Into the Wild with TrailHeads’ First Western Way 50 & 100 Mile Ultras


Lord of the Rings style landscapes are what many describe as the kind of scenery that one sees in Connemara. Indeed, author of the trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien, is said to have visited here and it is believed that it may have been a source of inspiration for his books. But here today there are no goblins, orcs, wizards, hobbits or talking trees, but like the obsession of Golem in the movies, there is something precious. There are 25 real-life heroes undertaking a task unimaginable to most mere mortals. And most are wearing blue, like Superman or Wonder Woman, so it is obvious that these folk are the real deal.

What inner restlessness or madness propels people to do such things is difficult for many people to understand. They do not know the ‘why’ for doing such a thing. But I know. And, I believe, anyone who has ever read and loved Jack London knows.

The call to do such things is surely the call of the wild. It is a realisation that legs were made to run and walk upon and not to sit upon and go soft and weak. It is a realisation that when you are padding your way through countless miles, your heart pounding blood around your body, sweat pouring down your forehead, stinging your eyes, and all of your muscles are working in unison to do one simple thing, that you feel at one with the movement, as if the movement is all there is, and this is about as close to God as it is possible to get.

Jack London said that nature was the enemy of movement and that she uses all her forces to bring that movement to a standstill. But, right here in Connemara at TrailHead’s inaugural race are twenty-five souls who, for today at least, are defying nature in what are doubtless the most beautiful surroundings in the world.

I catch the first runners coming down the road in front of the Maamturks, photo them, and head backwards along the route to capture the others along the way.


Each runner in their turn smiles radiantly at me and it occurs to me that the bigger the distance of the events I photo, the bigger are the smiles of the participants. To see what I’m talking about, visit the album of photographs on the Facebook page.

I head backwards along the route towards the oncoming runners as I’m not the type of photographer to stand in one place, waiting for people, and hammering a button. I’m the type that has an eternal restlessness inside and I have to keep moving, lest I acquire some rust.

And the sheep look on.


When the majority of the runners have gone through this section I resolve to move on to the next checkpoint in leenaun, where one of the contestants, our Sub-Zero Hero, advises that a part of the route near Ashleagh Falls would be a great spot for pics, and boy was he right. Jack London would have been proud of this wild man.


While waiting alone, perched in the grass with my camera, I realise I haven’t drank any water in several hours and that it’s been about twenty-four hours since I’ve eaten or even slept in any meaningful way.

Strangely, I have to resist the urge to dunk my head in the river and devour tufts of leaves and grass. The sheep seem to be enjoying it, I think logically.

Periods of being on my own are interspersed with conversing with the various athletes as they come through and sheer beauty is etched on their faces as they go by. I don’t know any of them apart from one, but I feel that each and every one of them is a friend.

After some time they have all passed through and I resolve to head for home.

And the sheep look on.


Endurance activities like this are something which many people, my entire family included, do not understand and I think that maybe this qualifies me as being a black sheep of sorts.



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