Autumn Glory

Outward Bound

Heading out onto the Irish Sea at Skerries Harbour

I snatched a piece of glory for myself on a long, slow, Sunday run by the coast. It was one of those very bright October mornings with the moon a finger-painted smudge in clear blue skies over the bobbing boats of Skerries harbour.


Skerries Harbour

White sails dazzled in the clear, calm waters, as the members of Skerries Sailing Club busied themselves with their yachts.

And there were plenty of land lubbers about delighting in the crisp clear air or, like myself, taking pictures of the pretty scene…

Long shadow..

…and silly shadow selfies…

Oh, I could feel my old enemy, Procrastination, setting in. It was time to go.

The Skerries-Balbriggan route is very popular with runners and walkers. No doubt, it’s spectacular views have a lot to do with that. And of course, hugging the sea as it does, it is entirely flat. Always a plus for a plodder like me.

The downside though is that the footpath is very narrow, and its surface is dangerously rough. Three miles in, loose gravel got the better of me. I stumble. Almost saved myself. Then, horror of horrors, slam onto the ground.

It’s the classic little-kid fall, featuring two grazed knees, two skint hands and lost pride. I hobble to a nearby gateway to assess the damage and recover my composure. And, apart from a hole in my leggings (damn, my last good pair) I am good to go.

As it turned out, this wasn’t the worst of my pathway woes…

I had to step off it several times to let pedestrians by, always, of course, with an eye out for a car careening round a bend. And, worse still, there is a patch just outside Skerries where the path runs out entirely.  Possibly to encourage runners to up their tempo a tad.

It had that effect on me, anyway.

It would be really good to see this pathway widened and resurfaced. A lot of people enjoy it and, with a truckload of health problems festering in our overfed and depressed population, this investment would do the world of good for both Skerries, Balbriggan and their visitors.

But otherwise, the mild autumn temperatures and sea air made for perfect running conditions. And, even though I love to listen to talk radio during these long slow runs, I took frequent earphone breaks just to enjoy the sound of the sea and its accompanying birdlife.

Here and there I’d catch a glimpse of redshank, oystercatcher or snipe, while the gulls, announced their abundance with raucous cries.

Soon, I was heading into Balbriggan. A solitary red bricked chimney declared it’s industrial heritage. This was the ancient chimney of Smyths’ textile factory.

The town was built on tights, balbriggan being a term used to describe a fine knit textile which was once manufactured in that town and turned into hosiery and underwear.


Balbriggan Harbour


Balbriggan hides its glories well.  One of the joys of running, of course, is that it tends to sniff out these charms, and so brighten even the most tedious of trots with sparkling gems.

The harbour glistened in the morning light. After the hideous railway perimeter and ugly jumble of buildings, it seems all the more surprising. And, a little further along there is a Martello tower, yes, another one to match the ones I’d seen in Dalkey,Sandymount, Donabate, Portrane, Loughshinney and in Skerries itself.

Winding back through the town, there is the interesting court house building, and a beautiful Carnegie library opposite.  But little else to delight the eye.

I was homeward bound at this point, however, looping back to Skerries and already looking forward to the return journey, trotting along between the railway line and the sea, and enjoying ever second of it.

I met more friendly runners on that route than any other I had encountered. I figured that was because they were as happy as I was, enjoying the scenery and the glorious autumn day.

Ten miles done. I barely felt them. Not, I hasten to add, because I am super fit, or even fit.

But, because some runs just are sheer joy.

So Many Blog Posts So Little Time

Chocolate Mousse

I have a truckload of blog posts written since I last tuned in here. One is as witty and interesting as the next. And, of course, each has been finely honed to reveal what a high-minded,progressive creature I am.

The only problem is that they’re all in my head.

Oh, you know how it is. There you are, mid-way through your long slow run. Bored as all hell with the endless miles, the bodily aches, the negative thoughts. You hit upon a brief reprieve as you consider all the blog fodder you can create on your return home.

Each jogging mile brings another blogging possibility. Quality stuff like “Why I hate small dogs and long leads and their dumb owners” or “How blackberries beat the pants off running gel” Good enough to be Freshly Pressed? No problem. And spike those stats? Well, of course. The difficulty will be fending off the hosts of publishers who want to sign you up.

Arriving home, high on endorphins, low on blood sugar, you raid the fridge, have a shower, curl up on the couch with the laptop.

And fall asleep.

It’s not for the want of good blog topics this week, either.

There was that pretty decent ten mile run last Sunday, f’rinstance.

And the splendiferous chocolate mousse I made on Monday.

Tuesday saw me running again, and later on, enjoying coffee and a chat with writer, PR person, and Martello Tower resident, Terry Prone. I could get five blog posts out of that alone.

Wednesday I bagged another run amid return-to-school chaos.

Thursday saw me ironing my little hen heart out but since that has got to be the most mind-numbingly boring task on the planet, I’d rather talk about the murder investigation TV programme that got me through it.
Need I go on?

Well, I should I suppose.

Or at least return to one or two of those topics.

And I intend to.

But which would you rather hear about?

Over to you…

Love Story

Romantic beginings

Romantic beginings

Yesterday`s Long Slow Run bore all the hallmarks of disaster.

For a start, I`d put it off til the afternoon. Then, come afternoon, cold slanting sheets of rain bore down from the North West. Well, there was no way I was running in that lot.

Afternoon rain, gave way to evening brightness, however. And the sun peeked out again at seven. Oh, I dithered and foothered* about, and it wasn’t until eight thirty that I hit the road. Too late, too late! And my body knew it.

