Wednesday 22 November 2017

Running in loops on forest course makes for great day's sport

Running in a forest park.
Running in a forest park.

Gerry Duffy

At 6:15am last June 14, I was in the heart of rural Galway. No, I wasn't returning from a night on the town. I was in fact in a gorgeous forest park just outside Portumna. I thought I was early, but as I emerged from the car, over 50 competitors were already at race registration. That day saw the fifth staging of the 'Portumna Forest Run', a highly popular event in the Irish running calendar.

By the time nightfall would descend that Saturday night, over 800 competitors would have completed one of the four races (100km, 50km, Full Marathon, Half Marathon).

A clue to its attraction is that it is organised by runners. Its founder, Sebastien Locteau, is a French native who lives in these parts and runs 'Sports Ireland', a high performance coaching company. In his spare time, he gives back to sport by organising events.

Despite the four different distances on offer at the Portumna event, never once were any of the 800 runners more than two kilometres geographically from the race headquarters, because it was a looped course, something relatively uncommon in these parts. We continuously ran a 5km looped trail. For half and full marathon runners, it meant four or eight loops with a small bit added to make the distance, while for the 50k'ers it was 10 laps of 5k. Then there were the 31 mad souls who completed 20 loops, to ensure they covered 100km.

Seb says: "A lapped course means athletes can monitor progress. It also simplifies health and safety. It makes refreshments and marshalling a much easier delivery. But the most important element is that laps are great for building camaraderie and, over the years, I have witnessed participants support each other by a glance, a smile or a repeated thumbs up."

The sell- out crowd in Portumna bears testimony to the popularity of this novel race. Well done and merci Sebastien and co.


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