Skibbereen Charity Adventure Race (Scar) will mark its 10th anniversary this October. Uniquely, all of the race entry fees go to local charities which means the event has donated €250,000 to worthy causes over the last decade
WHEN members of Skibbereen Lions Club held their first adventure race a decade ago they had absolutely no idea of the incredible success it would become.
In fact Scar (Skibbereen Charity Adventure Race) very nearly didn’t happen at all, explains this year’s race director Oliver Farrell.
‘It was originally a third party commercial idea. Members of the Lions Club had signed up to participate and supported each other in training for the event as a fitness initiative, and it was only when the organisers were debating cancelling the event did the Lions members, not wanting their training to have been in vain, step in and offer to take over management of the race as a charity fundraiser,’ said Oliver.
That decision has benefited many over the past 10 years. The race has generated an incredible €250,000 for a diverse range of local worthy causes, as uniquely, 100% of entry fees go to charity.
The 10th anniversary race takes place on Saturday October 21st, and with its appeal firmly established both nationally and internationally, registrations are already pouring in.
As always there are three levels for people to participate in. Taster comprises 23km: 6km run and 17km cycle. Sport is more challenging covering a distance of 58.5km: 13km run, 44km cycle and 1.5km kayak. Expert covers 82.5km: 22km run, 59km cycle and 1.5km kayak, and is included as part of the national adventure race series.
The three levels are, in fact, what’s added hugely to the race appeal, says Oliver, as there’s something to suit almost everyone from novice athletes, to more seasoned racers.
‘The optional kayak also adds an accessibility to the event. Many events include a swim which rules lots of people out but our kayak section is accessible such that even the most basic beginner kayaker can give it a try – and those who really don’t want to get wet can skip it altogether!
‘There is also a lot of camaraderie and warmth on the course. A lot of that is down to the volunteer marshals as they are typically not involved in racing and genuinely encourage the participants to get around the course. We’re known as the friendly race that will make you smile – and sweat!
‘Our volunteers and marshals are essential and one of our factors which allow us ringfence proceeds for charity. In other commercial events, marshals are paid and across a large route this allows us a massive saving and efficiency, essentially donated by our community, which in turn allows the funds go to charities and local good causes,’ said Oliver.
Around 150 marshals are required to make the day a success.
‘As always we are seeking our regular volunteers and new volunteers to get in touch so we can plan our marshals for the day. If you are available to marshal please drop a text or WhatsApp to 086 326 4001 and we’ll be in touch. We also welcome volunteers who can help with the longer term planning, which involves marketing the event, preparing signs, marking roads, and this work is underway already, so contact us on same number,’ urged Oliver.
With over 500 race competitors annually the event also brings a welcome economic boost to the area in the off-season.
Last year people travelled from Northern Ireland, the UK and France, and typically people come from all over the country, some with ties to the area, some keen to visit West Cork.
‘That creates a demand for accommodation and in restaurants and also a great buzz around the town which is always great to see,’ said Oliver.
The setting for the race is another big draw, he said.
The race starts and ends in Castlehaven GAA grounds, Moneyvollahane, just outside Skibbereen. Runners go through the woods at Lough Hyne, kayaking is in Tragumna and cycling is along the beautiful Castletownshend to Trag costal route.
‘Some sections of our route are through private property, kindly made available by their owners offering a once-a year chance to run through these beautiful areas,’ points out Oliver. Ultimately his advice is: ‘Sign up! You won’t regret it!’
‘Putting it in the diary now gives you plenty of time to get organised and get training and for beginners, keep an eye out for the ‘Couch-to Scar’ programme which is run by Skibbereen Sports Centre.’
And he says he might even participate himself next year: ‘If we get another few volunteers for the organising committee I’ll give it a go!’
Thanks are extended to sponsors Carbery Group, Castlehaven GAA for their stadium and marshals, media partner The Southern Star, Cork County Council and the wide group of local businesses and landowners, clubs, public safety groups, and public services who support the event.
• To volunteer email in[email protected] or call 086-8543591. To register for the race see thescar.ie
Why we really enjoy taking part in Scar
Lorraine Kelleher, Skibbereen has done the Taster a few times and hopes to do the Sport this year.
‘It’s a family tradition now and one that we all look forward to I do it with my mother Ann, and my sisters if they’re home. I love that it’s a feel-good event that brings the community together.’
Norma Buckley, also from Skibbereen did the Taster a few years ago and said it still stands out as a great memory. ‘I trained with a group in the local sports centre and we did it together on the day. It was a really great experience, and very social.’
This will be Dubliner Peter Buckley’s seventh Scar, and he’s done the Sport and the Expert sections: ‘I holiday in West Cork but I travel down every October for the race. It’s always a very well run and friendly event, and of course the fact it’s for charity is another draw, as well as the scenic countryside.’
Charities that have benefited from Scar
SOME of the local charities to have received donations from Scar over the past decade include: West Cork Autism Support, Co-Action, RNLI – Union Hall/ Toe Head, Cope, Down Syn- drome West Cork, Skibbereen Men’s Shed, St Vincent de Paul, Skibbereen Hospital, Lisheens House, Castlehaven Nursing Association and Geriatric Society Meals on Wheels, as well as many others.
The award-winning garden at St Patrick’s Boys NS in Skibbereen has also been a beneficiary, which principal Alan Foley said has been invaluable to its success.
‘We got funding from Scar for a few consecutive years which was really helpful,’ said Alan. ‘We got the garden up and running ourselves but the annual donation of €1,000 from Scar really helped us with the seasonal planting and maintenance. Sometimes after getting a project off the ground initially, it can fall flat, but the funding has really helped the garden develop since it was set up in 2016. It’s now a really important part of the school’s identity.’
Alan has also participated in Scar, in the Sport section, and he now volunteers as a race marshal. He can’t speak highly enough of both experiences.
‘As a participant it was very enjoyable, I’d definitely recommend it. I also enjoy helping out with stewarding and I can say that from both experiences there’s hardly a better run event in the country. The level of organisation is really second to none,’ he said.
West Cork Down Syndrome Support Group has also received funding from Scar. Barry O’Donovan, whose son is a service user, said all support was grateful from the local community. ‘Funds are used for vital services like speech and language therapy, and physio and for social activities.’