By Ruairí Long
Spring 2019 proved to be open season for the Wicklow Round, with three records set. First was up Wexford man Paddy O’Leary, running the route in 16 hours 28 minutes to break the previous record set by renowned American runner Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy. Yet, within just over a month, the record time had been broken again not once, but twice by Irish athletes Shane Lynch and current record holder Gavin Byrne.
What is the Wicklow Round?
The Wicklow Round is a ultra running challenge that traverses 26 mountains in Wicklow, including the highest mountain in Ireland outside of Kerry, Lugnaquilla. It starts just a stone’s throw from Dublin at the base of Kippure, loops through the mountains and returns to Kippure with over 100 kilometers of running and 4000 metres of climbing.
Although the Round’s peaks can sometimes be hard to classify as true mountains, it is the repetitive nature of the effort that makes it so tough. All runners who have completed it are quick to mention the navigational aspect as a defining feature of the round. There aren’t always perfect peaks to the hills which aren’t always linked by decent trails, requiring good portions og off road running. The route an athlete takes can gain or lose precious minutes on each and every peak, minutes which add up over the course of 15+ hours.
Wicklow Round Map:
Ag Teacht Abhaile: Coming Home
Paddy’s round was captured on film by American filmakers Dooster Films. Their purpose was to create a video on Irish mountain and trail running, with Paddy’s round attempt forming the core of the film. Paddy and friends interviewed a whole host of the Irish mountain running scene during their trip, from talented female juniors to lifelong runners. The movie is now available online for free at Dooster Films’ Vimeo page.