Ras na hEireann USA—A St. Patrick's Day Race and Celebration
Ras na hEireann is the most genuine Irish race this side of the Atlantic.
Posted Sunday, 11 January, 2004
The world is invited to Somerville, Massachusetts--all runners and walkers--to enjoy a memorable race and St. Patrick's Day celebration. In fact, this race was born in Ireland and named in honor of a famous sister race, the Ras na hEireann International Cross Country races in County Louth. These absolutely terrific events are an ocean apart, but they are as close as the powerful heritage and history, the magic and mystery that move everyone to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day.
Come Celebrate Running, Celebrate Heritage. The Race of Ireland and the United States in Somerville, Massachusetts is more than a 3.4-mile run and walk—it is a celebration of traditions dating back centuries. It is an appreciation of resolute determination and resilience—wonderful attributes for runners. The Ras honors the rich heritage of a people that cherish their land and the ancestors who trod its verdant green meadows. Everyone's own traditions and heritage are made stronger when honoring Ireland's national holiday. Come race with the Irish. Both the women's and the men's winners in 2003 were natives of Ireland, Eoin Higgins of Kilcock and Stephanie O'Reilly, now training in Providence.
There will be Irish scones and brown breads, and potato leek soup
There will be a strong touch of the spectacular Emerald Isle in Somerville on March 14, 2004. This race is a gem, all right. They have brewed up the genuine article—as genuine as, say, Irish lace! Brilliant! It's the real McCoy, if you pardon the expression. There will be Irish scones and brown breads, and potato leek soup. Six pubs and three cafes will offer a variety of genuine Irish food, Irish tea, and, of course, more than a sampling of brewing expertise.
Beannachtai na feile Padraig
This is no ploy where sponsors paste up a few paper shamrocks and call it St. Patrick's Day. No, this is, "Beannachtai na feile Padraig", or Happy St. Patrick's Day, for real. Some terrifically hard work has gone into making this a genuinely unique and realistic experience. And as a result this event offers about as much fun as you can have in racing. Last year was the inaugural run for this event. As successful as that was, this year promises to be even greater, and it will have the genuine feel of Ireland.
The Race Director, Paul Collyer of the host running club, the Somerville Striders Athletic Club, has visited Ireland several times to ensure that the Ras is as genuine as possible. He even conducted research in Ireland and picked the Dolmen that will serve as the race's emblem and symbol.
The Elite Athlete Coordinator, Charlie Breagy, is also the Elite Athlete Coordinator for the Ras na hEireann in Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland. Breagy just happens to be an Irishman, and the Race Director for the CVS Downtown 5K in Providence, Rhode Island—the USA National Championship.
Get Out the Door and Run. The timing could not be better, and we're not talking about the Championchip timing, which will precisely measure your time start to finish. No, this will be March 14, a time to crank it up for the season. You can tune-up for a successful season already underway, or shake off the winter blues and measure your fitness after a restful off-season. If you have been in hibernation, then it will be time for some "Hiberniation." Either way, this is your race. Join in the celebration. But don't get shut out. The cap is 1,200, and there were over 1,100 in the first year—great events are in demand, and this is one.
Location, Location, Location—the Start, the Finish, of Course. The 3.4-mile course begins and ends at Davis Square, which is like a little part of Dundalk or Dublin transplanted to the States. Tree-lined Powderhouse Boulevard, Tufts University, Teele Square, Ball Square, and the Minuteman Bike Path offer a terrific course, and a fast one. It is the best course in Somerville and one of the best of Boston. The Burren Pub, hub of activities on race day, is on Davis Square, as are the Joshua Tree, the Sligo, the Orleans, Redbones, Toscanini's, and the Diesel Café, all sponsors and hosts of the post-race craic.
Innovative and Unique. Innovation is the hallmark of this race, which has many unique features. During the week before race day you can register (if available) and/or pick up your ChampionChip, race bib#, T-shirt, and beer mug (with logo) at Marathon Sports, the store for runners and walkers. Ask for owner and race sponsor Colin Peddie, and get a 15% discount while you're there.
Upon arrival in Somerville on race day, things will be different right from the beginning. As participants arrive Davis Square, which is, by the way, a stop on the famous MBTA, they will find a friendly, well-planned welcoming committee. Race-day registration (if available) will be at the Burren, and will be separated from the race day pickup--ChampionChip, number, mug, and T-shirt--at the George Dilboy Post, VFW. It will be runner-friendly; no waiting or confusion. Somerville, and especially the Davis Square area, hosts more races than any location in the USA. Yes, it is a runners' neighborhood with Irish roots.
Post-race activities will be divided among the many colorful establishments in the neighborhood. All of the pubs and cafes mentioned are involved, and all will serve Irish fare, brown breads and all. The pubs will even offer an open bar for an hour following the race (11:15 to 12:15)—followed by a cash bar. Tea and scones are available in the cafes for those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages.
All these facilities offer a comfortable post-race setting, out of the March winds. It is a race for everyone, and the Somerville Striders athletic Club will insure that everyone has a place to go before and after the event. The Irish brown Breads will be supplied by the Greenhills Traditional Irish Bakery, Dorchester, Massachusetts, and the Bread n'Bits of Ireland, Melrose, Massachusetts.
