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Rahoon native sets up Galway’s first official trail running club


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Rahoon native sets up Galway’s first official trail running club Rahoon native sets up Galway’s first official trail running club

The modern human lifestyle has brought with it many luxuries . . . at the touch of a button, you can have the perfect room temperature or almost any food that takes your fancy.

Unfortunately, the modern wonders of technology have also brought a more sedentary lifestyle that can lead to both physical and mental health issues down the road.

During the Covid 19 pandemic, everyone had a lot more free time and it wasn’t long before the concept of using the area around you to exercise became the thing to do. It was around this time that Galway entrepreneur Francis Kelly (pictured) hatched the idea of organised trail running in Connacht.

Little did the Rahoon native know that it would become the first officially recognised trail running club in Galway.

Francis was an avid roadrunner recovering from an injury sustained from a marathon and was seeking an alternative, so he delved into the world of trail running.

“I was road running for around four years before I got injured when I was running the Connemarathon. I was sulking on the couch afterwards, and I typed into Google, researching what I can do to heal the injury and it said to get off the roads and get into trails. That’s when I started researching trail running and soon ended up running in a few races organised by the Irish Mountain Running Association (IMRA).”

It didn’t take long for the 33-year-old to get the ball rolling on a more organised take on trail running in the county of Galway.

“The sport was big around the Cork and Kerry Mountains and in Dublin at the time. I found a group known as the Galway Bay Brewery Running Club and they had a group of like six or seven people that ran trails. So, I joined their group and I told them ‘this is what I’m thinking, let’s have like a real club with a committees, jerseys and sponsors’. They said that I could do my own thing and they would be there to help whenever they can and that’s how it all started.”

It soon became apparent that Francis had found a niche for many runners and athletes around Galway. In September of 2020, he created a WhatsApp group that gained members quickly through word of mouth. Now, this WhatsApp group has more than 130 members.

“We launched the Facebook page in October, and it just started growing with the WhatsApp group. In 2021, we had weekly meetups that would be on a weekend morning or Wednesday evening. We also got the opportunity to work with Galway Sports partnership as part of Her Outdoors Week 2022 to help promote women in trail running and increase interest in trails.”

Francis knew that this rapid growth in membership would eventually lead to an opportunity for the group to become recognised by Athletics Ireland as a club. Francis contacted the Galway Athletics board in October of last year and after a short wait, a vote was held at the end of January to determine if Galway Trail Running was suitable to become an athletics club.

“I presented to their county board monthly committee meeting and 17 people did a vote and in the end it was voted in at 83 to 17 percent. I was surprised at the result because we’re kind of stepping on toes in one sense since other clubs in Galway might get the idea that you’re taking their members and potential members, but they were very receptive.”

Now that Galway Trail Running is set to be an official Athletics Ireland club the next step for Francis and the Club committees is to get members signed up online and host official trail races in Galway.

“The plan for the next month is just to finish off the paperwork with Athletics Ireland and once that’s done, they’ll give us the portal to be able to upload our members. Once our website is launched we’re going to open the membership to the public and then probably about a week or so after that we’re going to announce our first race for this year, which will be a backyard ultra marathon, where everyone starts together on the hour and you have to run 6.7 kilometres every hour, until there is only one runner left.”

Galway City Sports Partnership have praised this decision that they say will “help people to become more active through activities such as Trail Running which has many physical benefits”.

Many of those not in the world of running may ask what the difference is between road and trail running apart from the obvious difference between where they take place.

Trail running is found to have many benefits to runners joints as the ground they are running on is less predictable than a flat road and requires athletes to have good balance. Running on trails is usually softer and puts less stress on your knees, hips and ankles compared to concrete. Francis says that there are also countless benefits for your mental health.

“The reason people hate roads is that they become super competitive with themselves. If you do the Galway Bay half marathon and you do it in one hour 50 minutes and the next one you do you might set a goal to do one hour 39 minutes and then you only get one hour 41 minutes and suddenly and it was a terrible day.

“Whereas when you move into trails you might stop and take photos because you’ll be on this crazy mountain with a lovely view that you might never see, it’s not about chasing your watch. It’s about chasing the beauty and the nature.”

You can get in touch with Galway Trail Running on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

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