BY JOHN WALSHE
The Beara Peninsula is known for its rugged beauty and the breath-taking scenery which encompass the Wild Atlantic Way, but up to now you could safely say it hasn’t exactly been a hotbed of athletics activity.
However, that is all now changed with the formation of Beara Athletic Club, and going by the enthusiasm and forward-thinking of its members, the distinctive red vests with the two white bands and logo will be a familiar sight at races far and wide from now on.
‘Beara AC was established in January 2018, and just two years later we now have over 50 members,’ explained club chairperson Carol Hurley.
‘Our numbers have remained around the 40 to 50 mark, obviously some people drop out due to work and other commitments but we generally have about that number. At the moment we are an adult-only club but a couple of us have done the child protection course so we’ll be hoping to start a juvenile section in the near future.’
The year coming to a close has been a busy one with members taking part in events from 5km to the 26.2 miles of the marathon.
Indeed, on the night that the initial contact was made with Carol regarding this article she was on her way to Clonakilty for the Waterfront Marathon which she duly completed under four-and-a-hours.
‘That was my fourth marathon; I also ran one in Canada in the summer. It was very tough, it took place in Calgary and the altitude there nearly killed me,’ she admits.
‘We also had two relay teams taking part in the Cork City Marathon and a number of members running individually across the half and full marathon events. We’ve had a lot of achievements and personal bests during the year across both road and trail running.
‘One of the main highlights was Anthony Cornforth winning a bronze medal as a member of the Irish team in the M55 category at the World Masters Trail Running Championships in Italy.’
Jacinta Dennison and Suzanne O’Sullivan ran their first half-marathons this year in Dingle and Charleville respectively and at the end of October both Marie Twomey and Deirdre O’Sullivan made their marathon debuts in Dublin. Five other Beara members – Mark Gallagher, Ciarán O’Sullivan, Carol Hurley, Natalie Treacher and John O’Shea – also took to the streets of the capital on the October weekend.
Jason and Alice Sheehan are two newcomers to the sport, both completed their first parkrun in Bere Island in October while Jason also ran the half-marathon in Cork in June. The club also had a number of firsts at the Bantry Bay Run in May with Edel Murphy running her first half-marathon, and Joanne Sullivan, Finola Crowley and Declan Power completing their first 10km.
Also, Sandra Harrington and Amanda O’Sullivan travelled to Killarney for the Hardman 10km earlier in the year while Conor Murphy was another to experience success when winning the Waterford 12km trail race back in May.
Of course the main promotional focus of the club during the year was the three-race series during September, October and November. The series consisted of three five-mile races in Allihies, Bere Island and Eyeries.
There was a special commemorative medal for anyone completing all three events and the series combined two established races with a brand newcomer which gave runners the opportunity to see the best of the area while competing in friendly, professionally organised and accurately measured races.
‘We meet twice a week in Castletownbere for training and we also do the Bere Island parkrun every Saturday,’ explains Carol. ‘Our members come from a radius of around 35 miles, from Glengarriff to Castletownbere. The training nights are Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Community School in Castletown, we also have a WhatsApp group where we discuss the training so everyone is aware of what is going on.
‘I suppose our main aims for the coming year are to increase the numbers coming to the race series, get more club members if possible and also to start with the juveniles. We cater for all abilities and everyone is welcome. We have already done a few Couch to 5K programmes and will be starting another one in January, along with a Fit4Youth programme.’
The club hopes to be a focal point for all athletics events in the general area and the members also want to ensure that running in Beara continues and develops, that talent is spotted and encouraged, and that people get opportunities to come together to run, train, learn, socialise, have fun and compete.
Anyone interested in joining can get details from the club’s Facebook page and there is also an excellent website dedicated to the race series which can be accessed at: https://wwwbeara5mileseries.com