Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: Mud Sweat and Tears, on a mountain-run

"It is 2 am on Saturday morning. I’m so used to being alone on the mountains by now that I presume that I’m the only one up here. But before I know it, I see three other head torches pointing right in my direction. “Who the hell would be up this mountain at this time of night?” I wonder. I start to panic" 

For some people climbing a mountain means walking slowly and steadily to the summit and back. For others it means ropes and dizzy ascents. For some people in Ireland it means running 26 peaks totalling over 100 km with over 6,000m of climbing - all inside 24 hours.

Aid-worker and blogger Moire O Sullivan took on The Wicklow Round in 2009. And now she's put it down in writing for us to share. 

"Mud, Sweat and Tears, An Irish woman’s journey of self-discovery" starts from the pain and humiliation of not completing the Round in 2008 to the painful joy of finishing in 22 hours 58 mins and 30 seconds a year later. As she says at the end: "I feel proud for getting back out there after that difficult first attempt. I’m proud that I learnt from my mistakes ... I’m proud that I’m a girl. I am a girl who was the first person to complete the Wicklow Round. So often us girls think that these things simply can’t be done. But at the end of May 2009, I’ve proved this belief totally wrong." 

It's not a comfortable read, Moire takes us right into the bloody blisters and the things long-distance runners think but it's a book that makes you believe in the addictive power of mountain-running. And makes you see how powerful that feeling of achievement can be.

For the runners among you, her descriptions of how she balances her food-intake with running and works out a route to get her safely over the peaks in darkness is a great insight into the practicalities behind her triumph. Her support team had more than a small role to play in this. 

Moire, at the end of the Wicklow Round
She writes: "Andrew, Lara, and Mark are also checking my bag at the transitions to make sure I am finishing the food. When I arrive off the mountains with a morsel of food left, I get reprimanded for not eating enough ... a psychological trick to ensure I consume enough calories for the journey." 

As you read you feel you are there on the mountains - watching the sky change colour, looking out for the goats and munching on the chocolate muffin with Moire on another steep climb. 

Having done much less strenuous climbs in Wicklow,  I'm awestruck at the commitment and the fitness needed to get around every peak in sight. I love that some of her running friends tog out to run with her for a few hours here and there, that's friendship.

In a funny aside she remembers how she nears the end of her marathon, she passed a runner who had probably just woken up a short while earlier. The runner calls out a loud hello and is affronted not to receive a proper reply. " “Whatever”, she says as she whizzes past me ... “But, but... I did answer you,” I think. “It’s just that I’ve been running for 22 hours. I’ve been on my feet since yesterday. I’m doing the Wicklow Round."" 

But it's something beyond the ken of most people, that anyone would undertake this. Moire was the first person to complete the Round, within a couple of weeks four men completed it in various times. But she was the first and you can race up those peaks with her.

I interviewed Moire on this blog here and here
Have you read any other "I did this" books recently?


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