Visual, physical, of knowledge and of spirit.
Saturday started with the annual 15.5km trail race through the Wicklow Mountains – up and around the lakes at Glendalough – i remember when i struggled to walk those paths.
The race is an annual fundraiser for the charity Fighting Blindness, an Irish patient-led charity funding and enabling world-leading research into treatments and cures for blindness. It also provides a professional counselling service to support people affected by sight loss; actions definitely worthy of our support.
This was my second year running the race – yes i still can’t believe that i’m capable of completed a 15.5k trail around these beautiful mountains. Last year the event took place the weekend after the Dublin marathon and my body was still a bit fatigued. This year it was a couple of weeks later and i was hoping to improve my time.
As last year, i got speaking to some people who were visually impaired, or who had relations with poor eyesight or in the process of losing their eyesight and, as in all things, such conversations literally open one’s awareness to the struggle life creates for so many people who just want to go about their business independently and healthily. I hope to return next year and up my fundraising efforts.
The day started misty with a touch of rain, a typical Irish soft day, warm for the time of year – something we can no longer easily celebrate as we become more aware of climate change and its relentless march – and then, as we started off, the skies cleared and a watery sun lit up the orange-coloured woods and mountains. Hopefully a sign from nature that our efforts would have a similar result.
Thanks to some very useful pre-race tips from John from Greystones – many thanks John – i moved near the front of the orange-clad runners – i’d forgotten how quickly the trail becomes single track and you could get seriously held up if you were near the back – a position i usually start from.
One of the best things about this race is that it starts on a relatively flat area giving your body time to get used to some exertion. After that though, it becomes tougher, climbs followed by dips, repeated ad infinitum – an adventure of almost Sisyphean efforts.
Except that, finally, at about 12.5k, we crested our last summit and from there on it was all downhill; though by then so much of my energy had been dissipated that even running downhill was not as joyous as it usually is. Before that though, we had climbed through boggy side tracks our wet feet encouraging us onwards to the Finish Line, danced our way over fallen branches, successfully navigated a storm-created gorge, drank water at the water stations so cold that it could have come straight from the mountain streams and passed out hikers, each one wearing more clothes than twenty or thirty of the hardy trail runners – all the time drinking in such scenery as would make us addicted after the first few gulps.
A nice little metaphor for life itself.
I pushed myself a little too hard having got last year’s time wrong in my head and ended up finishing over 9 minutes faster than last year. Next year i hope to be fit enough to run up some more of those hills, perhaps even up the steps to Poulanass Waterfall.
A truly wonderful outing.
Back for a cup of tea and some cake and to watch the prize-giving, home for a quick shower and a change and off to Townley Hall – another location of not inconsiderable beauty, though just a baby of some 200 years compared to the monastery at Glendalough, an infant at some 1,600 years of age. The valleys of Glendalough owe their existence to the last glacial age, which occurred some 110,000 years ago and as for the mountains themselves, well some of them certainly began life some 500 million years ago and were uplifted as mountains some 400 million year ago – just to put things in perspective. One hour and fifty one minutes seemed a long time to me but was probably not even noticed by those mountains who measure time in millennia or even megennia.
Back to Townley Hall.
It was dark when i arrived but the magnificence of the building was still obvious. Inside was even more beautiful and the central atrium with its curved staircase and glass roof was almost beyond beauty. If Sisyphus’s endeavors had involved climbing those stairs he would have been in no hurry for eternity to end, provided only that he could look upwards.
The Hall is now owned by the School of Philosophy and used for various functions and events. I was there, with several other students to be introduced, or in my case re-introduced, to mediation and to the mantra used by the School. It was a significant occasion, to me, even second time around, a significant spiritual occasion which has reignited my determination to practise meditation regularly and to include it twice daily in my routine of life. I have realised that if i wish to benefit then i need discipline and i need to practice, to train, both regularly and frequently and so i dedicate the remainder of this year and 2018 to developing this discipline, on track and on cushion, to lay a strong foundation for future growth.
Come with me, if it pleases you, on this journey.
Prior to ownership passing to the School of Philosophy, Townley Hall was owned by Professor George Francis Mitchell who became Assistant to the Professor of Geology, in Trinity College, Dublin in 1934 and carried out field studies of post-glacial sediments in Ireland. Professor Mitchell’s principal interest was in integrating the various disciplines in the study of the Irish natural environment and he developed interests in fields such as botany and archaeology. He bought Townley Hall from Trinity College and turned it into a study centre, which he personally funded and which enabled research in several different disciplines, particularly archaeological investigations at Knowth. He was elected a Fellow of Trinity College in 1944, followed by a readership in Irish Archaeology and then appointed to the Chair of Quaternary Studies in 1965. His integration of these disciplines played an important part in the development and recognition of environmental studies and the integrated nature of our planet and our lives.
And so the circle closes
and those who fight blindness are active on many fronts
may they ever prevail.
Travel in light my friends