“Sometimes things fall apart… you just have to suck it up and keep going” – what it means to be a trail runner FindSexyJobs

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He’s already run and won two marathons this month – the second of which, last Saturday, left Enda Cloake’s glutes so bad he couldn’t run for most of last week. But creaking limbs and nagging doubts, so be it, he’ll be back on the track in Bray this morning for 46 hilly kilometers on the Wicklow EcoTrail.

rom Bray Head, he’ll run up and over Sugarloaf Mountain, past Powerscourt Falls and along the Wicklow Way, with a total elevation gain of 1,675m. The literal pain in the ass he’s been dealing with for the past two weeks will be recognized but ultimately ignored. It’s an approach that might make a physio wince, but Cloake sees method in the madness.

“There’s something about the mental toughness of knowing that it hurts, but you’re going to do it anyway,” she says. “Hopefully somewhere at the end I’ll be in some important race in agony and it won’t be an unfamiliar feeling to be in a lot of pain and push through.” That’s why I stick with it – I hope it pays off someday.”

Cloake has been one of the most prominent figures on the Irish trail and mountain running circuit this year, winning 10 of the 15 Irish Mountain Running Association (IMRA) races he has competed in. Today’s event will see a host of Ireland’s best along with many from abroad competing in four races (19k, 30k, 46k and 80k). The 46k race record is 4:03:39 and Cloake says he will “definitely beat that”.

At least if they don’t break first.

“There will probably be a little tiredness in the legs, but we will try.” The guy who has the record now is French and it would be nice if an Irishman took the record. It might inspire someone else to think, ‘If Enda can do it, so can I’.”

Cloake is 25 and hails from Castlebridge, Wexford. For most of his life, running wasn’t his thing. These were martial arts, with Cloak obsessed with taekwondo, ranging in age from five to 17. A keen hurler and footballer, his start as a runner was born as usual: with the desire to get a day off. He still remembers the date (30 November 2014) when he lined up for the Wexford Schools Cross Country, won and subsequently joined the local club, using athletics as a means of getting fit for field sports.

He joined the navy after school, then spent 18 months at the Curragh camp before transferring to Baldonnel in west Dublin, where he now works with the Air Corps. His employers have long supported his running exploits, one of his co-workers unwittingly helped him along the way. In 2018, Cloake entered the Clonakilty Marathon with a colleague who told him there was “no way” he could break three hours. “So I said, ‘Shit, I’m going to cut three hours!’

Cloake ran 2:54:11 to finish fourth and the following year was runner-up at the Wexford Marathon in 2:45:00. In 2021, when the lockout was lifted, the trail races were among the first to get underway, the volunteer aspect meaning they were usually easier to get off the ground than the big road races, which so often faced postponements due to unrest and uncertainty among commercial sponsors.

He ran his first trail race in June last year, a new world opened up beyond the track and road where he had worked for a long time. “I loved it, it was like nothing I’d seen before,” he says. “Everyone was so nice and I made a lot of friends – friends I’ll have for life.”

Accustomed to being in the wilderness from his time in the defense forces, Cloake recalled a 14-hour hike they did overnight in 2020.

“I thought, ‘If I can do this, I can do anything.’ So when it comes to a 40k trail race and 20k when you feel terrible, it’s like, ‘I did 14 hours; the next 90 minutes won’t be so bad.”

Like most runners looking for something more, something tougher than a marathon, he is well-versed in the art of suffering.

“I’m a bit of an ignorant pig to take hardships,” he says. “It’s not that I had a very tough upbringing, but I always got out and got out of my comfort zone. Sometimes you just have to shut up and get on with it.”

Cloake’s runs about 120k a week, which includes about 2,000m of climbing. He became a big fish in the relatively small pond of Irish mountain running, but he got a taste of the big time in July, racing at the European Off-Road Championships in Spain, where he finished 29th.

“Sometimes (in Ireland) you know you’re going to win before you start, so you don’t push 100 per cent, but when you go abroad and you’re in a final, sometimes you have to give everything just to come last.”

He returned to road marathons earlier this month and claimed two victories, winning in Dingle in 2:35:20, before battling injury to win the Medieval Marathon in Kilkenny last weekend in 2:38:15. He has many more trips planned in the coming weeks, with a vertical kilometer race in Italy on October 8, followed by a trail race the next day. The lump he carries hasn’t gone away, but running through the pain is teaching him something about the sport and, indeed, himself.

“You can usually deal with more than you think,” he says. “Sometimes things fall apart and you just have to suck it up and move on.”

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