From the crack of dawn, 60 men and women dashed from the waters to the wilds of Kerry in a superhuman effort to raise money for charity.
Reminiscent of the heroics of that mythical army of ancient Ireland, Na Fianna, the competitors — divided into 30 teams of two — warmed up with an uphill jog to the shores of the upper lake of Killarney.
Leaping into canoes, they paddled 4km to Lord Brandon’s Cottage in the Black Valley before embarking on a 10km road run along the valley’s floor to Currach Mór. From there, it was an uphill hike to Loch Churrach Mór, before traversing the Ridge of the Reeks, via An Chathair (1,001m), Corrán Tuathail (1,039m) and Binn Chaorach (1,010m), descending over Cnoc Brinnea, by way of a 100m abseil from Fiacail Mór (Hag’s Tooth) to Lisliebane. Next was a 20km mountain bike ride over Struicín (440m) and into the Gap of Dunloe to finish at the Gap of Dunloe Golf Complex.
Organiser Con Moriarty said the route had been carefully chosen by professional athletes, drawing competitors from Ireland, Europe, Britain, Canada and the US.
“The whole thing was incredibly gruelling, it was the kind of stuff you would associate with Na Fianna, undertaken by people drawn together by sheer adventure and boldness.
“There were numerous spots where people could have been killed.”
Remarkably, the only injury was damage to one cruciate ligament.
The winners — Paul Mahon from Carlow and Peter O’Farrell from Dublin — completed the course in a staggering 4:27:07.
Of the two female teams competing, the first women to finish were Róisín McDonald and Nicky Cinna, finishing in just over five-and-a-half hours.
Thanks to the achievements of all involved, over €100,000 was raised for Fighting Blindness and Debra Ireland.