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June 22nd, 2009
Run with Moe: The mountains in Ireland

At 7.5 miles, Moe Johnson figures the Gap of Dunloe in Ireland would make a nice setting for a race. Photo by Moe Johnson.

By Moe Johnson
San Marcos Runners Club

One of things that my wife and I did on our vacation in Ireland was to take in some of the various sights that tourists often do.

One such trip involved a sight that not that many visitors really get to see up close. The main reason is that it is a hike of 12.8 kilometers, or roughly 7 1/2 miles, through the mountains.

The hike was through the Gap of Dunloe that is an opening between two mountains that was created by a glacier many years ago. As you arrive at the starting point, there is a small pub and cottage that once belonged to Kate Kearney, a well-known moonshine producer of fine beverage that she both sold and drank.

Our guide that drove us to the start informed us that because of this drinking of her moonshine, she died at the age of 103 years during childbirth. Car drivers are strongly told that the road through the Gap is only one lane and discouraged from driving through. There are horse and carriages available for those individuals who are not able to hike the 7 1/2-mile distance up a climb of 1,100 feet.

This is often why many tourists do not attempt this scenic visit as the drivers of the “traps” (carriages) are warning them that this is a very difficult trip and they will gladly take them through for a small fee.

My wife and I opted for the challenge of a hike between two mountains. The hike was the highlight of the trip as the scenery and view was outstanding. Old rock remains of houses, lakes, high mountains on both sides and a number of bridges made from rocks to cross were some of the sights to see on the trip.

The one good thing about having so many scenic landmarks is that a person will stop and take a photo and thereby get a little break from the walking. It seemed as we started up the climb to the top of the ridge, the photo opportunities increased. I remember looking up at the top and seeing other hikers against the outline of the sky and thinking that from down where we were it looked like a real long climb to get there.

The stop at Lord Brandon’s Cottage on the other end of the road where we could get refreshments was looking good after we reached the summit of the climb. The one thing about being a race director is that whenever you go for a run, or a bike ride, the you have thought of this route being a potential race in the future. This hike would be a great race for long distance runners.

One problem is that it is a point-to-point distance and the only way back after reaching the other side is a boat ride for an hour and a half across some rivers and three lakes. I remember that the Decker Challenge in Austin had two races to try. One was a single Decker and the other was a Double Decker where you did the 11-mile loop twice. I figured the 7 1/2-mile distance over and back through the Gap of Dunloe would only be 15 miles. For a long distance runner, this would be an easy challenge.

A name like the “Double Gap” or “Double Dunloe” would really be a draw for runners. Running to the top of the 1.100-foot ridge would be a tough challenge, but the nice finish of a long downhill would more than make up for that challenge.  And with a stop at Kate Kearney’s pub and cottage after the race would be a real treat for those runners that finished the run.

I am not sure what it would take to organize such a run over in Ireland, but it would be a real draw from runners all over the country. The city of Killarney is just a short drive to the start and, since it is a tourist town, there would be plenty of rooms and places to stay before the race.

Getting the portable toilets out along the route would be a hassle on some of the curves, but very feasible. A few aid stations along the way and a nice design for the shirt would make for a great race.

If you are not up for the Gap of Dunloe run, do not forget the July 2 Firecracker 5K here in San Marcos Thursday evening starting at 7:30 p.m. at the River Ridge Business Park.

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