This is the third time we’ve ran the Setanta Ireland Rogaine; the lure of running/orienteering for 24 hours without stopping is somewhat attractive, but it’s not just the challenge that draws us back to Ireland, it’s also the bizarre and random things that always happen when we cross the Irish Sea. This year was no exception.
Our tales of the rogaine had tempted Steve and Tim from the Dark Peak Fell Runners to enter this year’s event and so we met them at the airport in Dublin on Friday morning. After shopping for essential rogaining food (sausage rolls, quiche, currant buns and cereal bars), we headed down to the Wicklow Mountains. After an afternoon walk around Glendalough we headed to the An Oige (Irish YHA) bothy/hostel in Glenmalure on the off-chance that they had space for us to stay. To our surprise, the place was bustling with people when we arrived, but it turned out that everyone had come up to the hostel to watch a performance charting the hostel’s history! The performance was in the common room of the hostel, which was only large enough to hold about 12 people, so the ‘friends of Glenmalure Hostel’ performed twice! Just when we thought they had finished, they announced a third sitting to which we were invited, so our introduction to the hostel was a ghost story about the key figures who endowed the cottage to An Oige. It was really very good and was a great welcome to Ireland.
After cups of tea and chatter about the day ahead we had an early night, but not before being perusing the map and being truly grateful that it was ‘detailed’ .. for sure navigation.
After a large breakfast we arrived at the event centre at lunchtime and started the race at 2 pm.
Over the next 24 hours we travelled around 90 km (56 miles) on a course that had about 3360 m of ascent. The route that we choose covered most of the Harvey’s Wicklow Mountains Map as you can see below.
I’m not going to describe the whole route in detail because it’s very long, but I’ll mention a few memorable points.
1. It rained extremely hard within 30 minutes of the start of the race. I could almost feel the raindrops doing straight through my waterproof!
2. We saw the Dublin lights in the dark and mist
3. We had tried to choose a route that allowed us to run on the road during the night. Unfortunately this didn’t quite work out, and we passed this section whilst it was still light. This left us with some fairly tricky navigation in the dark. One of these bits was up an extremely steep hill, which took about 1 hr 10 mins to climb. It was so steep that it was almost vertical and it was covered in heather and crags. It was so bad that Richard almost lost his sense of humour and we even considered re-tracing our steps down to come up another way. Nevertheless we persevered and eventually emerged at the top.
4. Our next navigational challenge was a boulder in the middle of nowhere, which we had to find in the pitch dark and fog. Richard took a bearing from a known location and I paced, and amazingly it was exactly where we expected!
5. At 4 am in the morning we ran down a minor road in the middle of nowhere and saw a structure on the road. Richard deviated to check it out, and it turned out to be 4 young blokes who were preparing to skateboard down a really steep hill! Very very bizarre! They didn’t even appear to be drunk!
6. At 4.30 am we ascended the next hill and Richard and I very nearly fell asleep whilst walking.
7. After a beautiful run down a ridge in the early morning, we choose to descend into a valley via a logging track. As we descended, the gorse got denser and denser such that when we got to the bottom, we were well and truly prickled from the waist downwards. I pulled a 5 mm thorn out of Richard’s foot the next day!
8. We slowed down a lot towards the end and we ended up getting back to the campsite 1.5 hours early – there were no more controls within reach.
After we finished we feasted on the BBQ supplied by the event organisers and then awaited the results.
It turned out that Steve and Tim won first place! And we won first mixed team (second overall). A great effort by team GB!
This event is legendary – both for impenetrable vegetation (in places) and for a great great challenge. Many thanks to the organisers for putting on a great event and in particular for putting out and collecting in the orienteering controls from literally all over the Wicklow Mountains. I think we might go back and try again at some point.