Run to the hills

Snowdrops in Castletown House Demesne

My Dad died on 24th January. It’s very raw. I am writing some thoughts down, but it’s really for personal reasons, for now. It was never the purpose of this blog to get too caught up in personal ‘stuff’ anyway. The idea was to have a space for me to riff about running, and other matters. And mostly that’s what I’ve done. But of course, life does happen; happens all the time. So it stands to reason that the real world will occasionally seep into one’s ramblings.

But for now, I am not going to dwell on my Dad’s passing. Not that I am in denial or anything. But I know if I start to write about Dad, and all that has happened over the last few weeks, well… I’ll still be tapping away here in the office tomorrow, and beyond.

Full moon over Main Street, Leixlip
... And full moon over Mill Lane, Leixlip

And so, I did return to running.

My first outing was along the canal on the 30th of January. In my mind, I figured I couldn’t let the whole month go without at least one run. It was the 30th of December when I did the marathon, and a full month later, I eked out 4 miles. It wasn’t much, but it was a run. And they all count.

Gary was true to his word for the next run. He had promised to accompany me whenever I needed some ‘run therapy’, and so, after a gentle nudge, we tipped away along the canal on the 2nd of February towards the Deep Sinking. It was a nice and easy 14k step. And as we parted company at my front door, I realised we hadn’t mentioned my Dad once. I know had I spent the whole time talking about my Dad that Gary would have happily joined in, but he knew too to let me set my own pace on that topic of conversation.

And so we reached today, and one of Leixlip’s best-known runners, Jarlath, picked up myself and Mark from my house shortly after 8am and we headed for the Dublin Mountains. He had offered to bring us out the day before, but it was to Ticknock, where my Dad grew up as a young boy, and that may have been a little too much, too soon. This morning’s run was at Tibradden, which is still only a stone’s throw from Ticknock; just a hill and a valley in between, in reality.

I don’t do any hill running, and neither does Mark. We were joined by Michael and Jarlath’s brother Dave, and all three are regular IMRA runners – The Irish Mountain Running Association. But in fairness to the lads, they kept a handy pace and stopped at regular intervals to make sure we all kept together. All told, it was about 10k. My watch didn’t seem to enjoy the new surroundings, and refused to find satellites for the first kilometre or more.

It was hill running, though; no doubt about that! Very little was on the flat, and only the shortest stretch was on a regular path, once we got off the first little leg of fire road from the car park. Jarlath is a true devotee of the hills. Not for him the easy routes. And indeed, why drive all the way up there from Leixlip just to run on a flat path?

So most of the hour and 12 minutes or so, when we weren’t taking a quick breather, were along lumpy, hilly, mossy, boggy or rocky paths, most of which were in amongst the pine trees. And in truth, most weren’t that well-defined as paths, as such, but Jarlath knew the way.

The weather was very benign, and perfect for hill running. There has not been much of any rain recently, even up in the mountains, so most of the paths and tracks were in reasonable shape. There had been an overnight frost, so it was cool, but not bitterly so, and the wind did not seek us out, hidden as we were for most of our journey under a pine-needle canopy.

A quick view out over Dublin Bay and the city
Jarlath points out Three Rock in the distance
The Sugarloaf peeks out from under the clouds

I did manage a few pictures, but Jarlath is a keen runner, and whilst happy to point out landmarks, is also equally happy to bounce along like one of the deer you might find in these hills. So you do well to keep up with him.

Towards the end, before we have sight of the road and car park, we stop at a natural clearing where the sun has picked out a fallen tree – its skeletal branches glowing against a dark green background. Moss is thick everywhere, and the pine needle blanket underfoot seems to absorb sound. Nature’s gentle answer to the anechoic chamber.

The last leg gets us back to the car, and the car park is now filling up with visitors, many of whom have dogs on board. A Range Rover pulls alongside, and the couple get out and open the tailgate to reveal two dogs. A ramp is produced to allow the hounds to descend from their regal transport without the doggy indignity of having to jump. Dad would not have been able to contain himself…

Home then, and Mark and I repair to the local Insomnia for hot chocolate and cheese and onion crisps (a key source of vital salts lost whilst exercising. No further questions at this point). A bath and some lunch, I am feeling somewhat human again.

I make the rookie error of reading my last blog post, and suddenly I am weeping at my desk once more. And so, ever the glutton for punishment, I am going to finish off with a couple of images from the past week or so.

I am holding Leo Finn Kenny, whilst his lovely mum, Emily, watches on
I had promised Dad we would bring him up to the Salmon Leap Inn one more time, and this was as close as we could get. Also in the picture is Leah, my brother Rob’s daughter, and a glimpse of Aoife, Dallan’s girlfriend
Odi, wondering why Bonnie has decided to join him on the couch…

6 thoughts on “Run to the hills

  1. I’m sorry you lost your dad, brother. My heart aches for you and, should you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here for you. It would do me some good, too. I do miss my pop immensely, now and again. My cell number is one – two four eight three four three six four five three.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Though you’re on shaky ground, you eased back into running without much time passed, and a hill run to boot! Though you’re watering the snowdrops with your tears, you’re also holding the amazing Leo Finn in your arms. It eases MY heart to see good friends and loving family (Odi and Bonnie included) helping you through this bitter sad time .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Running is a balm, and family and friends have kept me going these last few weeks. I’m lucky to have them. And Dad was always an unfussy, ‘let’s get on with it’ kind of bloke. So I’m taking his advice. ❤️


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