to try trails, and I may even be guilty of converting some of them.

I love running alone, but I also enjoy sharing my love for the mountains with others. McGillycuddy Reeks in Kerry is my favourite playground, from the remote Lough Duff circuit to the Eastern reeks and Coomloughra horseshoe, and Carrauntoohil from every direction. However, due to the recent lockdowns, I perused every possible bit of trails closer to home. There are hidden gems everywhere, you just need to look for them. After the recent loss of my husband, who loved the woodlands, I’ve spent many hours running in the woods, where, surrounded by the trees, you can cry without being judged and remember without being interrupted.

I find solace in running far away from civilisation, alone with my thoughts. The air is cool, damp and clean. You are surrounded by the beautiful, lush, green, yellow, grey and brown hues, and sounds of nature: the trickling of a distant waterfall, birds singing, goats & sheep calling out to each other, or on a stormy day, the wind howling and drowning out everything else! If you time your run to witness a sunrise or a sunset, the experience is unparallel; it stays with you.

I enjoy running through mud and water, pushing myself up a steep hill, the concentration required to hop from rock to rock on a narrow ridge and using my hands to scramble across the bigger boulders. What goes up, must come down! Being up high, either surrounded by fog, snow, hail and rain, or enjoying the amazing views far below, is always followed by the exhilaration of throwing caution to the wind, applying the “brakes off, brain off” formula and skidding and flying down the mountain side through the scree, rocks, moss, mud and grass. There is something primal and raw about the entire adventure, which wakes you up and makes you feel truly alive, similarly to flying down a face of a steep wave on a surfboard on a winter day, with an offshore wind blowing the freezing, salty spray into your face.

Coming to the practicalities for someone who’d like to get into mountain running… Please respect the mountains and farmers who kindly let us use their land, wear the appropriate gear (it’s much colder at the summit!) and ensure you can navigate in a total whiteout (the old way, with a map and compass, if you phone battery dies). A good running jacket and trail running shoes are a must, and it’s safer to run with someone else, especially on the remote technical trails.

I found the hard way, that in Ireland, waterproof trail runners are a disaster. If the water can’t get in, it can’t get out, and following a stream crossing or sinking in the mud up to your knee, you’re way better off with a pair of fast draining running shoes!

Finally, enjoy! IMRA races are bound to return eventually, when some normality of life is restored, and those are a blast. You’ll meet some inspiring people and can start off with the fully marked short courses. My favourite was undoubtedly Sli Muscrai 2020 in storm Denis. I have never been so happy to run a race blown by the wind, up to my ankles and knees in mud for the most of it. Please refer to this link for the latest news and events: https://www.imra.ie/