I was glad to be spectating rather than racing. Galtymore is a 13 kilometre mountain race and part of Ireland’s mountain running championship. With a total of 1340 metres of climb up Cush, Galtybeg, and Galtymore, it is a race for only those with proper mountain legs.
Having just arrived off the plane from Cambodia less than a day before hand, I knew that racing was out of the question. So instead I set out 30 minutes before the race start to watch it all happening from the mountainside.
Soon enough, I was off the tracks and hiking the steep climb up Cush Mountain. It was good to back on Irish soil, resinking my feet into heather, rock, and mud. The higher I went though, the closer I got to a wedge of mist plonked right on the top of the summit.
The runners arrived fast enough, striding confidently up the hill. First up was Brian Furey, followed fast on his heels by Jason Kehoe. They would battle it out for 1st and 2nd for the entire 90 minutes. I watched the pack string out fast, and provided encouragement and a bit of banter as runners streamed past. I had not seen many of the runners in over a year, so it was nice to surprise a few with my cajoling. Seasoned mountain runners, Mick and Joe, both stopped in their tracks when they saw me. They suspended their races momentarily, opened their arms out wide and gave me a big hug, welcoming me warmly back home.
I followed the tail runners, up over Cush and on to the saddle with Galtybeg. I was surprised how steep the going was, my legs having forgotten how to handle slopes after too many days in the flat floodplains of Cambodia. Within minutes, the leaders returned, sprinting off Galtymore. They were trying to escape the mist that had now settled heavily on the mountain. One runner neglected to take a bearing, heading east off the summit rather than the required northly direction. I shouted after him to get him back on course.
In the end, the mist slowed many down. That, and the five arduous ascents and deadly descents that lay along the course. It was definitely a race I was glad to watch rather than participate. And definitely good to see a few familiar and friendly IMRA faces after so many months away.