The Bray 10K Cliff Run is no ordinary 10k, we were warned as we waited hopping with excitement and the cold on Greystones Beach on Easter Saturday evening. It follows the cliff face along the eastern edge of Ireland between the towns of Greystones and Bray and sometimes there is only a small wall or fence between you and a steep long drop to the crashing waves of the Irish Sea. And its rough underfoot, with stones, steps, sometimes muddy, sometimes slippy, a trip or a slip just waiting to happen. And mind your ankles.
So forewarned, the countdown began and we were off across the energy sapping soft grey sand of the beach, then through the harbour, skirting the newly built harbour homes at the northern edge of Greystones and then a long, steady climb skirting Bray Head.
Suffering with a bit of a head-cold, too many recent early mornings and the weight of all the usual mutterings in my mind, i started slowly and was gently passed out by faster, fitter, more determined, sometimes younger, mostly well wrapped up, fellow, many would say foolhardy, runners.
Running where the views are magnificent, which is most race locations in Ireland, has the really useful secondary benefit of encouraging you to keep your head up and take it all in. My head tends to drop, i watch the ground immediately in front of my feet, not good for my neck and especially not good for my lungs when i’m running. I blame years of geology field-trips, excursions and work – walking the hills and mountains, examining the underfoot rocks, seeking fossils, structures or other hints from the distant past to help us interpret and understand what happened all those millennia ago.
So now running i have to re-train myself and views like those along the Bray Cliff Walk make that easy. As we reached the highest point, the peninsula and hills of Howth Head came into view, the DART railway line below us, the hooped chimneys of the Pigeon House standing proudly, and, these days, waste is ever present as the exhaust clouds from Dublin City’s new incinerator paint patterns on the evening sky.
At about the halfway mark we were served water, cool and fresh and invigorating. I suddenly realised i was feeling good, wonderful even, if i wasn’t running i’d be dancing. So i upped the pace and started to pass out a few of my fellow runners. At this stage the terrain was flat, slightly downhill even in places and there are few things which give me as much pleasure as running downhill and so i upped my pace again and reeled in a few more runners. I knew there was a sting in the tail yet to come. My memories of my last run in this race was of one last hill before a steep drop to the beach at Bray. My memory was exaggerating as usual, that’s when it can be bothered to become involved at all. There was a small rise to overcome but nothing like the climb my memory had me expecting – perhaps it was partly a physical memory of effort as i was less use to distance running back in 2016 when i last ran here.
The pleasure of cresting that final rise with a clear view over Bray town and the rocky beach spread out in front of us. A steep descent meant another increase in pace and more runners passed. Then it was on to the stones and my legs suddenly felt tired as they combined pushing ahead with keeping me balanced. But still my ego kept demanding more treats, like a child on Easter morning, satiated with chocolate and petulantly seeking more, and in response my legs and lungs pushed on, passing weary travelers. The end of the beach was near, soon the wind would be on my back and the home stretch would lie before my feet.
Could i find one more gear, could i sprint the last few tens of metres – yes and yes and yes one more runner was passed in the very last efforts of the race.
If the success of a race is measured in the width of the smile on a finishers face, then Killary Gaelforce Events take a bow, my smile, so inflated to become infectious, threatened to become a permanent fixture.
I helped myself to the goodies, supped my free beer, collected my bag and, ever smiling, headed for home.
Later, in an unexpected additional pleasure, i discovered that i had improved my time by almost three minutes, two minutes and a scattering of seconds over the hour.
I may be back.