Irish Canal Ultra Series Run Reports

Barrow Line Race – 30 Mile Event Report

Well I guess I should start the run report by saying that the first outing of the Barrow Line Race wasn’t on the Barrow Line but ran from Tullamore to Robertstown on the main line of the Grand Canal. That was because of ongoing works on the Barrow Blueway between Monasterevin and Rathangan. That said when this work is finished, hopefully by August 2022, it will make the next event on the Barrow Line all the better.

Ongoing works on the Barrow Line

The second thing I should own up to is that the route we used on Saturday wasn’t 30 miles but was slightly over 31.5 miles. For some this worked out well as it brought them over the 50km mark which they were delighted for but I apologise to those who found the unexpected extra distance tough on what was already an ultra event day. Anyone interested in a GPX of the route can view it on Gary O’Grady’s Strava HERE.

Clondalkin Flyers Adam Tuite, Gary O’Grady and Eoin McLean

After meeting at the finish area in Robertstown, 25 intrepid runners made their way to the start line in Tullamore on the bus. This included three members each from Blackrock A.C., Clondalkin Flyers and Donadea R.C., a two times Spartathlon finisher, a runner who came all the way up from Cork, seasoned Ultra veterans and first time Ultra runners. The weather was fair and the stage was set for the 17 men and 8 women who set off at 8:54am.

Video of the runners setting off

The start of the race took the runners out east of Tullamore climbing up from the 26th Lock to the 21st Lock near Ballycommon where the old Kilbeggan Line of the Grand Canal branches off.

Stocks at the first bag drop encase any of the runners considered dropping out early

The first bag drop area was set up just before Molesworth Bridge at Daingean and it wasn’t long after the event crew set up that supporters for the runners also appeared with people from both Clondalkin Flyers and Blackrock A.C. there to cheer on their runners.

Race Leader Ted Burke having a drink at the first bag drop surrounded by supporters from Blackrock A.C. and Clondalkin Flyers

Once past Daingean, runners were on the long flat greenway path towards the second bag drop at George’s Bridge at Edenderry.

Bag drop 2 at Edenderry, keeping things simple. Coke, water and a boot full of carbs

Unfortunately two of our runners had to call it a day at Edenderry and many thanks to our event crew Colin for giving the two lads a lift back to Robertstown.

Poor Andrew Meehan had to call it a day after reaching bag drop 2 and got a lift back to the finish with event crew Colin

After passing Edenderry came the long slog on soft ground as the runners left the comfort of the path behind and took to the grassy trail as far as the 20th Lock at Ticknevin. From here it got complicated as the tired runners had to navigate the crossing points at Hamilton Bridge and Shee Bridge, thankfully the only time the canal had to be crossed on the run.

Hamilton Bridge, one of bridges that runners crossed over the canal

Finally as they pushed through the 30 mile mark they had to face the final challanges of the extra distance as well as a steep climb up Binn’s Bridge at Robertstown to the finish line. This finish was rewarded first by a can of coke and soon after presentation of the finishers medal and t-shirt.

John Chapman feeling the burn of the climb to the finish

Of course we could not leave the runners with just that so once more they were sent across the canal to Charlie Weld’s pub where they could grab a cool pint or an iron supplementing pint of Guinness.

James Kelly, Anne Jennings, Damian Jenkins and Niall Delaney enjoying a well earned pint in Weld’s after the run

Ted Burke was the first man home in a time of 4:10 and Anne Jennings was the first woman home in a time of 4:30. The full results from the event can be viewed HERE.

Race winners Anne Jennings and Ted Burke
The legend that is Larry Rigney
2nd Woman Valeria Sofia
Anto with Tasha O Sullivan
Paul Bookle coming in for the finish
Gill Worley savouring some Coke after finishing her first Ultra
Race Organisers Gary and Anto with James, Pat, Valeria and Ted of Blackrock AC
Adam Tuite with the best support crew on the day!

So well done to all the finishers on the day. We really hope you enjoyed it and that you will be back next year for the real Barrow Line Race and hopefully a few more events. For those of you who haven’t had quite enough, rumour has it the Donadea 50K is open for entry…

Finishers Medal
Grand Canal

A Guide to Staying on the Right Side of the Grand Canal: Tullamore to Shannon Harbour

When I originally set up this website, the main reason behind it was to provide a place to post a run report for my Fastest Known Time attempt on the Royal Canal. In preparation for that I fell down a rabbit hole of information about the Royal Canal and came out an Irish Inland Waterways enthusiast. So not long after finishing the run I set about writing section-by-section guides to the Royal Canal with the intention of doing the same for the Grand Canal.

