Saturday 25th August 2018
Strandhill: Strandhill Beach Front, Sligo, Ireland
Welcome to Strandhill, Co. Sligo home of The Warriors Run, one of Ireland's toughest competitive races.
Strandhill Village is 8 kilometres west of Sligo town, is situated on the Atlantic seaboard and nestles at the foot of Knocknarea Mountain. On its summit (1,070 ft), sits a megalithic cairn where Maeve the legendary Queen of Conaught is reputedly buried.
Each year runners from all over Ireland (and various parts of the world) converge on Strandhill to follow in the footsteps of her ancient warriors.
The Warriors Run takes competitors from the Cannon Gun at the beachfront in Strandhill to the top of Knocknarea, around Queen Maeves Cairn and back to the beachfront again. For the uninitiated, a 15 Kilometre race might seem easy. Not the Warriors Run! The race is classified as a road and hill race or multi-terrained, so whilst approximately nine of its kilometres are on paved roads, it is the special six kilometres in the middle, to the top of Knocknarea that gives the race its bite. These six kilometres include a 700 foot climb through fields, loose gravel, unsurfaced and heather paths. At its steepest incline on the way up, even the most professional athlete slows to a walk and then brace themselves to face the equally daunting downhill run, back down the often slippery slopes, even in the driest of weather.
Despite the endurance trait of the race, each year around 800 runners take part in this unique event to cross the finish line at the beachfront and earn the honour of being able to say that they completed The Warriors Run.
The Warriors Run is a physically challenging event and only those who have sufficiently trained for this event or who are experienced runners should take part. Persons with medical conditions should consult their Doctor/GP before taking part.
Event time limit is set at 2.5 hours.
Broom wagon will pick up stragglers after this time
From the beachfront at Strandhill the race starts up along the Shore Road to the junction at St Patrick’s RC Church and Spar Shop. It takes the uphill road to the right, which will bring it up Buenos Aires Drive to the top junction to the Top Road in Strandhill.
A 90-degree right will bring the race along the Top Road through Strandhill Village and then downhill into Culleenamore. It continues along the main road through Culleenduff before reaching the Glen Road junction.
The uphill climb now begins as the race goes up the steep Glen Road. At the small car park beyond the entrance to the Glen, the race takes a left onto private land and continues up the mountain along its ridge and onto the top approaching the Cairn from the South.
Once on top of Knocknarea, it turns left and runs around the base of the cairn in a clockwise direction and starts back down the mountain path onto the Tourist trail. Back through the mountain car park onto the Glen Road it turns left through Grange North and continues along this road until reaching the crossroads.
Taking a 90-degree left it continues along this road through Rathcarrick and starts back down to the main road via the High Brea and past St Anne’s COI Church.
Back onto the main Sligo road it turns left for Strandhill and continues past the Petrol Station leading back into Strandhill Village.
At the roundabout, it keeps left up to the junction at Kellys Bar and back down Buenos Aires Drive. Its final leg is back along the Shore Road to the finish line at the Beachfront.
The inaugural Sligo mid-summer festival was held on the weekend of 14th - 16th June 1985 and was the catalyst for a number of "firsts". It was the first time a co-ordinated music festival was staged in Sligo Town and it was also the impetus for the staging the first Sligo Triathalon on the Sunday of that weekend. But another event was staged on the evening of Friday 14th June to be the launch pad for the weekends activities. It was a road and hill running race, one of the first of it's kind in Ireland, and it took its 160 competitors from the Beachfront in Strandhill to the top of Knocknarea mountain to finish at the megalithic cairn known as Queen Maeves Grave.
Maeve, the fiery Queen of Connaught, is reputed in legend to rest on top of Knocknarea. Her battles with the King of Ulster over the brown bull of Cooley are well documented. In each, references to Maeves brave Warriors are made and were even praised by the Queen herself. After Maeve was assassinated by a nephew of the Ulster King she was brought back by her Warriors to the top of Knocknarea and was buried, standing upright facing the eastern sunrise. And so the initial race to her final resting place from the Atlantic seashore was aptly named The Warriors Run.
But the idea for this event itself stemmed from a number of origins. Strandhill is no stranger to road racing. From 1921 until the mid 20's a marathon race started from the Cannon Gun in Strandhill to just outside Gurteen, Co. Sligo. This race, just over 26 miles was known as the Morren Marathon and drew quite a number of competitors in its day.
In 1979 a group of locals were sitting in The Strandhill Bar (belonging to the late Sonny Bree R.I.P.). The bar boasts an excellent view of Knocknarea from its back window and they were discussing the best paths to climb to the top of the mountain from the front. A wager started as to which path was the fastest, the quickest time mentioned was 45mins.
A visiting German tourist who overheard the conversation got into the wager stating his son could climb the front of the mountain in half that time. With all deals done his son, a 17 year old member of a scouting troop, took off over the wall at the back of the pub and started to negotiate, bog, ditches, forestry and cliffs.Witnessed by those in the bar who could follow the majority of his journey he made it to the top (approx 1000 ft) in 19 minutes!
And so as Strandhill is steeped in legend, mythology and history, it was combination of all of the above ideas and imagery that were amalgamated in 1985 to produce the first Warriors Run. The initial races finished on top of Knocknarea at the Cairn but in order to facilitate the request of the runners themselves and improve on the race from a spectators point of view, it was extended to return to the beachfront again.
And so the Warriors Run was born and has been staged each year since then. It, and the subsequent progression into the Warriors Festival, has now become synonymous with Strandhill and it's popularity has grown to such an extent that each year runners from around Ireland and the world vie to gain a place in the limited race field. In 2004, the Warriors Festival Commmitee decided to honour two of those original founding members. The Tom Staunton & Pat Curley perpetual trophies are now presented to the first male and female local runners to cross the finish line and will be presented again this year.
We hope you can come visit us and bask in the hospitality that Strandhill has to offer.