May 2022 – Written and photographed by Richard Bolt for the World Mountain Running Association
Newly elected World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) president Tomo Sarf recently made his first official trip to Clonmel, Ireland to review preparations for the 21st World Masters Mountain Running Championships scheduled for September 2nd to 4th, 2022. The visit was a chance to meet with event organizers, deliver the official finisher medals, walk the course and strengthen connections between the WMRA and Irish mountain running community. Joining Tomo for the visit was Irish Mountain Running Association (IMRA) president Laura Flynn. Now in its 40th year, IMRA is the governing body of the sport of Mountain Running in Ireland and is affiliated through the Athletic Association of Ireland (AAI) to the WMRA for the purposes of competing in International Events.
Organized in conjunction with World Masters Athletics (WMA), the World Masters Mountain Running Championships has been the premier global off-road running event for thousands of athletes 35 years and older since 1998 when the championship was hosted by Kitzbuehel, Austria. September 2022 will mark the first time Ireland will organize this masters championship and the second time it’s hosted a WMRA event since the U18 International Mountain Running Cup took place in Glendalough in 2012.
Located just 20 meters above sea level, Clonmel (Irish: Cluain Meala, meaning ‘honey meadow’) is the largest settlement of County Tipperary, surrounded by rolling farmland and straddles the River Suir. Overlooking the town from the South are the hills where the mountain running action will play out reaching up to 387 meters above the valley floor.
Straddling the border between Counties Waterford and Tipperary, Clonmel is ideally situated to host the hundreds of international mountain runners coming to race in the masters championship. The town is a great jumping off point for exploring Ireland’s Ancient East, an area of cobbled streets in medieval towns, gorgeous gardens, distilleries, castles and great country homes. Runners looking for a flat warm-up run can check out the Suir Blueway, a 21 kilometer path from Clonmel to Carrick On Suir. For even more mountain running, Slievenamon (721 meters), a mountain peak featuring panoramic views from atop the lush peak with a network of low-key trails, is just 15 minutes North of Clonmel.
“We designed the World Masters Mountain Running Championship course to have something for everyone. Strong climbers will love the first 2 km on a road which climbs 200 vertical meters. Athletes who like cross country races will enjoy the open sheep pastures on the upper sections of the course and fast descenders will cruise down the wide, straight, gravel forest roads.
What would a good mountain running course be without some technical single-track so we added a bit of that in the dense, green forests on the slopes above Clonmel. We think Everybody will find something they love about the course and certainly won’t be disappointed with the 360 degree views of the rolling hills straddling the border of Counties Waterfowl and Tipperary.” – Tom Blackburn, Course and Event Manager
On his trip to Clonmel, Tomo had the opportunity to walk the course, review event facilities, see the start/finish areas and met with several members of the Local Organizing Committee including Laura, Tom, Tricha Blackburn (Race Director), John Hayes (Treasurer) and Edel Hennessy (Event Planner / AV).
About the event Tricha writes, “I am so proud to be part of the team that has worked so hard to bring the World Masters Mountain Running Championships to Ireland and especially to the historical town of Clonmel in County Tipperary.
There’s a familiar song that goes:- It’s a long long way to Tipperary- Thankfully that is not true anymore as Clonmel is a very accessible town today with the motorway connecting it to all our main cities. It is an old medieval country town with some of the structures like walls, castles, gates and towers of that time still standing but it is also a modern working home for over 17,000 residents. It makes a magnificent base for our race at the foot of the Comeragh Mountains which by the way are actually in Co. Waterford.
In Ireland we are blessed with plenty of rain and believe it or not sunshine too and it produces the most beautiful array of flora and fauna that adorn our route. We Irish are famous for our traditional song and dance and you will not be disappointed with what we have in store for you. This will be a championship that you will remember not only for the amazing challenging route but also for the wonderful and friendly” Cead Mile Failte” that you will receive while here. We look forward to meeting you all and wish you success in the 21st Championships. Best wishes.”
Mountain runners won’t have to wait until this Fall to test out the scenic course above Clonmel. Coming up on 19 June, the Great Irish Trail Run will be a chance for athletes of all ages to race the 10 km course with 643 meters of total climbing. More information, course maps and registration is available at: https://www.imra.ie/events/view/id/2229
The 21st World Masters Mountain Running Championships 2-4 September is open to all runners between the ages of 35-79. Information on travel to Clonmel, accommodations, things to do and more is available at: https://www.wmmrch2022.ie/