The weekend of 5th-7th April, 2013, saw the inaugural Irelander four peak challenge run successfully despite unusually inclement weather conditions for the time of year.
Organised and run by the Life Adventure Company, the event was a designed as a fundraiser for Mountain Rescue Ireland, whose twelve specialist teams provide a fourth emergency service for hill walkers and mountaineers throughout Ireland, all year round.
The event was sponsored by leading Irish forecourt retailer Applegreen and Portwest, Ireland’s leading supplier of safety clothing and footwear, and a key player in the outdoor leisurewear market.
The event was totally unique in that it was the first time that mountain professionals – in the form of MRI teams – were pitted against amateurs, in the form of hill running and walking teams.
The idea was to test stamina to the absolute limit, with a 1000km route encompassing four mountain peaks which had to be summited, all within a 48 hour period – a challenge involving both daylight and darkness ascents in temperatures as low as minus 8 degrees!
The peaks in question were kept secret ’til the last minute and when the event launched from the Glendalough Hotel in County Wicklow on Friday 5th April, Carrickashane was the first target for the eight competing teams. Each ascent team had backup in the form of drivers and support crew, whose job it was to keep the teams attacking the challenge safely as time and distance took its toll…
After Wicklow came Galtymore in County Tipperary, followed by Ben Baun in Connemara and the final, snow clad peak to be challenged was Slieve Donard in County Down’s Mourne mountains.
The weather was unseasonably cold, adding to the severe physical pressure on the competitors, who had to deal with exhaustion and sleep deprivation, in an event which at times was more Alpine than Irish!
Organisers and competitors alike were glad to see the finish at Donard Park, Newcastle on the Sunday morning, and it was the Donegal Mountain Rescue Team who took overall victory and the emergency services team title with a 4 summit time of 8 hours, 30 minutes and 44 seconds. Second overall was the Mourne MRT on 8:56:23 and third overall was the Magic Apples team, who took first place in the mountain running category, and fourth overall were the Apples With Altitude team, who were the first mountain walking team home.
The prizegiving was held during a breakfast presentation at O’Hare’s Function Rooms, Donard Park, Newcastle, but what everybody wanted by that stage – after a hot shower – was a long sleep under a warm duvet!
Commenting on the success of the event, Karl Fitzgerald of main sponsor Applegreen said,
“We’ve all thoroughly enjoyed the Irelander, which, true to its billing has taken us to parts of Ireland we’ve never seen…at times we’ve never seen them. It was a great event from a team-building perspective and I think everyone feels personally enriched by what they’ve achieved over a very tough and challenging 48 hours!”
The man who created and took overall responsibility for the event was Martin McMullan of the Life Adventure Company. Commenting at the finish in Newcastle Martin said, “This event has been hugely enjoyable and hugely challenging from day one. The crazy weather – blizzards in April – had us worried, but all the teams were fully equipped to cope with whatever the elements threw at them, and I’m happy to say that everyone came through safely and with big smiles on their faces.I’ve had four hours sleep in the last 48, but it’s been worth it!”
The Donegal MRT are the Irelander champions for 2013, and you can imagine the sort of banter their victory will generate within the highly competitive 12 team domain of Mountain Rescue Ireland.
One thing’s for sure – thanks to Applegreen and Portwest, adventure has a new name: The Irelander.