Garda Cross Country 2015 Report
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And so we all headed off on Saturday morning to the Garda boathouse beside the Liffey at the southern end of Phoenix Park to register for the latest BHAA race in the winter league, the traditional BHAA Garda Cross Country 2 and 4 mile races held on the hills just inside the park near the Magazine Fort and the Khyber Pass. The conditions were extremely promising in that the usual strong westerly wind was not in evidence. Although it was a chilly morning the sun was promising to come out at times and ultimately it did. This year, there was no Civil Defence exercise taking place over the gullies. Last year, the drill involved a hosepipe being trained on the already saturated slopes for a lengthy period before the races. However, for Saturday, thankfully, the ground was reasonably firm and it led to some pretty decent times.
The annually repeated races also benefited this year from the presence of many runners participating in the Dublin Lord Mayor’s 5-Alive Challenge, the challenge itself including a cross-country race for the first time as part of the series. It was indeed, the first cross-country race for several of the runners in the challenge and what a baptism of fire!
As usual, the women’s 2 mile race took place entirely on a loop that is well-known to club runners of a Saturday morning and traditionally and affectionately (!) known as the Munich Mile. It is so-called because it’s generally believed (although there is a question mark as to the exact route) that Eamonn Coughlan used it as part of his training regimen leading up to the Olympics in 1972. The race thus took in 2 repeats of this loop which went down and then up the steep gullies, whilst the open 4 mile race that took place afterwards took in the Munich Mile loop once but then followed it with two laps of about 1.5 miles, extending the route up to the Acres Road near the Papal Cross. The races had something for everyone: tough hills and a long flat finish to each lap. Spikes were the order of the day even with the firm ground.
There were 182 participants in the women’s race, a much larger field than usual because of the presence of the yellow shirted Challenge runners. Despite the involvement of some good quality competition at the head of the field, the ultimate race winner, Emma Donlon, dominated from start to finish and was probably never headed, coming home in 11:53. Nevertheless, Dervila Holmes, in second place, managed to get close at the end finishing only 3 seconds behind in 11:56. Indeed, it was a well contested race for the podium positions as the first 6 women all finished within about 25 seconds of the winner. Third place went to masters runner Sharon Grant, runner up in the Eircom XC race back in January in Firhouse.
In the open 4 mile race it was a similar story as, for a second week in a row, Emmett Dunleavy also showed tremendous form in winning and, as with last week ,by a decent margin. Last week’s difference over 5 miles in the North County farmers XC in Swords was 2.5 minutes. This time, however, the gap was only 28 seconds, but a clear enough victory all the same. The winning time was 20:48 whilst David Flynn placed second in 21:16 and Robert Corbally, third in 21:36. The top 20 finishers all completed the course within about 3 minutes of the winner.
The ranks of the BHAA runners were swelled by the Lord Mayor’s contingent to provide a field of nearly 300, with half the field breaking 30 minutes for the tough 4 mile distance.
Despite the toughness of the event, these particular races, always prove popular among the BHAA runners and, hopefully, we will have attracted a few more to our ranks after Saturday. The spread to follow in the Garda boathouse was just the icing on the cake after a tough but ultimately satisfying Saturday morning!