A crisp, fresh, winter morning saw the ‘Get Off The Couch’ crew piling out of their cars at McDonalds – but it wasn’t to share a mac – it was to park across the road and share a raft on the River Liffey for our first ever competitive raft race with www.rafting.ie. The day’s sport was arranged to raise funds for Concern’s Philippines’ relief effort. A good cause, a beautiful day, fun on the water…. all reasons for me to smile deeply. But I also had a warming glow at seeing my new adventure friends getting active in the great outdoors, long after the TV cameras have stopped rolling. Yes, we made a television programme, but more importantly, the team and all our participants, have made a difference. They and I have both experienced the benefits of stepping outside the door into the beautiful, stunning, inspiring country that we live in – and now they continue to spread the word, about the joy of nature and the joy of being healthy. Rock on Ireland, or roll, or climb, or or or… well you get it. Here’s how some of our clever friends captured a little bit of the day….
There were winners in the all male, all female, and mixed crew categories, while GOTC came ahem, 4th last. You’ll get all the results and a whole host of pictures on rafting.ie’s facebook page. It was also great to welcome Santa and his helpers along on the day.
Saturday’s rafting was merely a warm-up for what I had planned on Sunday. I huffed & puffed & made it up, only to plunge down the rough rocks into the forest. Do I really want a mountain bike aged 48? Mountain Biking rock star, the legendary Richie Byrne and his angelic partner in hardcore biking, Carol, took me out for a beginner spin on Ticknock. All I can say is that this sport doesn’t let you hide for a second. It’s intense from the moment you start spinning those pedals, and it’s a rush right to the very end of the ride. I was soooo slow and sooooo clumsy, but I loved it. In fact I loved it enough to get fitter enough, so that I can judge how I like it when I’m not completely annihilated by the hill climbs. Mind you in fairness, I kept spinning, so there’s hope for me. If I have a word with Santa, I wonder if I’ve room for another bike….?
Irish Adventurer Pat Falvey launched my book ‘One Foot in Front Of The Other’ here in Dublin and last night it was an honour to return the favour at the Great Outdoors and launch a talk about The Summit Book, with co-authors Pat, and Pemba Gyalje Sherpa. They tell an extraordinary story about the deadliest day on K2 when Irishman Ger McDonnell reached the summit but lost his life on the descent.
My antlers twitched and I kicked up a bunch of golden leaves, as I strolled across Marlay Park this morning for the annual RNLI Reindeer Run and Santa Saunter…
It’s a special day. A friend of mine has been training hard for the 1K. It’s been a while since they did anything like this, and the amount of effort and perseverance they’ve put in for today’s one kilometre Santa Saunter, far outshines the amount of training I’ve been doing for my 5k. That brings with it two inescapable facts – I’m very proud of my friend for being here, and I’m not so sure about my own running ability later in the day!
Bumping into the organisers we share grins and congratulations as hundreds of people pour into the park, which is rapidly filling up with reindeer cladded men, women and children of all shapes, sizes and physical abilities. At this point we’ve just heard that there are over a thousand registrations. This is one of the things I love about fun runs – everyone feels welcome, and you get lots of runners, trotters and walkers who might not usually turn out for a run in the park. I’m always saying to just get out there and run; you don’t have to be an athlete to start – get active and the fitness follows. But days like this are such a wonderful encouragement for getting started. The cause is pretty special too, and one close to my heart. The RNLI save so many lives as their brave volunteer crews negotiate some of the roughest sea conditions around Europe.
I’m actually a bit nervous, because I’ve been asked to handle the warm-up for the first race and I haven’t done that before – not in public. I helped our teams warm up on the set of Setanta TV’s ‘Get Off The Couch’ – and I’ve been part of plenty of warm-ups with my own running club, LeCheile AC but I’m suddenly feel out of my comfort zone.
As I line up with my Megaphone on the grass in front of the start line, I take stock. I’m surrounded by a ‘sea’ of red-shirted reindeer – and I’m wearing furry ears and a pair of antlers. I stand for a moment looking at the front row of tiny runners, standing knee high to their parents and looking back expectantly. I glance nervously sideways at my trusty sidekick, the 6ft tall RNLI Reindeer ‘Rookie’ – and finding my voice I ask my reindeer runners to lift their left arm and wave to Santa. We raise our knees and ‘step in and out of Santa’s Sleigh’, we roll our shoulders – because it’s Santa’s favourite after carrying his magic sack with all those presents, we see how well Rookie can balance on one leg… and finish running on the spot in the ‘Santa Stampede’ before wrapping up with a round of applause for Rookie who now knows which side is right and left.
Walking over to my friends who are cracking up laughing, I sigh with relief thankful my 5 minutes of fame are over, when Niamh Stephenson from the RNLI dashes over to ask me to do it all again for the next race. Erm – judging from the comments later it appears I may have inadvertently changed warm-up tradition forever for the annual RNLI Reindeer Run and Santa Saunter…..
*Disclaimer No.1 – sorry Santa if I slightly misrepresented your warm-up exercises
*Disclaimer No.2 – sorry Irish Ultra Runner John O’Regan if I slightly misrepresented your warm-up exercises