Masters Cross Country

This year is only 2 weeks old, yet I already have 3 medals. You might think GAA calendars are packed but in athletics it’s peak cross-country season. Especially if you’re of the mature vintage, or as athletes officially become known as “masters” when they hit 35. The species of runner who may still be young at heart, but probably knows the Olympic dreams are fading.

Dublin Championships – Raheny – 8th place

Let’s start last weekend in Dublin, for the county master’s championship. A lovely flat, dry course awaited in St. Anne’s Park, Raheny, where close to 300 “older” men and 200 women took part, making it one of the biggest cross country races in the country. There’s a great atmosphere, with over 30 clubs from Rush to Tallaght, from Marino to UCD represented. I love the friendly, social atmosphere of this race, with ages up to 75 taking past.

We were lucky to earn team silver and I came 8th. I enjoyed the race – it’s on a flat, firm trail through the woods (with a log to jump over too), so great for spectators who cheer you on. There’s even tea and biscuits after – a luxury at cross-country. Although the prize giving is a marathon effort, with so many age categories.

Dublin Masters C-C

Race Prep: Club Awards Night

Now on to this weekend. Starting with our club awards night, with Rathfarnham WSAF AC. It’s always great to meet so many friendly faces, with the novelty of being all dressed up, rather than in sweaty t-shirts and horribly coloured running shoes. Lesson one in race prep is to enjoy yourself 2 days before – eat well and be merry. I swear the Guinness was good in Taylors Three Rock, or so they told me.

Leinster Championships – Gowran – 8th place

Onto Sunday, a handy spin down to Gowran, Co. Kilkenny with Louis in the car for the chat. Hurling cats territory, the race venue being a few fields beside the race track and golf course. Conditions could be described as “good to soft, heavy in places”. No penetrometer required. A mudfest above your ankles in many corners. Proper racing. No fancy €200 runners will bounce you around here, just pure effort. The runners and riders were loaded at the start, where the man with the gun set us on our way with a bang.

Our team of 4 was minimal – everyone needed to finish to make the score count. We’d even flown in our own thoroughbred from his stables in Gran Canaria. The course was 3 tiring laps around a hilly set of fields. Climbing up towards a medieval castle. I manged to start well, top 15, 3rd club runner.

Choosing a line through the mud was a waste of time – left, right or down the middle – it was 6” deep in most places. On one corner I got shoved off course, my leg straddling the perimeter tape – in golf it would have been known as “out of bounds” or a “lane violation” on the track. Luckily it wasn’t an electric fence!

I battled well, moving from 14th to eventually finish 8th, taking 2 Raheny scalps on the last lap. Revenge for last weekend. Still beaten by the forever young 50 year old Des. It was great to hear of a Rathfarnham double up front – Eoin the champion, with Louis in 2nd and we took team gold, ahead of Raheny. More revenge for last weekend.

The moral dilemma of racing in Leinster is still a bit weird – I know how the Galway hurlers feel winning the Leinster Championship. Then my identify was challenged even further when I was presented with a county medal for representing Dublin. I’ve never cheered “Up the Dubs” or said “howya”, so how could it be? Well I guess I run for a Dublin club AND have lived half my life there (here?), so quelle surprise!

Happy days. A lovely sunny day down in KK. Only one All Ireland hurling champion spotted in the race itself – I don’t think I ever go to KK and fail to see one. They’re as common as muck in a field. And that person wasn’t local man D.J. I did like seeing the kids pucking around the field in pools of water, wearing wellies.

Happy as a…

Dragons Den Idea

Next year I’m going to pitch a Dragon’s Den idea of “Muck Off.” It’s simple: a mobile power hose for muddy outdoor events – music festivals, cross country, the ploughing championships. Pay €5 and get a hose down, your runners/shoes cleaned and a warm coffee. Upgrade for €2 more to “Big Muck Off” and get your legs cleaned of caked mud too. €10 and you get “Muckin Hell” – we’ll even wash down your car tyres as you leave the muddy car park. You’d invest €50 grand, wouldn’t you?

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