Wicklow Way Trail: Race Report

Wicklow Way Trail 2016
Wicklow Way Trail 2016

I finished 3rd in the Maurice Mullins Wicklow Way Trail race, organised by IMRA in March 2016. Read my race report below.

Race distance: 25.5km (Strava activity)

Race time: 1:56:51 (3rd place, average pace 4:33, average heart rate 161bpm)

Elevation: 826m


IMRA races are such honest events. There’s no fanfare or cushy extras – just you, your muddy runners, a rain jacket and an open mountain waiting to be climbed (and descended). No need for free t-shirts, flashy signs, cheering masses. One of my favourite races is the Wicklow Way Trail, a 26km point to point race from Ballinastoe Woods back north towards Dublin, finishing near Johnny Foxes in Glencullen. The race was renamed in honour of Maurice Mullins, a pioneer in triathlon, ironman and distance running in the 1980s. Well worth watching this 13 minute video on his life.

The course covers over 26km, crossing 4 rivers/streams and has a total elevation of 825m, spread across 2 big climbs and 2 shorter climbs. The pre-race build up was nice. The bus pick-up was only 10 min away from my apartment in Leopardstown, so no crazy early starts for me. We took the bus for the 30 minute drive down to Ballinastoe. The weather was pretty wet and windy all morning, but I was expecting an improvement, per the met forecast, so was happy we could sit on the bus and wait for the start.

I had finished 3rd in my debut in 2013, so was hoping to do well, but it would depend on who showed up. My clubmate Brian Furey won the race last year, so I expected to see him and knew he’d be a good man to track, as he’s steady over longer distances. A young guy called Cillian took off up the hill from the start and got me worried. I was hoping he couldn’t have the endurance and we’d catch him in the second half. Up through Ballinastoe Woods, hearts pumping. It was fairly windy on the open mountain up on Djouce. You had to run at an angle against the crosswind was so strong over the slippy boardwalk. That was the trickiest part, along with the wet grassy descent off Djouce. I dropped down to 3rd at this point but was going well.

wwt_profileWe crossed the River Dargle and I was happy to have that long descent over, as my strength is climbing. around Powerscourt Waterfall, I dropped two places but pulled back Brian down to Crone Woods at halfway. We pushed on together for the next hour – never more than a breath away, chopping and changing who went first. I knew Brian wouldn’t blow up. His stronger decending meant my target was to try pull away up the climbs, but he stuck to me and pushed on.

Through Curtlestown together and onto the steepest climb up to Prince William’s Seat. This was my last chance to get a gap. But we just couldn’t be separated. I knew my chance of 2nd was probably gone, as we had a 3km descent into Glencullen and it would be hard to get away. Brian upped the pace and my now heavy legs couldn’t follow. Iwas worried about being caught for 3rd, so pushed hard. I was delighted to get to Glencullen river bridge only a minute behind Brian and no sign of chasing footsteps behind me. It felt good now – “enjoy the run to the finish” I told myself.


The support throughout from runners, marhsalls, walkers, photographers and organisers was great. Dermot, Pól and all the IMRA volunteers doing amazing selfless work in tough conditions to make such a memorable day. The Ultra runners are inspirational – “steady wins the race”, they’ve great mental toughness but always encouraging trail runners. The mugs made by Hilary were worth it alone. Thanks all,  I can’t wait for the Wicklow Way Relay in May.

Gear: rainjacket, t-shirt, shorts, buff, bumbag, VivoBarefoot trail runners (no gloves or leggings)

Food: breakfast was porridge, fruit and coffee; mid-morning snack of mandarine, chocolate bar and some water. Race fuelling was minimal – no water, just a few slices of mango and 1/2 a Gilly bar. I carried a gel, but didn’t need it in the end. I didn’t take anything at the 2 food/water stops – it might sound like nothing, but I think eating tons of gels and stuff is not required – I’m trying to follow a LCHF diet and interested to see how the body adapts. I’m not following it strictly, but don’t believe we need tons of carbs every few minutes.


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