Bauers Megabackyard Funrun

When I applied for a spot in Bauers Megabackyard Funrun (BMF) back in September, a friend of mine asked me why on earth you’d do that to yourself. I said something like ‘what could possibly go wrong’, half hoping race director Simon wouldn’t accept my application. Soon after that I received my official apologies email, meaning I got offered a place in the event. All that was left to do was to complete my registration as soon as my bank account had recovered from my recent move to Kerry.

Intimidating Tents

One of the things I knew for sure going into this race, was that I’d be familiar with the course; I was lucky enough to live in Waterville for a while in winter/spring 2022 and after doing WTF that same year I knew the 43 km loop around Lough Currane like the back of my hand. It can be a very enjoyable loop when the conditions are right. It can also be a loop that’s quick to point out all your weaknesses – when the conditions are right.

I drove down on the Friday to pitch my tent and drop off most of my stuff so I’d be organised and ready to go on the Saturday. My tent was a bit bigger than I’d expected (many jokes were made about me trying to intimidate the others) but I was hoping for a bit of space to get changed and maybe take a nap at some stage; this one would fit the bill and then some. I went home and had my usual sleepless night. People often attribute this to pre-race nerves which can definitely be true, but I’ve come to notice that the exact same thing happens to me when I need to set an early alarm for a long run with friends. I think I’m just one of those snowflakes who gets anxious from even the thought of getting up early.

The morning of the race wasn’t much better (if you were expecting some glamourous victory story, you might as well stop reading now!). I was hungry when I got out of bed but I was also feeling really sick. I ate my breakfast regardless because I knew I’d need all the calories for this race. That only made things worse. Michael drove me to Waterville but I asked him to pull over before we got to the BMF base camp, just so I wouldn’t arrive there all sick. I threw up, glad to get that out of the way (or so I thought), and on we went to the start line.

Bye Bye Breakfast

Even though BMF is – and always will be – a small race in terms of numbers, there was a great buzz around base camp and it was lovely to see some familiar faces as well as some new ones. The coin toss decided we’d go anti-clockwise for the first loop, which is the direction I’m most familiar with. It was a cold but stunning morning and I was looking forward to the first loop. I was expecting lots of chats and I was sure it would fly by. It would be the ‘warm-up’. As usual though, I found myself running on my own after less than five minutes – stuck in that void between the fast guys and the people taking it slightly handier. This wasn’t the worst thing as I was still feeling sick. Only 15 minutes into the race I parted with the rest of my breakfast, hoping that was the last of it. Some of the guys caught up with me as I emerged from my little corner pretending everything was fine, and we started chatting away. Coming up over Coomakista, the sunrise was absolutely gorgeous. I made sure to take it all in as you don’t get these bright, crisp days that often (worth the early alarm… maybe).

There were a few more chats while climbing Eagles Hill and I even changed into a t-shirt here. It didn’t look that warm but the sun was out and there was barely any wind. The rest of the loop was a solo run, bar the photographers who were out there to make the most of the incredible light. I was loving it, eating and moving well and getting a bit sentimental about the whole experience.

I had plenty of time in between loop 1 and 2 so I felt very relaxed while I was soaking up the sun in base camp, talking to some friends and eating plenty. My plan had been to change shoes every loop but all of a sudden it seemed pointless. The mud and bog would still be there for the next loop (and the next, and the next) so it made sense to only change shoes if I actually needed something different in terms of grip or fit. This is my usual approach anyway, so I was happy to just let my feet dry for a while. Usually you don’t get that luxury in the middle of an ultra.

