Kevin and Clare go wild

Kevin and Clare go wild

18 November 2020

RUNNERS run for all sorts of reasons such as getting fitter or faster, to just having some time to switch off from the stress of every day. 

Some can even head out to run with no particular aim, but most find it useful to have a goal as motivation, especially when the weather is less than inviting.

Since there are few actual races to attend, East Down AC members Kevin Kelly and Clare Carson were looking for inspiration when they came on an idea being promoted by We Run Wild NI. 

This outfit are known for hosting running events that live up to their name. They come up with routes that are off the beaten track, or stage distances that would not normally be undertaken.

The premise of this latest venture was to commit to completing the 360 miles that would take you from top to toe of Ireland if you were running it in the real world, aka The Malin To Mizen Virtual Challenge.

With a nine-week window to finish, Kevin and Clare decided that this was a doable plan.

The dedicated duo have stuck to this commitment by logging all their runs in order to calculate how far they would have travelled had they applied those miles to a physical map of Ireland.

When they told me one weekend that they were “in Donegal”, I was a little confused as with lockdown restrictions this was not likely. 

When I realised that it was all in their minds, I could see how this visualisation was an inspiring way to liven up running the same old roads close to home.

This week they told me that they had “reached” Co Limerick and in fact were about to enter Co Cork. They had a spring in their step as the end was in sight. 

They decided to spread the requisite miles over the full nine weeks and still have until December 3 to reach the end.

Kevin has done all his miles by running, while Clare has adopted a multi-discipline approach with a mixture of running, swimming and dog walking.

While in reality they never left Co Down, in their imagination they have crossed the counties of Donegal, Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cavan, Leitrim, Longford, Westmeath, Offaly, Tipperary, Limerick with Cork the final piece in the geographical jigsaw.

They admitted that on some dark, wet and windy mornings, they questioned their enthusiasm, but they found that getting in the miles early in the day was the way to go. 

The longest leg undertaken in one session was 18 miles.

There was disappointment for them as well as other club members when the Tollymore Half/Full and Ultra Marathon had to be called off at the weekend.

Even though the forecast was grim, many were keen to get out and put their training to good use. Having been deprived of the chance to clock the 26.2 miles in company, they will have to play catch up this week. 

When asked how important it was to have a goal at this time, Clare said: “This time last year, we were in Las Vegas to complete the Rock N Roll Marathon, but this year we have gone to another extreme and have had to travel virtually rather than take a plane.

“We found the challenge gave us a reason to run as with no specific events to train for it’s difficult to maintain motivation.  

“Neither of us are keen on virtual races, but this challenge is a little bit different. I liked the flexibility to add in other activities as well as running”.

If you think that they will be ready for a rest when they reach their virtual destination, you would be wrong. They have already signed up to a Lands End to John O’Groats Challenge.

This was casually mentioned in passing by one of their club mates and so they decided that running the length of Great Britain would be a good sequel.

If you fancy a more local scenario, The Mourne Mountain Seven Sevens Challenge goes on sale on November 18. The brief includes a stirring quote by Sir Edmund Hillary - “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”. 

Rather than covering a set distance, the object is to meet the target of 17,052 feet of elevation or climbing. You can do this as a team or an individual. 

You can run, walk, crawl be that on your stairs at home, a local hill or in the mountains. From December 11, you have 12 weeks to accumulate the elevation by recording any activity no matter how small or large until you meet the goal.

The reward is a rather splendid bespoke metal buckle depicting the seven mountains in the Mournes. Details can be found by searching The Inspirational Runners Podcast on Facebook.

Provided restrictions ease as planned later this week, there will be also be some live racing in the near future.

For those who like running long miles in alternative locations, there are still entries for the Montalto 12-Hour Challenge which takes place this Saturday, November 21 at the Montalto Estate, Spa, outside Ballynahinch. 

On Saturday, November 28, it is back to the Down Royal for 5K/10K with shorter distances for Juniors. Entries must be made online. Details are at