ANYONE who was wandering around Cork city on Wednesday morning may have spotted an unusual sight across the river, as hundreds of uniformed members of the Irish Defence Forces raced up St Patrick’s Hill before the clock struck 11am.
The race was in honour of Pieta House and marked the first time the group had done an activity outside of Collins Barracks since the beginning of the pandemic.
"We were delighted with it. It was a very efficient event, which the army always loves, and I think people got a great buzz from it,” said organiser Jean Fitzgerald.
“It was our first time out of Collins Barracks together as a group since the pandemic hit. After the hardest 18 months put down, we said we would set a hard challenge to hand, which was Patrick's Hill."
Over 120 people took part in the race, with the winner finishing in one minute and 29 seconds. All of the participants, including those who were carrying 10kg backpacks and helmets, made it up the hill in under 30 minutes.
“Everyone gave 110%. Some people were finishing on all fours by the end. The kids from the primary school nearby also came out and lined the road for us. It was a great atmosphere,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
Organisers hope that the race can become an annual event, perhaps with members of other local services, in the future.
"Patrick's Hill is such an iconic part of the landscape of Cork. We were saying look, it's on our doorstep, wouldn't it be wonderful to try to create an event on it,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
"It went off really well so we're hoping that going forward we could link with other services, like the gardaí, the fire brigade, the prison service, and Cork City Council, to maybe run an annual event and have a team competition.
"It's picture-perfect up there and it's a swift efficient event that anyone in the city walking by would be able to stop and have a look or line the footpath.” All of the proceeds from the event, which was followed by a performance by the military band, will be donated directly to Pieta House. Volunteers from the charity were present at the event and handed out t-shirts to high ranking members.
"The Defence Forces would have a long relationship with Pieta House. With overseas commitments and operational requirements and now Covid, mental health is always something that we hold great value in,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
“Pieta House has done a lot of good favours for us over the years so we are always happy to help them in any way."
To donate, go online to www.idonate.ie and search for fundraisers in aid of Pieta House.