Aim for the Stars

The coin toss decided clockwise for loop 2, meaning we would do Termons Ridge first (with the last bit of daylight) and we’d be climbing up the steep side of Eagles Hill. It was nice to get the ridge out of the way before it got completely dark, even though I was on my own yet again after only a couple of minutes. Kevin Leahy showed up behind me coming down off the ridge, and we shared some miles until we reached the fire road which would then turn into the Lake Road. We parted ways here and I was convinced he would pass me out again on the hills and bog. The climb up Eagles was confusing to say the least. It was dark-dark now and some of the stars were so bright that I thought they were the headtorches of fellow runners. I picked some wrong lines trying to follow them – maybe that’s not what they mean when they say you should aim for the stars? In the end I gave in and just followed the route on my watch, something I should’ve done from the very start of the climb.

Temperatures were dropping now and I tried to speed up again on the descent and on the Derrynane section by the coast. I couldn’t see anyone in front or behind me, but at that point you can pretty much jog back to civilisation and that’s what I did. I returned to base camp with about 75 minutes to get ready for the next loop, so I decided to get some proper food into me. Brian and Michael had got me some chips and pizza and they asked what I preferred, to which I gave the only right answer: both. I then tried to take a nap; I thought it might help me stay awake for the next loop and it was something I wanted to experiment with for future races.

No naps were had.

You’ll get cold pretty quickly when you’re trying to get changed in a tent in freezing temperatures, and there was no way I was getting warm again even though I was lying in two sleeping bags. The best option would’ve been to just get up and start running again, but it was about 45 minutes until the start of the next 8 hour block. I didn’t know what to do with myself, thinking I should probably get up but knowing I’d still be cold anyway. When the moment was there to get ready for loop 3, I needed help with the most basic things (try putting on socks when your abs and hip flexors are cramping).

Sparkly Stuff

I think seven of us started loop 3 at midnight, going anti-clockwise once more. As we were jogging out of town I was just delighted to be moving again because it meant I could get nice and warm. My crew had convinced me to wear leggings, something I very rarely do because I don’t like the feeling, but it was a good call. The chats died out pretty quickly as everyone was dealing with their own hardship in their own way. At first I could still see the lights of some of the others around me (actual lamps, not stars) but then I was on my own again. It was seriously cold and frosty, and the world around me turned white and sparkly. Even though it was all very pretty, it was also a bit confusing. I lost the trail on the Derrynane beach track, the widest and most obvious trail on the entire course.

Climbing out of Caherdaniel and up towards Eagles Hill again I slipped on some stiles as they were now covered in ice. My brain was getting a bit tired as well, probably because it was past 2 am now and most of the conversations I’d had so far had been with myself. I found myself falling asleep while walking even though I’d started taking in caffeine, and decided to start singing just to stay awake and alert. I knew things could get a bit dangerous if I’d try to descend Eagles while sleepwalking. At first I was singing in English, but then I thought to myself I didn’t want ‘them’ (there was no ‘them’ to be seen anywhere) to hear what I was singing… so I switched to Dutch, just to make sure ‘they’ wouldn’t understand the lyrics.

I messed up the descent off Eagles but I made it to the Lake Road regardless. It was there that I checked my watch and realised it would be a good idea to speed up a bit in order to not get into any trouble with the cut-off. The cows on the section before the ridge had decided they now owned the trail and it took me a while to navigate that. There was gorse on one side and even more cows on the other. I tried talking to them in several different languages but they wouldn’t listen (I really need to work on my Kerry accent), so in the end I tiptoed around them while they watched my every move with their big scary eyes.

The ridge took me ages but I didn’t check my watch once; I knew I just had to make it back to base camp as fast as possible without slipping on any more stiles, of which there are many on that section. Much to my surprise I passed Kevin on the ridge. I didn’t want to stop and thought he’d probably follow me back to base camp. As I reached town again I noticed I’d have about 20 minutes until the start of loop 4. That should be enough and it would probably be a good thing to not stop for much longer. I had no idea what the others were doing, but I knew I’d definitely go out again and do loop 4. Running in the dark still isn’t my favourite pastime so I felt I’d earned that daytime loop. We used those 20 minutes really well, managing some gear changes, tea, two portions of porridge, loading up on food and grabbing the headphones as well. I hadn’t listened to any music so far as I was saving it as a treat for the later stages of the race.

