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Posts Tagged ‘Donegal’

There’s nothing like a race on home turf. So when I saw that the next race in the Adventure Race Series was up in County Donegal, I definitely planned on entering.

The last bike section to Bunbeg, with Mt Errigal conquered already.

The last bike section to Bunbeg, with Mt Errigal conquered already.

Gaelforce North’s course goes through parts of the county I’d not been to in 20 years. It starts with a 15km run through Glenveagh National Park, taking in its castle and beautiful gardened grounds. Then there is a 2km kayak on the waters of Lake Gartan, followed by a bike to Mount Errigal. Despite having lived in the north of Ireland for over half my life, I still hadn’t managed to climb up that local mountain. And with a final bike west to the Atlantic coast and Bunbeg, it is a mouth-watering route that I knew I would relish.

Unfortunately I wasn’t going to be allowed to go sightseeing. The Form Guide released a few days before put me as firm favourite. I emailed Paul Mahon, its author and runner of the Series, to dampen his expectations. However my second place in Dingle apparently showed I was in “good form” and so “hard to beat”. I also had distance on my side. Donegal is the far end of the country, a four hour plus journey for Dublin residents. For me, it was an excuse for a trip home to see the parents and the bonus of a weekend adventure race thrown in.

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When I was growing up in Derry, there was a limited selection of sporting things to do. Sure, I was part of the school netball and athletics teams, but that was all that was really available. Since moving back to the North of Ireland this year however I’ve noticed an explosion of sports and associated events, with the local masses participating.

Many happy runners in Derry's Waterside Half Marathon. Courtesy of donegaldaily.com

Many happy runners in Derry’s Waterside Half Marathon. Courtesy of donegaldaily.com

It all started last month when I saw more and more runners out on the roads. Running was for the few elites when I was young and so there’d be one or two events in the calendar. But just last Saturday morning I was driving into Derry only to see around 60 bodies decked out in florescent gear running towards me on the road. There were all shapes and sizes, ages and abilities, both men and women, spread out across a 2km stretch. It seems that there is not only Spartan Athletics Club still around but also Foyle Valley AC in addition to the BOLT running club for beginners.

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I grew up in the north of Ireland and was born in the remote region of County Donegal. So when I saw a 65km adventure race advertised 30 minutes from my birthplace, I couldn’t help but register.

Me in my blue North Face jacket running down the trail from Urris lakes.

The race was run by Extreme North, a new adventure racing company based on Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula. They have seen the potential of this remote part of Ireland, with its rolling hills, rugged coastline, and stunning, un-spoilt scenery. They have also seen the country’s rise in interest in long distances multi-sport races, with the likes of Gaelforce, Causeway Adventure Racing Series, and the WAR races becoming more and more popular.

It was wet, windy, cold, and generally miserable when I arrived at the race start. The weather only added to my apprehension. I’d never done an individual multi-sport race before. And to make matters worse, I’d never raced on a road bike before. In fact, I had just borrowed my bike from Peter Crommie, my Beast of Ballyhoura team-mate and owner of Roe Valley Cycles in local Limavady.

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