Rosscarbery Surf Turf n Tar - An instant classic Half Marathon

The most fun I've had in a race since I started running

This is going to be a post full of superlatives.

When I first heard about Surf Turf n Tar, I was instantly excited. I’d done most of the course in chunks already and it’s currently my favourite place to run. You have every sort of terrain and views, all in a compact area.

Surf Turf n Tar

The race started just opposite the Celtic Ross Hotel and headed down a little road. You hear of elite ultra runners “blowing-up” at 50 miles. I blew up at 50 yards where both calves cramped badly as I tried to keep up with my wife.

So much for my brand new schoolgirl 2XU compression socks helping with that.


As we ran along I was trying to figure out how the hell we were supposed to get across the inlet/estuary. There’s always at least some bit of stream there. We bounced out on to the sand at that really cool house right on the water and ran across the sand. A few foot-dunks in puddles confirmed that wearing Altra Lone Peak 3.0 trail runners was the right choice :-) And then I spotted it, a pontoon bridge across the stream! The wee geniuses.

Over we ran to the relatively newly finished cliff walk and immediately dropped to a walk. Damn that’s steep.

Along the road in Owneahincha and then into the “beware the bull” field. I was really looking forward to this section as I’d finally get to see the old Castelfreke building up close. It’s private property with lots of “stay out” signs so it was a real coup for the organisers to get permission.

Every time we got to a steep bit, people passed me as I was only power walking (and still in pain with my calves). But when we hit the downhills, I bombed past them like a small child with my arms outstretched relying on the grip of the LPs to keep me off my ass.

The forest bits were as lovely as always with amazing smells of wild garlic. Then the heavens opened and we were all saturated. But it was exactly what I needed.

I really like new trail above Long Strand and hope the planting of native species to replace the removed poxy pines continues.

Back on to the road and up to the bastard Long Strand. This is my third race which goes out on to that torture chamber. It’s not the fact that it’s a beach which hurts, it’s the fact that the weird sand never becomes dense. Every footstep sinks in deep. Your legs are like lead by the end of it.

Here it is back in March on a foggy day.

Long Strand

Then up the really steep hill I love to the best view in the area, past the holy cross. and another high speed bombing session down the other side of the hill.

Only 3 miles left now, so it should be a doddle. Noooooo, into the dunes of Owenahinca for more soft sand. The evil evil brilliant geniuses.

Back up over the cliff walk and surely it’s just a jog along on the road? Nooooooooo again, as we’re directed out on to the Warren beach and then on to sand that’s even softer than Long Strand. I’m almost staggering at this stage. And the tide is coming in close to the markers.

Finally the 13 mile marker. But where the hell is the finish line? The hotel is a lot more than 0.1 of a mile away. So I jog along the road, turn a corner and hurrah, the finish line.

Seriously, this is the kind of course that makes you want to run all the time. It may have taken my calves 6 miles to loosen up but who cares? I can’t congratulate the organisers enough. Everything was absolutely brilliantly done and it’s the best Half marathon course I’ve ever run.

And the most amazing part of the whole thing? The medal was made of chocolate!


It was delicious :-)


I can’t wait for next year and will be doing all the public parts of the route many times between now and then.

Conor O'Neill

Tech guy who likes running slowly

Bandon, Cork, Ireland