An awfully big adventure and a rite of passage

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If you’re looking for a little adventure this May Bank Holiday weekend you don’t have any further to go than Leitrim Village.

If you’re looking for a little adventure this May Bank Holiday weekend you don’t have any further to go than Leitrim Village.

This Sporting Life - Colin Regan

To mark the opening of the Shannon Blueway two locals, Lee Guckian and Fergal O’Dowd, are organising a festival and an adventure race to showcase the locale’s hospitality and beautiful natural environment.

The Shannon Blueway is an innovative, safe, and easy to use series of water and land based trails designed to offer an organic interaction with some of nature’s hidden gems. It also offers an opportunity to view a man-made wonder – the canal system – from an entirely new perspective.

The first of its kind in Ireland, the Shannon Blueway allows guided and unguided paddling and walking, cycling, horse-riding, cruising, or trail-running along the Lough Allen Canal and Shannon River from Carrick–on Shannon via Leitrim Village and Battlebridge to Drumshanbo.

Regular readers of this column will know I’m a big supporter of using Leitrim’s scenic beauty for the betterment of our quality of life and as a resource to drive our county’s reputation as an experiential recreational destination.

Lee Guckian is of a similar mind and set up the Leitrim Surf Company to do just that. As a fledgling surfer I have come to love the shift in paradigm that viewing the world from water offers. Landscapes you once felt you knew become renewed.

My most striking experience of this was while out on a board on Streedagh beach a couple of years ago. There weren’t many waves and while I was just sitting there bobbing on the board I realised I had never seen Ben Bulben from that particular angle before. It took me by a wonderful surprise.

I expect a similar experience awaits those making their way down the Shannon on a stand-up paddle board – how often we have looked upon that great river from a road or riverbank or bridge; how rarely have we looked upon the road, riverbank or bridge from the river itself? John McGahern saw a new world each time he walked down the old cart-ways by his house of Aughawillan. I’m sure he’d approve.

To open up the potential of this new world to new eyes Lee and Fergal are organising the Shannon Blueway Adventure Festival over the May Bank Holiday weekend to celebrate the start of the summer season on the Blueway.

Amongst a host of activities for all ages rest two flagship events: the Blueway Adventure Race on Saturday, May 2, and The Great Dragon Boat Race on Sunday, May 3.

I have witnessed a Dragon Boat Race on the Liffey before and it is a fine spectacle but it is the former I am primarily concerned with and putting my trail runners where my mouth is I have signed up for the adventure race with the intention of reporting the experience back to you.

I have a selfish motivation too – I have always wanted to run Sheemore but have never made the time. The adventure race offers me that opportunity as scaling the mountain features as part of the inventive route.

For some reason I’ve always listed the summiting of the sacred hill up there with a few other essential rites of passage for any self-respecting Leitrimer.

Amongst these I include going on a date to Glencar Waterfall, stage diving in Cartown, swimming in the Atlantic ocean off Leitrim’s coast, traversing both Lough Melvin and Lough Allen, fishing on the Drowes and the Shannon, hearing Ben Lennon fiddle, sharing a pint of porter and a song in Connolly’s Bar, Manorhamilton, representing your county in some activity or other (from football to cake-baking, the choice is yours), learning to make boxty, hitch-hiking the length of the county, making the trip to New York for the Connacht championship encounter (either as a player or a supporter), standing amongst the columns of the GPO in Dublin and thinking of Sean MacDiarmada, reading your first McGahern book, and having Charlie McGettigan take the mickey out of you from the stage at some public function.

Running up Sheemore is just one element of this new event. As their website extorts: ‘Whilst competing you will experience the Blueway by foot, water and bicycle, exploring the delights of the waterways…..participants will experience spectacular scenery in an environment rich and diverse with both cultural and natural heritage.’

It’s open to anyone with a reasonable level of fitness (strictly over 18s only) and looks like a great race for someone keen to try out an adventure run. Much greater detail of the course is outlined on the event’s website and Facebook pages (see links below) but in summary the stages break down thus: 7k run; 1k kayak or 800m SUP; 22k cycle; 3.5k trail run; 3k cycle; 500m sprint/run.

So if reading that energies you rather than exhausts you why not take up the challenge and support this great local event. The number of participants is limited to 150 and you can also participate as part of a team. It is incredible value for money when compared to similar events I have participated in (and I haven’t even touched on the array of entertainment events happening over the weekend).

If places are available, entrants may sign up on the morning of the race but to be sure of a place you should pre-register at For updates and training plans check out Facebook/ShannonBluewayAdventure

I hope to you see you at the top of Sheemore.

Liatroim abú.