I kept this book on my shelves for over a year – thanks to my dear friend Clare Mullenger who lend it prior to my trip to beautiful Wicklow, Ireland. I finished reading the book and read one more time before I returned it to Clare. No wonder she insisted me to read it. I enjoyed the story as it accompanied me in my hotel room during that winter holiday in Wicklow. Applauded this amazing feat from a very determined and courageous Irish runner who documented her conquering the Wicklow Round challenge – a long distance run covering many of the peaks in Wicklow. But, mostly enjoyed it because I can relate to her experience (of success and failure, love of running, mountain, travel, chocolate).
Mud, Sweat, and Tears: An Irish Woman’s Journey of Self-Discovery is about Moire O’Sullivan memoir on her two attempts in conquering the Wicklow Round in one day non-stop. She became the first individual who did a looped course covering 26 peaks totaling over 100km and over 6,000m climb in under 23 hours. Until today, this is still a record that stands strong out of other 11 completers – the only female and one of few solo finishers.
The storytelling is raw and interesting. I felt the mud on my feet, the sweat from her laboured and certainly shared some of her tears. In this book, O’Sullivan learned about stamina, courage, the discipline, and patience needed to become an ultra-mountain runner. The metamorphosis process and journey she endured since she returned to her come country after she spent time overseas took from road running, mountain running, self-orientation run, and multi-skills adventure racing. She also explored individuals who influenced her and taught her to be a better runner. Ultimately, the mountain taught her to be herself and then be the next best person she is capable to be.
If it’s on your list to read (recommended for a runner or someone who like adventure), you will enjoy it. If not, do see below – amazing words you may want to absorb, motto you can learn and examples to be inspired to:
The power of mental visualization:
When things get tough and tougher, she wrote about how she “pretend her dead dog waiting on the peaks of last 2 hills and then she practically sprint up both summit”.
In the book, she mentioned about Sir Ranulph Fiennes summited Everest after the third attempt at 65 years old– his trick was mantra “plod forever, plod forever”. Only 8 days after O’Sullivan completed her Wicklow Round challenge and must have inspired by him.
Focus and Me vs Me:
She kept reminding herself to “keep calm and try not to think of implication. It does not matter who’s first or last; fastest or slowest. What matter is having the gut and determination to try and give it a good go as much I can. Focus on myself and on getting it right.”
Mind game, things out of control and how to deal:
She made mental note of situations that she could not control such as “when it’s cold miserable, tired, and when she simply wanted to give up”. Knowing how to resolve is crucial. She necessitated on the “MUST action to stay warm, happy and not too tired so that the mind has no reason to deteriorate during any race.”
‘Memory focus’ issue, adopt selective memory:
About what to allow the mind to think before going out to exercise is a clever tool. She mentioned that “Before getting out on the mountains I can only remember the breathlessness and pain that’s definitely going to entail.” But for one of his running mate, “his brain primarily recalls the freedom and fitness, discovery, elation, the fun, not the pain”. This selective memory is very handy to adopt before getting out of the door to start the training.
On Endurance Ability, Training and Progress:
Sometimes, it’s not about a quick win, so we need to enjoy the training as a process and natural progression to get to your aim or goal. Trust the process. She diaries that:
- “After 4 years, the body is steadily increasing its ability to endure longer and harder runs. Just a slow build of endurance, a maturation of mind, body, and soul.”
- “The need to have the confidence to cope.”
- “Time, experience and consistent training are slowly forming me into the unique state required to complete the Wicklow Round”.
Mountains took center stage:
“Most day they show their rugged beauty. The importance of humility – when they show their size and superior strength – a reminder of our littleness. Sometimes they let you run faster, climb higher, than before – even for a brief second – the mountains, in turn, restore confidence, reignite my vigour and encourage me to keep running forward”.
On failures and mistakes:
The ability to bounce back stronger, learn from low and learn from mistakes were outlined in the book. After her first failed attempt, she came back with a change of tactics and executed them well.
Shining words from O’Sullivan:
- “I hope that more women learn to believe in themselves, because when we dig dip; it’s amazing what lies inside”.
- “I’m proud that I’m not someone who says ‘I can’t do that’. I’m someone who says ‘I won’t know until I try’.”
Hopefully, you learn something from above, develop and assess that we all too can do something in similar nature (if not in Ireland, anywhere in our backyard really, no matter small or big scale of the challenge!).
If you, however, decide to purchase the book, you can buy it from Amazon: Mud, Sweat, and Tears: An Irish Woman’s Journey of Self-Discovery.
More details on Wicklow Round: https://www.imra.ie/wicklowround
Live to thrive,
Disclaimer: The links to the book above go to Amazon, and I get a small commission through their affiliate program for click-through. You can support independent bookstores by buying through your local bookstore instead.