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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mizen to Malin 2011--Part 1.

I have not really been putting off writing this report but for various reasons life has gotten in the way. Now here I sit not knowing how to do it justice in words. I have tried repeatedly to jot down a lifetimes worth of memories--all of which were condensed into five days--and failed due to being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the experience. I have also feared that by not writing it down soon after I will lose the freshness of it and may omit a person or place that played a vital part in what transpired on the roads of Ireland. I will try to be as brief as I can and hopefully give you, the reader, an insight into crossing my home country on my Mizen to Malin run. I will break it into two parts in order not to overwhelm the reader with details, names and places. Here goes.......

Sat July 2nd.
My crew of the mighty brothers Kilgallon from Mayo--Mick and Mark, who fell under various monickers from Crew-Tang Clan to The Knights of Cydonia, arrived in the afternoon with the Mother Ship. A six berth road monster from my dear friends at Pat Horan Motors that was to be the nerve centre of our trip. All my family and a few loyal friends were there to help us pack and see us off. The road to Cork was going to be a long one and tracks needed to be made. As we were making the final few adjustments to supplies I was checking the latch on the door which was in the open position, as I was doing this Mick slammed the door on my thumb resulting in a nasty cut and likely bruising. We laughed a little at this as a throbbing thumb would probably be the least of my worries a few days down the line.
(ready for the off)

The drive down was great, I had not seen the guys in
a long time so catching up and planning the run made the time pass pretty quickly. We stopped for some very large pizzas on the way and may have over estimated our appetites as neither of us finished the beasts we had ordered. Refuelled and happy we set off again to make Mizen head by sundown, now I could write a whole other post on the amount of wrong turns we took and the jokes that were made on how could we even get to the north if we couldn't navigate Co Cork and to how everyone with a local accent didn't know directions and a young Polish girl did??? We finally made it to Goleen at 11.30 and were greeted by a very patient woman named Mary Sheehan who gave us her holiday cottage for the night and had been waiting for us for about two hours. We parked up ready for the morning and put weary but excited heads on pillows as the clock struck midnight.

Sunday July 3rd

I awoke having not slept, if that makes any sense. I was nervous and excited and fuelled by curiosity and impatience. We all roused ourselves and were in the van at 5am and travelled the few final km's down to Mizen head, the most southerly point in Ireland. I have to say that I have never witnessed anything as tranquil and mesmeric in all my life. Utter silence was punctuated only by the crashing waves against the jagged coastline. The mist that hung over us only added to the mystique. All sense of wonderment and awe soon disappeared as we had a job to do and we still had to figure out why the power points in the van had no juice and we also had zero phone reception, no phones, no Internet, nothing. Mick threw me a quick breakfast together consisting of fruit and pancakes with jam, I find it hard to eat large and then pound the roads. I eat often and light and it has worked for me in the past. I was also going to guzzling 500ml of Carbo Pro per hour which would give me about 300 calories per bottle with 50g of carbohydrate. My thermolytes tabs would take care of my sodium needs. And so with the long road ahead we embraced the adventure and each other and at 6.10am I started my run. Shitting myself.

(l-r Mick and Mark-Champions)

(6am, just before the off)

The first km or so is a winding road uphill,
one can either take this road or the steps. I chose the road to loosen up as a stair master session at this early was a bit much to be attempting. At the top of the hill Mark was waiting for me on the bike and Mick behind us in the van. This is a pattern that would be alternated each afternoon and evening and it worked for the boys and it worked for me. I felt pretty delirious starting out as the views were postcard perfect. Rolling hills of the greenest landscape imaginable. Seagulls flying through the mist and Mick blasting Pearl Jam tunes out through the window made for quite the soundtrack to the roll out. Mark and I chatted with enthusiasm and could not keep the smiles off our faces out of sheer joy and gratitude to be embarking on this challenge. After about an hour of cruising along, a BMW jeep pulls alongside us with two chirpy ladies in it. "Hey, are you Malcolm" shouts the driver. Indeed he is replies Mark and it turns out that Louise and Ann, our new buddies, had read about the trek in the local news letter and decided to get up and join me. This was just magnificent and gave us a taste of the camaraderie and team spirit that would follow us all week. So once all introductions were made they parked up and ran with me. Three had become five.

