by The Chairman
Leopardstown usually hosts thoroughbreds of the four legged variety but as the first sun of Spring warmed the snow-capped Wicklow hills the blue vests set out from the racecourse to Ballinastoe where 16 miles of mountain and trail led back to Johnny Foxes.
As the assembled throng awaited the starting gun that breed apart, the ultra-runners, hove into view at their half-way point. Leading the local charge was Dale Mathers with barely a sweat broken and in fact so relaxed that he was able to distribute crisps and chocolate from his stash to the waiting trail runners hoping to shadow him on the return journey.
The gradual gravel climb through the forest spread the field and at the sharp right onto the railway sleepers the real business began. As the runners slogged upwards, some enjoying the view of Lough Tay far below, Stuart McNeilly made a move off the sleepers to snatch a few places but a slip ensued and in a clash with CIE’s best the knee was always coming off worst. Undaunted though and sporting a gash that would have put a Newcastle man on the sick for a month he headed off at a brisk trot, his only regret that the arc welder was in Ballymartin and not at hand to cauterise the wound.
The Baker had been given strict pre-race instructions by the Club tour guide to pause on the descent to Crone Wood and enjoy the view of the spectacular Powerscourt waterfall but no, having spotted the dashing blue headgear of the Dandy, she took off in hot pursuit the only thought in her mind to overhaul the Ardglass man on the forest track. No slouch himself though, Clarke was at full tilt down the hill and at the water station was tucking in to a well-deserved multipack when Beverly shot past. It is a measure of the man’s true dedication to the sport that he dropped the half eaten Milky Way and the pursuit was on.
The duel continued along the tranquil and sparkling Glencree river, the runners enjoying the birdsong and the warming sun – on another day surely the perfect picnic spot- but that would have to wait. Browne eventually overtook Beverley on the long climb to Prince William’s Seat, following David Bell in to the finish at Glencullen with the Baker and Stuart coming in together a few minutes later.
Having completed his 32 miles, Dale dispensed some medicinal Head and Shoulders and McNeilly emerged from the shower with a knee fit for public view again.
The main purpose of the trip, the visit to the Applegreen picnic area beckoned and Beverley’s bacon and egg sandwiches soon ensured that the rigours of the day were a distant memory. An added bonus was the unavoidable absence of the Aughnahoory bun eating Champion which ensured second helpings of cake for all and it was a contented quartet who returned across the border to fulfil the prediction that none would need much rocking to sleep that night.
David Bell 2.31.44
Clarke Browne 2.50.25
Stuart McNeilly 2.58.30
Beverley Herron 2.58.35
Dale Mathers 5.25