Tullamore Bonded Whiskey Warehouse – Home of the Tullamore D.E.W. Visitor Centre (due to move to the new Distillery in 2021)

I managed to post up two descriptive guides in Autumn 2019 detailing what side of the canal to be on and what type of surface those travelling the Grand Canal Way can expect, the first being Grand Canal Docks to the Edenderry Branch and the other from Edenderry Branch to Tullamore. Unfortunately it took a lot longer than planned to finally cover the last section from Tullamore to Shannon Harbour where the Grand Canal meets the River Shannon. I will soon be posting a far more descriptive piece about this area but for those looking for a quick guide for the last 36km of the Main Line please read on.

Cox’s Bridge on the western edge of Tullamore

We start where I finished in my last post on the north bank of the Grand Canal at Kilbeggan Bridge in the centre of Tullamore. Moving along the path for 400m, passing the old bonded warehouse on the opposite bank, we come to Cox’s Bridge and the 27th Lock.

Surface on the north bank between the 27th and 29th Locks passing Srah Bridge and Srah Tower House

From here there is a dedicated Greenway with a smooth surface for 3.5km continuing on the north bank as far out as Ballycowan Bridge and the 29th Lock.

29th Lock and Ballycowan Bridge

We must cross over Ballycowan Bridge to the south bank but the good news is that this is the last time we are required to cross the canal and the we remain on the south bank for the last 31km to the River Shannon.

Surface crossing over Charleville Aqueduct

The surface after crossing Ballycowan Bridge to the south bank remains smooth but is more similar to the dust covering of the Royal Canal Greenway rather than tarmac which has we had for several kilometres either side of Tullamore.

Surface passing under Becan’s Bridge, Rahan

Once you leave Tullamore, you truly enter a wonderful rural green corridor along the canal with few places to stop for supplies. The first opportunity is at Rahan, about 8km west of Tullamore.

30th Lock and Ballincloughin Bridge

It is important to be mindful however, that the Grand Canal Way can be a shared space and a road like surface is likely a sign that it is to allow for local access to houses and farms along the canal so don’t be surprised if you see the occasional car or tractor and be aware that one may come up behind you.

Pollagh Church beside Plunkett Bridge

Probably the most accessible rest stop and conveniently located halfway between Tullamore and Shannon Harbour is The Pull Inn in Pollagh. The pub can be reached by crossing over Plunkett Bridge by the church and coming back on yourself on the north bank.

Bord Na Móna Light Railway Swivel Bridge over the canal

With Pollagh behind the next landmark is the old Bord Na Móna Light Railway Swivel Bridge, 4km on, the railway runs to the now closed West Offaly Power Station at Shannonbridge. These railways criss cross the bogs of Ireland and while the turf burning stations are mostly finished producing energy, many of the railways remain. Just before reaching the swivel bridge the Offaly Way joins the Grand Canal Way coming from Lough Boora Discovery Park to the south.

Derry Bridge

The surface becomes softer the further west you go, not long after the swivel bridge we come to Derry Bridge where the surface is a decent soft stone, ideal for running or cycling on, but with grass growing in the middle. I would recommend anyone cycling west of this point though to have at least a durable tire and spare tube and a mountain bike would be best.

Grass surface at Macartney Aqueduct

Not long after Derry Bridge, the surface turns to a grass trail. I undertook my trip on the June Bank Holiday weekend when the ground was dry and was recently cut so it is maintained and pleasant to travel on. The grass continues for several kilometres as we move towards Belmont.

Warehouse at Belmont Bridge and the 33rd Lock

Passing the wonderful built heritage at Belmont we return to a hardened surface for the remaining 6km to the 36th Lock at Shannon Harbour. On the way we descend down the 34th Lock and before long are greeted by the sight of leisure boats moored up before the village. If you look closely you may even come across an original trading boat of the Grand Canal Company, often denoted by a number and the letter ‘M’ (Motor), though occasionally you will also see an ‘E’ (Engineering) or ‘B’ (Bye-trader). These boats make up a large number of the Heritage Boat Fleet.

57M at Shannon Harbour

Coming into Shannon Harbour itself you will pass by Griffith Bridge, McIntyre’s Pub, the ruins of the Grand Hotel, the Harbour Master’s House (now a B&B) as well as the dry dock before reaching the last two locks, the 35th and the 36th Lock where the canal meets the Shannon.

Entrance to Lock 36, the final lock on the Grand Canal and the Junction with the River Shannon

If you have made it this far I salute you and heartily recommend retracing your steps back to McIntyre’s for a well earned pint and a bit of pub grub!

A perfectly pulled pint to finish the Grand Canal Way. Slainte!