(rolling out)

(there is no where like it)

(stunning from every angle)

(Ann and Louise join me)

(Louise, Moi, Ann after 10km together)

The company was a real distraction from the ups and downs of the road as Cork is really hilly. Starting at this hour on a Sunday was also a plus as we met very few cars on the winding roads. Ann and Louise were swapping running stories with me and both worried I would be running at a blistering pace, as if. I was happy to let them lead and run ahead of me whenever I felt the effort was too much for me to sustain as I was looking at a hundred km day. The sun rose rapidly and considering how terrible Irish summers can be it felt quite hot. The girls kept well hydrated as did I and Mark was on top of my hydration and salt tabs like clock work. Mick in the mean time was phoning in road reports to friends to put on facebook as a lot of people were keen to know what was going on. After twenty km together Louise's husband pulled up to take the girls back home, they gave us not only their Sunday morning but a really generous donation too. So we said our farewells and took off again. I ran for probably another half hour before taking the first rest of the day at Durrus, thirty three km's in. The boys had me in a chair with a towel, water and a fresh t-shirt before heading in themselves for a full Irish breakfast at the local cafe. We talked to a few locals and got our laptops and Garmin charged up before chowing down on some bananas and off again.

The next part was much harder, the sun was cooking me nicely and I was taking on double the amount of fluids as Mark was putting ice bandannas around my neck to keep my core temperature down. The hills also got steeper and more winding. Coming into the next few towns felt good though as it meant one more under my belt, I was also jazzed to see Mick pulled in on the roadside with a buddy from Cork Brian 'Fletch' Fletcher who I have known for years.


Fletch was on his motor bike so agreed to zip up the road to find a nice place for our next break. He text back to let us now he had found a shady spot with a shop. Perfect. This kept my legs turning over knowing that and ice-cream and a coke were waiting, plus the chance to catch up with a buddy. It seamed like forever but we eventually made it to sixty km's and the feet were most definitely put up. Mick and Mark wasting no time in getting me relaxed and dried off. They were turning into quite the crew after just a half a day and their first time at this too. After Fletch bade us adieu he text us back to let us konw that the next major stop would be Macroom at another forty km away. That would take us to our goal and we decided to eat and put our heads down for a nap.

After an hour or so I was on the road again, I felt stiff an hot and needed to take a chill out in a stream to get my focus back. My stomach was giving me grief from all the carbo pro as I have never really used powdered drinks before, no reflection on the drink as it is an amazing product but I just did not have my hydration dialed in.


At the seventy three km mark on a pretty steep stretch I started coming undone. Mick was now on the bike at this stage and I was weaving slightly and losing focus. I stopped briefly to drink some water and continued the climb. About three quarters of the way up I just ambled over to a road sign, grabbed the pole like it was a life buoy and proceeded to projectile vomit against a wall. Is was like a geyser flowing out of me and I basically emptied myself, belched loudly, looked at Mick and told him we were making an unscheduled break. I lay in the van for about half an hour feeling fragile and afraid. The devil on my shoulder was telling me to worry and that my race was already finished. The guys were outside wondering how bad I was and I was trying hold down water with no joy. I calmed myself, re-wired my thought process and started with sips of Lucozade to get some glucose in me. Within the hour I was climbing down the steps and back on the road with a predator approach. My body felt week yes, but that's natural, it was my mind that needed the kick start and once I hit the road again I was determined and fired up. I had done a 180 degree turn by just calming down and believing in a higher purpose than just myself and the undulating road ahead. I stuck on some tunes and kept the fire lit and barely felt the clicks (as we had started calling the kilometres) pass by. At the ninety five mark it was approaching 10 .30 pm and Macroom was just up the way, we cruised in to top off day one hundred km's from where we had started. Mick made a tasty bowl of pasta and I made some fuelling changes for the following day. We found a parking space on the side of the main road (bad idea) and went to sleep, well that was the plan anyway.

Monday July 4th.

Again, very little sleep. We had taken a spot at a truck sleep stop and they let us know ALL about it during the night by blowing their horns each time one passed. Hey, you live you learn. We got stuck into breakfast and stuck into the road. A local hotel let us use their toilets and gave us two full buckets of ice and a hearty send off. I was very stiff getting started and it took at least twenty minutes for my legs to comply with the rest of my body, still it didn't take long to get to Millstreet and the half marathon stage. Mick was waiting with the most spectacular fry-up as I needed the calories and I needed to settle my stomach so I took some motillium too. The alternated strategy of one bottle of water followed by one bottle of carbo pro was working to my advantage which lifted a weight off my mind.