Awards and Rewards. Awards begin even before the race, as the T-shirts are of the highest quality and unique in design with an ancient Celtic theme—this year the logo is the Proleek Dolmen that rests in County Louth, not far from the Ras na hEireann course. This dolmen is an enormous structure of stone (the capstone is over 40 tons), which dates from about 2000 BC, or 4,000 years ago. It still stands, one of the many marvelous mysteries of Ireland. This may be the most unique shirt you will ever be awarded—and you can plan on a different dolmen each year. Early registrants, at least the first 200, will also receive commemorative race-logo beer mugs.
Cash awards will be offered for the fleet. There is $2,000 available, and the winner could go home with $500 if a native of Ireland, $400 for non-Irish winners. But even mid-packer runners and back-of-the-pack walkers can win at this event. Raffles will provide opportunities for everyone. There will be more divisions than you can imagine, including 16 traditional age groups divisions, plus nine different weight divisions—two for Fillies and seven for Clydesdales. There will be music and entertainment, including comedian Jimmy Tingle as Master of Ceremonies. And more.
There will be eight awards exclusively for natives of Ireland. And finally there will be six division awards for Pub Teams. The Irish Pub competition offers engraved medals to honor the fastest two-person teams, women's open and masters, men's open and masters, and mixed open and masters. The pub competition is one of the many enjoyable highlights. Unlimited team rosters may enter from any Irish pub, and the top two score in the quest for the highly coveted "Sporting Paddy" award.
To distribute prizes as expeditiously as the racing, awards ceremonies will be held in several locations. For example, traditional divisions will be announced in the Burren, and Clydesdale recognitions will be celebrated in the Sligo Pub. Implied, but not stated, is special recognition for those participating in both the USA and Irish Ras.
Ras na hEireann 2004, Dundalk, County Louth. The Ras is a series of cross-country races in 14 different divisions from young children, 9 and under, to international stars. Race distances vary accordingly, from 600 meters for small kids, to 6000 meters for the big stars. Racing is open to all, including separate masters divisions. The races will be held 29 February 2004. See www.rasnaheireann.com
These races have been held since 1971, growing year by year. And in recent years the International Division has included many world-class stars. Cash awards will be offered in the senior/international races, both for individuals and for teams. Club runners will compete on the same turf as the elite international speedsters. The Ras events are hosted by the Dunleer Athletic Club; they are sponsored by Dundalk Racing, which actually is, "Europe's 1st horse and greyhound racing stadium."
Men and women's cross-country racing has deep roots in Ireland. Club racing—very strong on the Emerald Isle--is primarily cross-country, as compared to predominately road racing in the USA. Dundalk, County Louth, is approximately half way between Dublin and Belfast, located near the East coast on the Irish Sea.
Special fares are now available on Aer Lingus, and travel to the Emerald Isle offers unforgettable opportunities for running and sight seeing. Ireland is a small country, about the same size as South Carolina, with a population of about 3.7 million, or about the same as metro Boston and vicinity. But there is so much to see and explore, from the many ancient dolmens to the remains of a 13th century cathedral at Tipperary, from pastoral villages to vibrant cities. Sheer cliffs and crashing surf contrast with idyllic green valleys and green turf—often cross-country racing turf. Friendly people, secure and steadfast in their traditions and heritage, make the perfect hosts and enjoy having visitors. And many of them love to run. They're good at it.
The Romans never crossed the Irish Sea although they occupied England for several centuries
St. Patrick and His Day. St. Patrick is cultural and religious symbol of Ireland. His life and work have remained shrouded in myth and mystery since his death about 460 AD. March 17th traditionally marks the anniversary. St. Patrick was not Irish, but grew up in an aristocratic family in England. He was captured by Irish raiders, and taken to Ireland as a prisoner and slave. After six years he escaped, returned to England and studied for 15 years. As a priest he was assigned to minister to the small Christian community in Ireland, and to convert the Irish to Christianity (the Romans never crossed the Irish Sea although they occupied England for several centuries).
St. Patrick became a part of the Irish fabric, just like those before him--the Scandinavians, the tribes of Firbolg, the Picts, and the Milesius of Spain, who arrived centuries earlier. Successive invasions during the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age melded these groups. They all came eventually to be Celtic (Gaelic).
St Patrick was exceptionally successful, politically and socially. Religious views aside, the cathedrals, schools, and monasteries he founded kept the torch of civilization burning--art, literature, history, science, indeed all learning—while the rest of Europe descended into the Dark Ages and became largely illiterate. St. Patrick's Day is an opportunity for those of Irish heritage everywhere to join in celebration and appreciation of their traditions and ancestral roots. And it is a day for others to celebrate with them. The impact of that small country on Europe and the world has been enormous, and is still felt today.
A Dolmen? What is a dolmen, anyway? It is a prehistoric monument consisting of two or more upright stones supporting a horizontal stone slab or capstone. They were likely built as a portal or gateway to a tomb or chamber to honor elders and leaders of the early inhabitants. Much about them remains mysterious and unknown even to modern science. How were they built? For what reasons? How did the Neolithic people move and lift such massive rocks? Dolmens are just one of the untold mysteries that make Ireland--its heritage, history, and traditions--so fascinating.
Beannachtai na feile Padrig
Run in celebration. These races are for you—be there. See you in Somerville. See you in Dundalk. Beannachtai na feile Padrig.