Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Guest Article on the Ballycotton '10'...by Claire Healy

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Guest Article on the Ballycotton '10'...by Claire Healy

The following article was sent in by Brian Healy and is an account of the Ballycotton 10 mile race written by his daughter Claire back in 2014. It gives a nice account of the event and as can be seen from the title, it was written well before there was any hint that the race might ever come to an end.

BALLYCOTTON 10 WILL RUN AND RUN... By Claire Healy (2014)
 
Runners are penned into the very tip of the cul-de-sac village, the island looms in the background, the Ballycotton Lighthouse and its red beacon at rest on this sunny afternoon. The start of the Ballycotton 10  road race is something to behold.


Start of the Ballycotton 10 mile road race. Photo: John Hennessy

It’s the biggest day of the year for the sleepy fishing spot on the east Cork coast. Almost 3,000 runners pour out, and later back in, the Bog Road, which links the isolated coastline to the outside world.

The village  bears little resemblance to its ordinary stature. Locals line the main street clapping and cheering their annual visitors, their musical Cork accents guiding the runners through the gentle hills and rambling roads.

The race entered its 37th year this March. An extraordinary event that, compared to the scale of the venue, is bigger than the New York marathon.

In an era where more and more people are abandoning the gym and hitting the roads, Ballycotton saw 2571 runners of all levels take on their route. There were 2617 finishers in 2012 and 2601 in 2013. In most normal races, a decline in finishers could be considered a drop in popularity but that certainly can’t be said for the Ballycotton 10 when online entries sold out in 90 minutes last December.
The slight drop could be attributed to the change in the entry process and simply the number of people not turning up on the day. It’s remarkably consistent and the organisers can be reasonably sure that if the same entry criteria applies next year, Ballycotton will see 2,500 to 2,600 runners turn up in March of 2015.

It’s one of the few big races that doesn’t award a finisher’s T-shirt. Ask any athlete, or their significant other, and that familiar grumble that can only come with the experience of a graveyard of vintage race t-shirts at the bottom of the wardrobe ensues.

Instead Brian Healy’s dishwasher plays host to 14 years’ worth of commemorative mugs. The race is the reason he and his family live in the village. Originally coming across the Ballycotton 10 on his athletic travels around Ireland, from their first visit the Healys fell in love and nine years later they came to call the village home. 12 years after his first race, his son Dáire joined him on the start line.
“It’s a tradition…of 37 years. It never fails to astound me how a small voluntary group of people can put on such a professional event, how a local community can assist in the organisation of an event. It doesn’t feel like a big commercial race, it keeps its community feel and you know that the sun will always shine at some stage, it’s part of the day. The village the next day is like nothing ever happened” Brian said.

If it wasn’t for the race, Ballycotton might only be known for notable lifeboat rescues, Dáire notes, mentioning the famous Daunt Rock rescue in 1936 by the Mary Stanford lifeboat, “that or Divine Rapture,” he laughs.

Divine Rapture could have done with the Mary Stanford lifeboat, it was such an ill-fated venture. For two weeks the village welcomed Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp and the Hollywood elite, before it emerged that there was no money behind the project and they promptly packed up. Thankfully the race has seen more success.

Dáire concurs; “it gives Ballycotton something to be proud of, and the people something big and important to be part of. We might be one of the smallest villages in Cork, but we run the biggest race, and a personal one at that.”

John “Mr Ballycotton” Walshe is a familiar face on the athletics scene in Cork and indeed around the country. An obliging and humble character, he is the main cog in the slick machine that is the Ballycotton 10. Whether it’s putting up signs, painting the mile markers onto the road, no stone is left unturned by the race organiser. He knows what makes a good race and ensures that he and his team put on the best day possible for the runners, travelling and local alike.


John Walshe (second left) and Brian Healy (far right) visiting marathon stalwart Ron Hill’s 5km following his Ballycotton visit.

A visible presence since the race’s first outing, today’s race would be unrecognisable to the 31 men who ran in 1978, while much remains the same, down to the work of John and his team.
“The ten mile route hasn’t changed and it still offers the same challenge as it did to those 31 pioneering runners all those years ago. The race organisation, now a massive operation, remains a truly voluntary effort and we still provide the same basic value for money service – a true race on an accurate course with full results for all” he says.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lovely article. Thanks for posting. No amount of thanking adequate for the awesome work done by the organisers over the last 40 years.

Anonymous said...

It is clear the runner in the red singlet broke and the guy with the gun is not impressed. A few runners there up front with no business up that far. Well written article.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article.

Will greatly miss this race.

Anonymous said...

Great article. The highlight of the year on the running calender in my opinion. gone nut not forgotten. Well done to John and all the team . No doubt someone will jump on the bandwagon and have a ten mile race in March. Won't be the same.