(my last visit to Millstreet was a Pearl jam concert in 96)

(breakfast a la Mick)

The feast put me right back on track but I needed sleep, and I got it. Almost two glorious hours of rest and I was charged to cruise on, it was also the second day of high temperatures. The boys made some calls on the road and a friend, Diarmuid, had hooked us up with someone he knew at a pub in Kanturk where more food awaited. That was the carrot I needed and made the twenty five km's ahead a little easier to bear. The road continued to to test my limbs and I was fast growing tired of the fact that I had been running for a day and a half and was still in the same county, this proved to be a psychological obstacle I haven't forgotten about to this day. Arriving in Kanturk took us to over fifty km and our next break. Boy were we spoiled. Abbie Buckley of Kelly's Bar in Kanturk had everything but a red carpet rolled out.... for three hairy, smelly guys she had never laid eyes on. She took us into her home and laid on a spread of home made broth, bread, sandwiches, deserts and a never ending tea pot. She then threw two refuse sacks of ice into a bath for me where I sat in bliss. I followed this with a shower as did Mick and Mark. She could not have done enough for us and sent us off with hugs, more fruit and food and smiles on our faces. I didn't even want to run smelling all nice and fresh but run I did. Abbie, THANK YOU.

(Abbie Buckley-Saint)

After this stop things would never be the same for me though and a few dark hours lay ahead. I was fine initially and the crew were hard at work as usual delivering a seamless flow of t-shirts, bottles and snacks. It was like an OR assistant feeding tools to a surgoen to get the operation done. But I was feeling a searing pain in the tendons of my left leg, the same irritaion that had taken me to the doc weeks earlier. This had been a real worry for me from the outset and now it was becoimng a harsh reality as I knew the pain would only intensify from here on in. At the seventy km point I was forced to stop and we had a little break on the van with a bite to eat. The swelling was glaringly obvious and with the intended goal set a ninety km's for the day it was looking unlikely, I decided that I would push on for a total of eighty instead and got back in the road at about nine o clock, hobbling. The next ten km's were pure agony and neither Advil nor anti inflammatories were going to tame it. It was quickly turning from a strictly-front-of-shin pain to an all encompassing throb. My Achilles taking a hammering on the never ending hills. For the last five km's I was power walking with Mick (who had ditched the bike to join me). Mark came out for the last kilometre and we all walked it together. Mark had also scored a great parking place just short of Killmallock with a family who gave us sandwiches, tea and a shower for Mick. I was too depressed to see or talk to anyone as I knew what tomorrow would bring. With a heavy head and in a world of pain, I hit the pillow.

Tuesday July 5th.

I awoke in a state of dread, until of course Mick told me the story of the folks who had welcomed us into thier driveway. We never even got their names but suffice to say the hospitality, donation and perspective we parted with will never be forgetten. This was a family struck by a double personal tragedy years ago and the story Mick relayed to us will always remind me to be grateful for all I have. Moving on and back to the road. I was walking at this stage. An arrhythmitic, sloppy shuffle had replaced my sride of the morning before and the further I went the worse it became. Mick was now constantly by my side and the any time I tried to run I got about a hundred metres before stopping and leaning against a wall for relief. I know all the quotes and sayings about it being just pain and its all in the mind etc. I also know the difference between stubborness and stupidity and I knew I needed a professional assessment. Stiffness, cramps and other issues I have run through in the past but this felt like nothing I had endured before. Electric shock like spasms were darting from the base of my ankle up to my knees regularly. Flexing my foot became impossible and my ankle was twice the size of its comrade. After approximately twenty one kilometres covered in just under three hours we pulled up in a place called Herbertstown, Limerick. This was two hundred km's run exactly since Mizen head and even though I had a notion in the back of my mind that my running days were over, I still hadn't admitted it to my crew, or myself for that matter. We parked up and discussed tactics. Our wonder crew on the phones back at base were Diarmuid at the Brosna Press and Olivia at Horan Motors and little did we know that behind the scenes they were calling everyone they knew trying to get a physio to us. Facebook was blowing up with support from friends who were offering to finish it as a relay or motorbike run with a Running for Pearl flag up to Malin. Moving stuff no doubt but I was still physically broken and mentally not really with it either. Finally the call came through, a physio was going to meet us in Newport, twenty five km's up the road. We were going to drive there and then back to the point where we stopped but I had a different idea. Sure that the physio was going to pull me from the road complelely I said to Mick "Give me your bike, I'll make it to Malin under my own steam, one way or the other"...... It was mid day.

Italic(my face says it all)

(what to do next?)

To be continued in part II next week.


  1. Excellent, great detail...You should be so proud of yourself & your team..

    Lorraine Barresi

  2. Great stuff Mally, it's like been lost in a great novel, I could visualise the whole thing, Gonna dig into part 2 now!


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Running for Pearl

This blog is dedicated to my daughter Pearl who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in August 2009. My goal is to raise funds and awareness by doing what I love....Running.