Rightaway I felt uncomfortable. I knew I`d be under pressure to get ten miles done before nightfall. My legs creaked at the thought of it. Fortunately, everything else felt okay and I even had the wind at my back. So, the first five miles weren`t so bad.

Quick turnaround then for home. Normally, on a Sunday morning, I`ll lose myself in RTE Radio 1 or Newstalk. I caught a little of the wonderful Talking History show but after 9pm, there was nothing of interest to me. Added to that, I was now facing into the wind, and darkening skies.

Luckily, I`d read Jean Tubridy`s post on my reader and had downloaded a podcast that she had recommended. It was over forty minutes long, and, if it were any good, it would see me through the rest of the run.

Well, the story was utterly fascinating. An eighteen year old Kerry girl, Breda O`Sullivan, finds a message in a bottle on the beach close to her home. It`s 1946, and the bottle had been pegged into the Atlantic by American G1, Frank Hayostek, enroute to Europe eight months earlier. The documentary sifts through the process of discovering the rest of the story through newspaper clippings, family recollections, letters, and the treasure trove of the G1`s scrapbook.

It is a wonderful commentary on Ireland at the time. The two correspond for six years, before the G1 arrives in Ireland, amid a flurry of newspaper coverage, to finally meet up with his girl. Romance fails to blossom however, and, in a very interesting twist to the tale, the documentary reveals why.

What wonderful radio this was. I was still running through the whole lot of it, but I barely knew it. I was lost in the world of Frank and Breda, in the sadness of their tale, in wonder at their circumstances at the time and how life eventually unfolded for them both. The documentary ended just as I was heading into the safety of town, its bright lights, and the comfort of my car. Ten miles done in all and with the lessons from Breda and Frank story ringing in my ears:

Our lives are determined by the choices that we make in dealing with the chances we are given.

Download it, listen to it. And run.




*footered = Irish slang for fiddling about, not doing much

Bloomsday Run

James Joyce 1926

James Joyce 1926

It being Bloomsday, I suppose I felt entitled to be dirty in bed. I`m very sure Molly Bloom would have approved.
Ah, I can hear her now…

“Yes, I said, yes I will, yes”

And so I did. I slept in my running gear.

Bloomsday is celebrated June 16th every year, especially in Dublin. That is the date on Leopold Bloom wanders around Dublin in James Joyce`s Ulysses. The whole book describes Bloom`s adventures on that one day. Or so I am told. Not that I`ve ever got to find out for myself. Running a marathon is easier than reading Ulysses. I should know, because I tried both and finished one.

I have, however, read Joyce`s “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man”. In college and so, many moons ago. And I reread, and loved, “Dubliners” more recently. “The Dead” is one of the stories from that collection. You might have seen the film version by John Huston. “Dubliners” is a good place to start with Joyce. And maybe even a place to finish.

If you`re more curious about the man, read “Nora” Brenda Maddox`s superb biography on James Joyce`s wife, Nora Barnacle. It gives a wonderful insight into the Joyce/Barnacle partnership-they only married in later life-and of their highly unconventional lifestyle. Joyce is portrayed in the book as a cruel, vain, self absorbed man, convinced only of his genius and that other`s should support him. And the letters between them and to their families give a great insight into their characters.

But back to Molly….

I got to see Dermot Bolger`s stage adaptation of Ulysses in Dublin last autumn. I found the nuances of Dublinese thrilling. And loved how free Molly was in herself. Ok, a little too generous with her pleasures, perhaps. But a lovable, bubbly character, nonetheless.

And so I thought of her today, as I woke up this morning, feeling a tad dirty in my running gear.

What prompted this madness?

I HAD to run ten miles today. There`s a very fine line between feeling like a runner and not. For weeks, I`ve fallen into the latter category. I`ve struggled to get my feet better, post marathon. More recently, the battle has been to overcome fatigue. And then the back started to niggle. It`s been uphill all the way. And it hasn`t helped that I`ve been putting off, or cutting short, my training sessions.

I know my form. Wake up and do a million jobs. Then get caught in a spiral of working and procrastinating with the run.

So I slept in my running gear to make me run early this morning. The thinking was that if I were dressed to go when I stepped out of bed, I had a much better chance of sticking with the plan.

Unconventional I know, though I`d rather think of it as being Joycean.

I didn`t actually wear my runners and socks, but yep, lycra gear,the works. All on.

So I woke like Molly this morning. All smiles and full of running dreams and I felt the lycra next to my skin and I said yes and I will run ten miles this morning and yes I will run uphill and down and feel the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair and I said yes, I will, yes I will go.

And I ran and I ran uphill and down amid muddled scents of dock and celandine and common valerian and honeysuckle and yes I ran well like the wind past whitewashed cottages with their blooming broom and roses, past yellow flags of iris in marshland and lilies in pools of deep water.

Morning sounds of the country rang in my ears, the familiar sound of the yellowhammer, the alarm call of the blackbird, and the feverish cries of a cockerel as I ambled past. And so onwards, til seven became eight and eight became nine and I wondered if I could make it and I told myself

“Yes, I will, yes, yes, I will run ten”

And so I am lying here now, like Molly Bloom, all pleased as punch with my run. But not in my lycra, or even my bloomers but all scrubbed up and clean again, in sensible PJs but with a smile on my face and thinking,

Wasn`t that a grand Bloomsday run after all?