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Getting back to nature

In June this year, experienced ultra-runners Noel Ward and Michael McEnery set up the Dublin Mountain Running Club offering like-minded runners the chance to get back to nature in a safe and social atmosphere and with close to 60 members already, the club is set to thrive further in 2020, they tell Irish Runner

IR: What is the Dublin Mountain Running Club

DMRC: The Dublin Mountain Running Club (DMRC) offers like-minded individuals the opportunity to exercise in a group setting. It was set up to introduce individuals back to nature while exercising in the outdoors and enjoying the beauty that surrounds our city within the Dublin and Wicklow mountains and beyond. There are so many benefits to exercising outdoors like this, such as physical well-being, social well-being, and emotional well-being. And, more importantly, it helps people work towards building and improving confidence and self-esteem while making new friendships. We believe that together, we are stronger!

If you’ve ever tried running alone, you know it can be difficult to get the motivation to go out and exercise. While running is typically viewed as a solitary sport, there are large groups of fitness-minded people out there and running clubs are ideal. Each club may have different rules and activities, but they’re all bound together by the idea that a community is stronger than an individual. These groups can help build motivation, create support networks and provide a healthy social outlet for both new runners and veterans of the sport.

Our club has members with varying levels of experience from those who have run three or four marathons, to individuals who have just completed their first marathon to total beginners, but all support each other. We hope that others will mirror our structure set up similar clubs around the country. DMRC promotes the ‘leave no trace’ policy to protect our environment and our wildlife from overcrowding and rubbish.

IR: What is the Club’s catchment area?

DMRC: The club is officially Dublin’s only mountain running club – built on top of a mountain but very much part of the city. The club is based within the Glencullen-Stepaside-Sandyford area with affiliation to the Dublin Mountain Community Centre and the Glencullen Adventure Park (The GAP). Club members are from the greater Dublin area and as far away as Kildare and Carlow too.

IR: What role does the club play in the running scene in Dublin?

DMRC: It will play a major role within the Dublin running community by introducing and bringing people together that normally may not feel safe or comfortable going exercising alone throughout the dark winter months, and at other times of the year. With a group to run with, we can keep our community active all year round.

IR: What are the pros of mountain trail running?

DMRC: Running in the mountains can be therapeutic with calming surroundings and sounds and can really help improve your mental, physical and emotional strength. This kind of running has less impact on your joints and your muscles than road running, and this will improve your physical strength, your stamina and endurance.

When it comes to overall fitness, cardio training is essential, but not all cardio training is equal. Mountain trail running pushes your muscles in a variety of challenging ways, growing and adapting to running uphill and downhill, and you’ll gain explosive speed from jumping up on to and off rocks and other natural obstacles. Mountain trail running allows you to break free from the city pollution, where you can enjoy fresh, mountain air. And increased resistance from incline training will help develop your running muscles – you’ll find you run much faster on flatter surfaces after this kind of running.

Mountain trail running can also improve your cardiovascular capabilities (due to altitude), allowing you to push yourself faster with less effort.

A lot of runners turn on their music playlist and zone out for the duration of their exercise. Mountain/trail running, on the other hand, trains you to keep your focus – to keep your head up, your eyes ahead, and your mind active and in the present. It helps to train your mind to live in that moment.

Mountain trail running has been shown to decrease worry, anxiety, and negative thoughts while enabling you to connect with nature in a meaningful, relaxing way. You can forget your hectic life out on the trails, you don’t have to stress about crowds or traffic.

IR: What advice would the club give to someone who wanted to start mountain running?

DMRC: Sometimes, a simple walk in the park or forest can be really beneficial but if the person wishes to excel towards running, then they should set practical, realistic goals, visualise achieving those goals and then put that  in it into practice by believing in themselves that they can and will achieve it.

IR: What can people expect from the DMRC?

DMRC: Our winter training itinerary comprises four training classes per week.

Tuesday evening: We hold a free, open invitation 5km beginners’ class at the Hellfire Club. We meet at the Hellfire Club car park for a 7pm start. Appropriate footwear, clothing, head/hand torch is required for this. The club’s Tuesday evening club run also takes place at the same time.

Wednesday: We hold a free, open invitation 5km beginners’ class in the Phoenix Park Dublin. Meeting point is Chesterfield Avenue opposite Dublin Zoo for a 7.15pm start. That also runs alongside the club’s Wednesday evening club run.

Saturday: Club run in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains.

Sunday: Club run, morning-afternoon, in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains.

In 2020 the DMRC will launch Ireland’s very first autism running group.

Annual membership includes full public liability insurance, the four training classes each week, a DMRC running top and club shorts, an introduction to a sports and exercise psychology programme and an introduction to a nutrition programme.

IR: Tell us about the mini marathon event that you are planning?

DMRC: This is the Dublin Mountain Mini Marathon, the very first mountain mini marathon to be held In Ireland. It is a non-profit event with all funds going to Ireland’s national autism charity, As I Am. This will take place on Saturday, April 18, 2020. It is a 12km trail run through the Dublin Mountains that will start and finish at the Glencullen Adventure Park (The GAP). 

IR: Final thoughts...

DMRC: Whether you’re a new runner or a veteran looking for a way to spice things up, mountain running is an exciting practice with a lot to offer. Try it for yourself and see how it changes your life for the better. It is just you and the dirt path and occasionally the wildlife!


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