Summer Evening Race around Scalp

I went along for a fun run out.

Hazel had told me how, in the Leinster League, the girls from our orienteering club Setanta had been doing really well in the races. They needed three girls for the team to score: often however, two was all they could muster up.

Hazel Thompson, a Club Mate from Setanta Orienteers. Photo courtesy of John Shiels.
Hazel Thompson, a Club Mate from Setanta Orienteers. Photo courtesy of John Shiels.

Seeing that I’ve already done my big runs for the year, I figured that I could lend a hand and be the third lady out to make up the squad.

This Wednesday’s league race was up Scalp, a 5.8km run up a paltry 212 metres of climb. It is a sprint in comparison to all the races I’ve been training for. However, I just wanted to just get out there again, stretch my legs, view a course I’ve never run, see old IMRA friends, and help out my fellow Setanta Club members.

To be honest, the course itself simply didn’t suit the 200 odd runners who turned up to the line. The trails are narrow in places making passing out impossible up and down any major climb. For that reason, positioning at the start of the race is crucial in order to not get stuck in slow queues.

The girls vying for the overall League title haired off up the first climb. I settled in nicely in fourth place, already content at the idea of coming in the top five. The course snakes its way around Carrickgallan, or what I know from mountain biking circles to be called Leadmines. This was the first time I had run around the area, my only previous knowledge of the place only gained from Thursday night mountain biking races deep in and around the hill’s forests.

Me heading up Scalp's one and only hill. Taken as ever by the intrepid John Shiels.
Me heading up Scalp's one and only hill. Taken as ever by the intrepid John Shiels.

I happily ran along towards the first and only real climb of the course up a steep rocky knoll. Caroline Reid was just ahead, and though I beckoned her to catch the rest, she let me go past. On the way down, I couldn’t help myself but do a quick kamikaze descent, nearly knocking down Karen and Richard in the process – Oops, sorry! By sheer accident, I was now in second place. “I’m sure they’ll catch me up on the climbs”, I thought, relieved at the idea that I wouldn’t have any race finish pressure.

Coming off the first loop of the figure of eight, I was still in second, with Sonja the leader, and last week’s winner at Corrig, just ahead. I’d never been on the second part of the course, but enjoyed the steep forest descent through rock, roots, and bog, and the muddy paths down below. Sonja seemed to be slowing down, and I soon found myself ahead of her off the final descent. From there, I just hung on in there as we climbed our way back out of the woods, up to the finish by the road.

Caroline must have put in a phenomenal sprint at the end as she was literally on my shoulder as we crossed over the line. Sonja was there less than five seconds later. Congratulations were shared all the way round, and as we sat at the finish swapping stories, Hazel came to join us with some banter. Setanta had once again only managed to field two team members this week – Hazel and I – but heck, we had had individually fun races which was more than sufficient reward.

Caroline Reid nearly takes it on the line! Thanks to John Shiels for the photo.
Caroline Reid nearly takes it on the line! Thanks to John Shiels for the photo.

It was fun being out on a Wednesday night race again, after saving myself for the last two seasons for the big weekend races. And it was great catching up with the friendly IMRA crowd, both at the line and at Palmer’s Pub afters. IMRA definitely knows how to put on both a fun run and a fine social gathering on a mid-week summer’s evening.

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