Solo Loop

While in base camp, it became clear that several runners had dropped out at Caherdaniel over the course of the night and that the ones who had finished loop 3 wouldn’t go out again. It would be just me in the starting corral for loop 4. All of a sudden the task was very clear. The final coin toss was just a formality and I decided to go anti-clockwise. This meant I’d have to do the ridge at the very end, but I just couldn’t face that section again after I’d just come down off it. Armed with my signature peanut butter sandwich and dressed in shorts again, I headed out on my final lap. I was treated to another stunning sunrise over Coomakista and Derrynane, but this time it was only me out on those trails. No chats, no photographers, no spectators and still no phone either (runners aren’t allowed to use their phone for the entirety of the event, except for emergencies). As I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this was going to be my last loop and that there wouldn’t be a second night, I was also aware that I needed to finish this loop within the 8 hours. I was expecting to be a bit faster again in daylight, but you never really know – I started running some bits that I’d walked in previous loops, just so I wouldn’t be under any time pressure on the ridge.

With Eagles Hill out of the way once more, I checked the time and came to the conclusion that I’d probably make it back without having to rush it. I was conscious that people would be staring at their screens while my dot was moving incredibly slowly and my ego kept telling me I should be going faster, but I knew that my finish time wouldn’t make any difference as long as it was within the time limit. It was also getting a bit exhausting to trudge through the bog and muck and it was hard to keep a good pace. The ridge seemed longer than ever and I’m pretty sure they added some stiles for that last loop, but when I finally reached the road back into town it was all forgotten. I jogged through town where people were just going about their business, and bumped into Robert Pim right before the finish who’d been waiting there just to congratulate me. This is what the sport is all about. At the finish I was greeted by some of the other lads who’d been waiting there all day, and of course Simon and my crew were there as well. I tried to say some words as there was a livestream going on, but anyone who’s seen me finish a race knows that as soon as my legs stop moving my brain stops functioning too. I may have said something silly like ‘I won’t be back’.


It was a race of many surprises. I knew I wouldn’t feel great the morning of the race, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this bad. I thought nutrition would be an issue after all of that, but I’ve never eaten this many calories over the course of a distance like this. I knew the ground conditions would be tough after all the rain this winter, but it was more relentless than I’d imagined. I knew it would be cold, but I thought it would be easier to stay warm in between loops. I knew the event would be well-organised, but the atmosphere was better than I could’ve imagined. And I thought the first couple of loops would be full of chats, but I spent a surprising amount of hours talking (and singing) to myself.

Another big surprise was the media attention afterwards. Valerie O’Sullivan took some stunning photos as usual and one of them made the front page of the Irish Times, sparking a lot of interest across the board. I probably haven’t shared nearly enough about it, but hopefully the articles and soundbites inspire some people to get out on the hills or to take on BMF for themselves next year. Definitely check out the BMF website for more info and to read up on their brilliant set of rules.

Valerie’s photo

Huge thanks to Brian and Michael for crewing in those conditions (don’t worry, I hear they found a nice warm pub that night), Simon & co for organising another great race, Carol and Simon for letting me borrow their tent, all the lads for giving me a warm welcome at the finish line, and everyone out there for watching my dot and willing me on.

The last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind for me, moving into a new place after many years of AirBnB-ing, figuring out my night running, taking on new coaching clients while navigating my other freelance jobs, and all the other challenges that come with being a grown-up who’d rather just spend her time playing outside. I’m sure 2024 will be an interesting year in its own right and I’m looking forward to whatever lies ahead. There might be an adventure or two on the cards…

Interested in working towards your own goals and could use some help? Check out my coaching page and feel free to email/DM me.

Cover photo: Stephen Kelleghan

One thought on “Bauers Megabackyard Funrun

  1. Lianne, a lovely, honest, inspiring, & at times, funny read (I have a mental image of you singing!) Incredible achievement. Huge well done & well deserved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *