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Coming near the end of what can only be described as a week of intensity, where one is in the middle of the to-do list but it’s getting longer and longer; with each hour, it’s been added to by the wonderful people surrounding you.

You are getting down through it but it’s never ending. Living in a world where one must be super organised all the time for work life and home life. Sometimes a moment of madness can wonderfully throw everything out of sorts, up skittle the normal routine. The last-minute planning and rushing can be exciting, inspiring, one has no time to think about the task at hand and it can put a pep in one’s step.

I’ve had many moments of madness but a want exists inside me this week to head for a challenge. I want to find a mountain and run up it very fast, although the body is tired and surviving on little sleep. The mind is so active with kids school work, kids matches, and the chores all entering the head at a strange hour. I know there is one place to park all this: up high on the trails.

On a Thursday evening I begin to search races, Saturday being the only free slot in the family calendar. The Burren half marathon pops up, sold out of course, but a late entry gets me in. I’m off to Co Clare to run the mountains, hills and rough terrain of the beautiful Burren and I cannot wait.

A half marathon can be a tough event but running across the mountains with some off road, some on road, a mix of rough and varied terrain. It’s a mix of difficulty and one has no choice but to slow down, but the scenery and beauty escapes the mind and so a tough endurance event at last minute notice will be enjoyed.

This unique event, set in one of nature’s most extraordinary landscapes, will have us running over vast rocky pavements while admiring its incredible array of Artic, Alpine and Mediterranean Flora. When the phone rings for the next errand, when the car needs to move again, when I need to assist all the people around me in work and at home, I will give as always my undivided attention, with the Burren in sight.

The mind already begins to change, the excitement of escaping begins; because there is something to look forward to, besides thinking of the to do list. One gets a night’s sleep, one has an endless Friday energy, going into work early to get a head start, straight through break, the to do list diminishing as fast as running down the mountain, the jobs being delegated as quick as running up the mountain, the day flying by as quick as running the flat road home. By lunchtime the weeks work is almost complete.

There is something wonderful about heading off early on a Saturday morning, no one about, the road deserted, no traffic, no cars, no people, just me, lots of tea and the radio. An early Saturday morning chat show, with some relaxing music in between, the buzz from the caffeine, the sun beginning to shine, the mountains up ahead, the sign for Kinvara; what an amazing little place, thatched cottages, restored to perfection, the stillness of the water, the businesses beginning to open. The unplanned event, the moment of madness has pumped the mind and body with endorphins before the running begins at all.

I head towards Ballyvaughan. The signs are out for a road race, the mile markers are installed, the locals all in yellow vests and roads are blocked off. It’s a big yearly event for the parish, volunteers giving up weeks of time for this event to run smoothly; this will be a unique experience.

The roads meander around the countryside and the cars all following each other, slowly, because there is no panic out here. Life moves at a different pace, we’ll get there sometime. Signs for Burren perfumery, organic chocolate factory, free range eggs; a sense of health, nature, and beauty is felt on driving through a natural environment, untouched by mankind, just left as it is.

The limestone barren mountains speckled with a little greenery are looking down on me as I imagine where I’ll be heading today. I don’t fear what’s ahead but instead am thoroughly looking forward to exploring what’s up there.

Arriving in Ballyvaughan at 8.30am on a Saturday morning, the place is alive; the music, the crowd, the atmosphere, the tents, the community, the colour, all getting ready for their big local event in a small area. Sixteen years later this event is still going strong, attracting over 1,200 people, weeks of work to ensure the safe running of the event.

The local farmers are opening up their land for crowds of people to walk, jog or run through their treasured fields. The planning this takes, the moving of the animals, tractors needed to drive up the Burren mountains to show us our mile markers, to guide our way and to provide us with water and supplies is incredible. We park in fields at the back of the village, a boreen walk to the tent for race numbers, t-shirts, and a warm welcome for participants.

A fresh but dry clear day, all the better for the scenic views, cream needed for wind burn not sunburn today. When one moves up the open, unsheltered mountain, the elements change considerably, today its wind. Not much time to spare, not much warm up needed, all our energy saved for the endurance event ahead. The chats begin in the crowd, everyone having the same thoughts; are there any downhills, how long are the long drags, are there dangerous parts?

It’s almost 9.30am and it feels like I’ve been up for two days. The gun goes and we’re off. A long drag up a narrow road for a mile and a right sharp turn brings us off road. With rocky uneven terrain and more climbing, the start of the challenge spreads the crowd out; a cutting breeze feeling harsher the higher up we go. The more one gets exposed with less shelter, one conserves energy.

There’s lots of climbing but it doesn’t feel so bad. The eye catching views occupy the mind, a stream up ahead to leap over, a gap to run through, a barbed wire fence taken down to let us pass, a knocked gap for us to tip toe through. One must concentrate on each step, on each footing, the hazards are endless. The amount of work involved to make this safe for each and every one of us, water up ahead is a welcome surprise, bins are provided for empty bottles and everyone obeys the instructions: leave no trace is a necessity here today.

There is something unique about running up here. A bleak open landscape, one mountain leading into the other, limestone being our surface, softened occasionally by greenery, one notices every flower, every colour, because against a backdrop of grey and green, yellows, purples and blues stand out.

Anything that grows, lives or runs up here is tough out; a wide open, exposed place, a barren, rough, uneven surface, where the ankles move from left to right, where the only way to move fast is on the toes, tip toeing in between the rocks, marshy under footing in parts.

Far away from anywhere, it’s a long way from reality and so the crowd up here today absorb the buzz, the endorphins, the healthy breeze, the friendships, the friendliness, the kindness, the beauty, the ongoing lunar like appearance, interrupted by the yellow blooms of Tormentil, the creamy white of Guelder Rose and the purple speckles of Wild Thyme.

We reach the “Big Climb” we have been warned about: two miles of uphill climbing. I take it handy, it zigs zags back and over the mountain range, we meet the runners ahead and runners behind, it breaks the toughness on nearing the top the views of the Aran Islands, of the Galway and Clare countryside, distracting the mind away from any thoughts of tired legs.

I stand up tall, pump the arms, I see water up ahead, I drown the head and body, a few around me give into walking. I know I can do this and I run to the top, the most amazing spectacular view for miles around.

A guy warns me of a very steep, dangerous downhill. I slow down. It frightens me but I gradually manoeuvre down the mountain, running on a slanted slope makes the task more difficult and as we go through a gap, we climb over rocks, streams, barriers.

Finally, I see the road up ahead. Three miles to go, I’m down and safe. I take off against a very tough wind again; two men up ahead shelter me and we head for home, us all working together.

With one mile to go, I lead and take a turn in sheltering them. All downhill from here, a welcome surprise, this time on the road for tired legs. I see the village, I hear the crowd, I run faster; the end line is in sight and the supporters bringing us home.

Third lady and I am delighted, with no rest for this today, no tapering, no preparing, a nice race to podium on a very tired body and mind. I smile, I sit, I breath, I take it all in. The to-do list has ended, the holidays are looming, my want for a challenging run on the mountains was met by the Burren in Co Clare. The people, the landscape, the nature, the beauty, escapes one to a place, where no to-do lists exist, where time is paused and life stops still.

There will be many more moments of madness but for now I will return to the flatter lands of Co Mayo where now no list awaits until a bright new week begins. For now, it’s 11.30am and a day of fun awaits.

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