Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Take the long way home

I'v been laid up for the last few week's, not totally compulsory mind. Sore leg's after Ballyandereen followed by unprecendented good weather has seen my good form disappear for a while. With not a whole lot to write about and getting slightly embarassed about harping on about what I'm at, and still needing to satisfy my urge to push button's, here's something about a few local sporting heroes.

Over the last few year's big distance's have become standard fare around here. 'Ultra' as a word has become mainstream in the club and the one's who choose to take part are no longer seen as freak's. It's become normalised. On hearing it first I thought it was a wind-up, marathon's were the last word in distance running. Now, the joke is they use them for speedwork. Last year the club was represented in the connemarathon (39 miles), Dingle Ultra (50 miles) and the Connemara 100 (100 miles).
This week, Fermoy's claw's dug a little deeper into the ultra running scene, with Grange AC's Brendan O Mahoney finishing fourth in the waterfront marathon in Courtmacsherry and first timer Karen Kenny finishing 3rd lady over a 36 mile course on infamously heavy West Cork road's. Story goes, Karen is training for the Dublin city marathon in October and decided to line up to see how she'd get on!

Just last week Owen O Keefe, who made a name for himself a few year's back as being the youngest Irishman to swim the English channel became the fastest man to swim the 41 mile's around the Isle of Jersey in the Channel Islands in a time of 9hrs and 35min. Two week's earlier he was part of a four person relay to swim both way's across the channel, again in record time.

For the last 15 year's a group of cyclist's from Fermoy Cycling Club head for the Alp's and the Dolomite's to cover a few hundred miles over a few day's on some of the most mountainous road's in Europe, while doing the same on less mountainous road's for the rest of the year.

More recently, the triathlon club have had member's lining up in different Ironman competition's in various location's around Europe.

What is it with Fermoy folk and long distance sport?
My own experience on big distance's is more 'toe in the water' than 'addicted'. I can understand the highly desirable meditative state you can get into once you've found your 'rhythm', I can understand the less desirable state when struck with a sugar low (A marathoner's 'wall', a cyclist's 'knock'), a half empty 7up bottle on the side of the road can give welcome relief with 10 miles to go and the thought of a sugary cup of tea if you make it back to base is no more than a hallucinatory dream.

These sport's are great leveller's. Everyone's an island, each one's reaction to the onset of fatigue is different, someone who may not be as fast over a shorter distance become's over a short few hour's a 'giant' of the road who can go all day, while other mortal's fizzle out like a bath ball and limp back to town with their tail's between their leg's.

As a cyclist these distance's were normal and going out for less than a three hour ride was sometime's seen as a bit of a waste of time. After morphing into an old runner, the marathon seemed like a normal enough route to take. Chalk and cheese, a 4hr marathon equate's to a nine hour bike ride, to these leg's anyway, the metamorphosis is ongoing.

My first known encounter with an ultra runner was three year's ago when I was wiring a new bathroom, sharing the space with a tiler. Maciecj, a prominent ultra runner and regular podium finisher at the Connemara 100. That day, he told me he "does a bit of running", squeezing him for more I found out what "a bit of running" meant. It wasn't a bad handle of the English language but running 30 mile's on a Sunday morning equate's to "a bit of running" in Maciecj speak.  Like all great athlete's he acknowledged his achievement's with a shrug of the shoulder. A distinctive sight on the road's around Fermoy, accompanied by his tough little black labrador cross, 'Pepe'. This was Fermoy's first ooltra (Polish pronounciatiation) runner. The meeting's became more frequent after that and the joker came out. An entertainer on the long run's, his infectious enthusiasm has been passed on, I suspect, to more than he think's.

In my curiosity for figuring out the man and the popularity of long distance sport's in the backwater by the Blackwater, we recently spent an evening on our feet shooting the breeze, Keep an eye on the next post for more on Poland's answer to Scott Jurek and the rest of Fermoy's mile munchers.              


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