Cross-country reflections, Paula Donnellan on – “the pleasure of running”

2021 Mayo Athletics Co Board Cross-Country: Paula Donnellan ‘enjoying the buzz’ at Belleek ahead of clubmate Angela O’Connor

Paula Donnellan and her children were among hundreds who competed in a number of cross-country events in the Connacht Region in recent weeks. These included the various Athletics County Board championships as well as Connacht  championship fixtures. Here are her reflections on the season so far:

“Over the last few weeks hundreds of runners (adults and children) from Mayo and the wider Connacht region had the wonderful opportunity of experiencing what we all did as kids – running through beautiful green fields of muck, stones, uneven ground, in all kinds of weather.

Cross country running at its best.

We started the season with the Mayo championships at Belleek and warmed up with our children. The excitement, the relaxed approach and the fun of running with youngsters ‘hanging’ with their friends, laughing and playing while waiting for the gun to go off.

Meanwhile the adults were rubbing in deep heat, gulping lucozade and jelly babies, complaining of the cold and wet, while the nerves built.

Wondering have we enough for a team, watches and heart rate monitors not to be seen. This is just pure running; no minute per mile, no pbs – just take off, get around without falling or losing a spike and try and catch the one in front.

The children embraced the experience and thoroughly enjoyed the event. They changed in back of car and ate, and then  roared  their hearts out for the adults.

The pleasure of running in spikes with no socks, the feel of the water, muck, grass on your feet. The wind and rain against our arms, legs and face, a welcome relief as the legs began to fail on the 4th lap of the hills. The worse the weather and muckier the ground, the better for cross country.

The same faces returned week after week for more fun.

Maybe we all need to return to our childhood running experiences and bring our children. It costs nothing, time is irrelevant; sometimes races run over or start earlier.

The day is spent outdoors, surrounded by nature and friends.

Flasks and sandwiches, gear bags and black bin bags, wellies and rain jackets all left in “club” piles around the edges of a course.

Our children are ever more determined, up for the challenge and most certainly not afraid of muck or the weather. No time for screens, phones are left in cars – happy times.

What a pleasure to watch and run with the children and adults from all the Connacht clubs; all embracing such a unique but very simple sport and most of all thoroughly enjoying the buzz.

Cross country is thriving in Mayo and Connaught and here’s to many more mucky events.

Thanks to all the Connacht  clubs, the volunteers and all the people who give up their time to make cross country happen year after year.”

Paula Donnellan Walsh and children, Mayo.

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