Thursday, August 25, 2011

Great Burren Run

Waves breaking against the rocky shore
The setting sun.
On the spur of the moment I decided to head to the northwest of Clare and take part in the Great Burren Run. This is a half marathon that is held in the beautiful village of Fanore. I had never run a half marathon before so it was something of a trip into the unknown. So I packed my tent and headed off after work on Friday afternoon. It is about a hundred mile trip but it soon passed thanks to the new motorways that are all we have to show for the so called "Celtic Tiger". As I was nearing the Burren I was keeping my eyes open for a possible wild camping spot. Things weren't looking too good until I rounded a bend and there by the sea was a flat expanse of grass that several others were already camping on. I was able to use the car as a shelter from the stiff breeze and I had the tent up in no time. After a leisurely bite to eat I went for a little walkabout to explore my surroundings. It was a wonderful spot where the rough seas pounded the rocky shore and there was a constant thunder of breakers crashing against the nearby cliffs. A good nights sleep followed and I awoke to a beautiful calm sunny day. A good breakfast and a short stroll and I was ready to head for the run.

Unique and bleak landscape
Limestone pavement
The village of Fanore consists of no more than a pub, a shop, a cafe and a few houses. It is situated in a beautiful spot hard up against the sea and the rocky Burren rising gently behind. After registering for the run I warmed up by taking little jogs. They were expecting about 100 to take part and these were split between a half marathon and a 10K run. There was a great atmosphere before the start and the rousing sound of a ceili band blaring from loudspeakers saw some even practice some jiggy moves. Soon we were lined up at the start and we were off.

There was a bit of a mad dash from the start and the super fit and super ambitious set off at a fast pace. After just half a mile on the road we went off down a dirt track and from there on to a beach. The soft sand made for hard going but I didn't push it and concentrated on keeping in my comfort zone. From the beach we were up another track where we passed by a herd of Alpaca. Not too many of them to the square mile in this neck of the world. Anyway another short road section was followed by a stiff climb on a waymarked trail where 400ft was gained. Another road section for a couple of miles alongside a delightful little river and we were climbing again on a green road. This was a long steep climb where over 600ft was climbed. A long run along the top of the mountain afforded wonderful views which helped to take the mind off the aching body was finally followed by a long downhill section to the finish.

The beautiful Burren

Ancient Dolmen
 I managed to come in eight in 1hour 53mins. I guess my hill walking and occasional hill runs stood me in good stead and I seemed to suffer less on the uphill sections. Anyway I really enjoyed the route which was really varied and went through beautiful scenery. After several large glasses of water and soup and sandwiches  I was ready for the journey home. I came back a different way via Ballyvaughan and Corofin. This travelled right through the high Burren and gave a great flavour of the magic of the place. I stopped and had a look at the famous Dolmen near Ballyvaughan. This is a really impressive tomb which is all of 5000years old. I wonder how much the landscape has changed since then. I was well happy with my efforts and the trip and as I headed home I was already thinking of my next trip to the area which I vowed would not be too far in the future.

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