Being there!

Bridia Pass, The Kerry Way, Niall Whelan Photography,
Bridia Pass, The Kerry Way

This weekend I joined a Trail running group Mud Sweat and Runners (MSR) planning a run around the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks in Kerry.  My motivation was of course landscape photography and expanding my horizons.  The trip was organised and lead by Jay JuJu Handyside and ended up being a band of 13 runners of various levels of experience.

The end of 26k for some, 32k for others.

I’ve struggled for a long time with the desire to capture the beautiful landscape of Ireland and the sheer effort involved in doing so.  I’ve tried walking, cycling, 4×4 vehicles, camping.  All these are enjoyable pursuits, but not ideal for getting to where I want to get to or allowing me to carry what I needed to carry, or even getting me there in a time frame I was comfortable with.

So this year I tried combining two things.  I’ve left my DSLR at home, Tripod and all heavy lenses.  Instead I’ve invested in a lighter mirrorless 16MB Olympus OM-D E-M5II.  After trying it out in California for a few days, I took the plunge in June and have only used my DSLR once since then.


I’ve not mastered all the features of this machine, but so far I’m totally impressed with its image quality, capabilities, and of course light weight.  The fact that  high quality lenses are also a fraction of the cost of DSLR glass and at least half the weight, means the prospect of running around a mountain with little previous experience was almost thinkable!  Ergonomics and feature access are taking me more time to adjust to, but I knew this was going to be the case.  I could not let that be a barrier for my switch given what I was trying to achieve.  I now feel I have a high quality system, light weight, go anywhere solution to expand my photographic horizons.

The second thing I’ve added of course is running!  I have hated the notion of running all my adult life.  I much preferred cycling and swimming and told my self running had to be bad for your health – joint and other injuries, etc.  With a desk job and a dodgy back I knew I had to do something to improve my general fitness and health for the long term.  So last November, coerced by a “friend”, I tried to do a local organised 5k park run.  It was also suggested to me, a daily run would reduce my jet lag on long haul flights.  This was a real motivator for me since my long haul trips had increased a lot of late.

So for weeks I used the 0 to 5k Apps and go out for some warm up runs.  I could barely run 100m before gasping for air and walking.  It took me months to figure out I was running too fast, aerobically unfit, and lacking all technique to make a go of it.  It was only after taking a trip to the US and used the hotel gym treadmills that I finally started slowing down and running at a pace my lungs could keep up with.  It was the frequency of runs however that really made me realise less is more, as long as it’s very often.  So instead of running once a week (on a good week), I increased that to 3 or 4 runs a week.  The result was by April I finally ran my first 5k non stop in under 32 minutes.  Not a time to win any medals with, but for me it was a great achievement.

So obviously the next thing to do was run up a mountain… Yet another arm twist and I joined an introduction to trail running in Wicklow on week 4 of an 8 week intro.  Highly recommended with excellent technical training by the aforementioned Jay.  Somehow four weeks later I found myself on the side of a wooded road with a bunch of seasoned runners waving goodbye to Phillip our bus driver who would meet us 25k up the road, with no possibility of early pickup given the bus restrictions in the Gap of Dunloe. Great!  When given no choice and knowing you left most of your food (and beer) on the bus, it’s amazing what the body will do:-)

Old Kenmare Road, The Kerry Way

I still have about 500 images to process but from what I’ve seen so far I think I’ve achieved my goal of being able to get where I want to go, camera in hand to get the pictures I want.  I think I will still need much more Trail running experience, and probably night running experience, given I really want to see the landscape at dawn and dusk if possible.  That’s another days work…