The Hart Walk.

2006

When the naturalist R M Barrington, in 1886, wagered Henry Chichester Hart fifty guineas that he would be unable to walk from the Terenure tram terminus in Dublin to the summit of Lugnaquilla and back (111k) in under 24 hours, little did he realise that this inspired challenge would be taken up again and again by a relatively small group of individuals over the next 120 years.

Maeve Carey; Helen Coyne, Eamon Magan, Pavel Vasco; Colm Wright, Tom Milligan
With no promise of fifty guineas to inspire them, six very different people who shared the love of the challenge gathered at the site of the old tram terminus on Terenure Road, East, on a warm Friday evening on the 4th August, 2006. At 8pm a move was made towards their goal as the group unitedly wove their way through the busy shoppers and residents of Terenure. Before long, Maeve Carey, a young Wexford lady with connections in Kerry and an unexplainable Northern Ireland accent, had the group gasping for breath as she effortlessly led them through Rathfarnham and into the Dublin foothills. As darkness descended, and as Maeve moved ahead of the other walkers, she was joined by fellow Wayfarer Eamon Magan at the front. Beyond Glencree this union began to disintegrate as Eamon’s runner-clad feet began to complain about the blistering pace, accompanied by the barely-disguised groans of pain as he tried to cope with the fire in the soles of his feet. Other signs of deterioration began to manifest themselves just before Glenmacnass as Eamon commented on the beautiful walls which lined the Military Road at this point. The problem was that these ’walls’ were, in actual fact, the high grass which was growing out of the roadside ditches. This worrying descent into delirium was further compounded just before Laragh as Eamon began to see signposts which were simply not there! Another young girl of twenty, Helen Coyne from Edenderry, Co. Offaly, was also having some difficulty as Laragh approached. A ‘moderate’ An Óige walker, Helen had bravely attempted the challenge but was now having some difficulty in completing the task. As they hobbled into Laragh at 3.07am (41k) they both decided to call it a day. Eamon was found to have several blisters, some of which had burst and bloodied his socks. Not a pretty sight! Helen was collected by a friend shortly afterwards while Eamon waited for Pat Lynch, our backup expert, as he passed through Laragh on his way to our rendezvous in Drumgoff (50k) at 5am. A substantial break was had at this stage as people replenished their bodies, their bottles and their bags. Now in boots, they prepared for the long climb up to Lugnaquilla. Shortly before Cloghernagh, Colm Wright, our stoical photographer who was carrying a camera which appeared to be out of a Hollywood set, decided to withdraw from the group. His knees were giving him trouble and blisters were adding to the pain. However, although he was no longer with the main group, he did eventually make his way to the Wicklow Gap, where, having covered fifty miles in total he called it a day.

Three walkers now moved on through several cloudy rainbows towards Lugnaquillia which was covered in a heavy mist. Although it wasn’t raining, the mist was heavy enough to make us quite wet, requiring fleece-jackets for the first and only time that day. Moving across the Glen of Imaal, Pavel Vasko, our Czech companion, was now beginning to show signs of wear and tear. As the only person who had worn boots from the start at Terenure, his soles were beginning to complain. Maeve, of course. Looked as if she was out for a stroll in the park. Gliding along over the bog, she had to be called back on more than one occasion as she almost disappeared into the mist. Soon the Wicklow Gap (72k) was reached and the trio looked as if they were definitely going to complete their task. Coming off the hills at Ballynultagh, greeted by Wayfarer Pat Lynch and his bootful of supplies, Maeve was encouraged to go ahead of the group so as to achieve the challenge of emulating Mr. Hart by breaking 24 hours for the trek. She painlessly accomplished this with a time of 23 hrs 27 mins. O to be young! Pavel and Tom hobbled the long 4.5 hour road walk back towards the tram terminus, not expecting to break 24 hours. However, as Terenure approached, and with two kilometres to go, it appeared that this might be possible if the pace was faster. Pavel’s feet, however, were a cauldron of fiery pain at this stage so Tom decided not to push the pace and was content to finish in what would still be a good time, though over 24 hours. However, our valiant Czech mate, Pavel, now afflicted with Eamon Magan-like delirium, and flames of pain issuing forth from his boots, began to mutter pain-defying mantras as he psyched himself for one last effort. With less than fifteen minutes to go before the 24-hour deadline, and realising that walking wasn’t going to do it, he burst into a trot, still muttering mantras, and resolutely headed for the finish about three kilometres away. Tom, more ancient than he cared to think about at this stage, wasn’t quite sure that he would be up to this running lark but made the effort anyway. Flying effortlessy (there’s that delirium again) through the Terenure crossroads, they looked ahead to the finish and saw Pat, Eamon and Maeve vigorously applauding their efforts. With a time of 23 hrs 49 mins (one minute faster than Hart) Pavel and Tom were ecstatic. Some people are easily pleased!

The event turned out to be a great success for all who participated, even if all goals were not reached. Lessons were learned, friendships were made, character was strengthened and self-knowledge was increased during the ups and downs of form experienced by everyone during this marathon effort. We were especially pleased with the female participation and especially with Maeve for being the fastest finisher, the first woman to break 24 hrs for the event, and, indeed, only the second woman ever to complete the course. It was also a pleasure to have our first international participation in the person of Pavel Vasko, the flying Czech. His cheery companionship was a great addition to the group. Finally, we would all like to thank Pat Lynch of the Wayfarers, who, although working on the day, managed to take time off at strategic moments to attend to our every requirement. Without his psychological and material support our experience on this day would have been so much the poorer. We are all genuinely appreciative of this great gentleman.

Will we see you next year?

Tom Milligan


2004  Twenty-eight year old Hart Walk record broken

On Friday 30th - Saturday 31st July, 2004, the twenty-eight year old record of Gaffney & Rice for the completion of the Hart walk was finally broken. The origin of the Hart Walk was a fifty guinea wager allegedly by the naturalist R M Barrington (a fine walker himself) that Hart could not walk from Terenure tram terminus to the summit of Lugnaquilla and back in under 24 hours. It seems to have been specified that one way could be by road but the other had to be over the hills. Hart, accompanied by Sir Frederick Cullinan, left Terenure at 10.58pm on 20th June 1886 and arrived back at 10.48pm the next evening. Over the following years a few hardy souls followed in Hart’s footsteps, but the fastest recorded time was 17 hours 39 minutes by Gaffney and Rice in 1976. On the recent glorious August bank-holiday weekend, however, Bob Lawlor (41), a member of the Irish Mountain Running Association, made a solo attempt on the record and smashed it by one hour and eighteen minutes in a time of 16 hours and 21 minutes. Well done, Bob. Your blood should be bottled!

Tom Milligan

 

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