Ecotrail 80k Winner
Pic credit - @EcotrailWicklow

Ecotrail 80k Winner Luke Grenfell-Shaw crossed the Bray Seafront finish line probably feeling like all who took part did, exhausted but elated. The Ultrarunner gathered his thoughts, composure and Wicklow Wolf glass as the sounds of ‘Titanium’ boomed in the background. Luke’s metal-like determination caught the ‘voice of Ecotrail’ and race MC Eoin Flynn slightly off guard.

Flynn informs him and the crowd that they “weren’t expecting the Ecotrail 80k winner until about 3:15 pm, it’s 2:20 pm. You’ve destroyed the course. How did you do it?”

Luke’s positive enthusiasm shines through immediately after taking the mic.

“I just loved it. It’s the most beautiful course. Every single moment I just loved being where I was. I wasn’t trying to think about getting any further. I just wanted to be in that moment, on that spot. With the microphone in my hand, I’m going to make the most of it before I hand it back”

“Four years ago I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer”

The statement comes seemingly out of nowhere. A momentarily perplexed crowd reacts with a ripple of congratulatory applause.

“I had chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy. I didn’t think I was going to live. And this is what’s possible with cancer. Never give up. You can live with cancer”

He is as he describes himself, a ‘Canliver’ which is the definition of a message that we can all get behind.

“A person living with cancer, facing uncertainty and challenge on a daily basis, yet acknowledging they can still live a rich and full life”

Thinking his speech is over, Luke strolls away to a cheering crowd only to be hauled back for further questioning by Eoin.

“You’re not going anywhere yet, we want to know a little bit more about you. That’s not a Dublin accent, it’s not a Wicklow accent, where is it from”

The Ultra Runner explains “I’m from Bristol in the UK. I made the flight over here last night and this place is beautiful.

“Irish people are a lot friendlier than British people” he sheepishly plays to the largely local onlookers.

Speaking about his training following his cancer diagnosis he explains that he really didn’t think he was going to live. However, he wanted to do everything to help himself be here in 6 months’ time, a year’s time, to give himself the best chance. His recovery consisted of walking while in the hospital to also managing to bring his bike in. Trying to keep fit made a huge difference.

Asked if he thought he would be coming over to be strong enough to end up on the 80k podium he replies;

“I just came over to enjoy the race and if the legs are liking it then the race goes well. It’s just awesome that I wasn’t crawling by the end”

It certainly wasn’t a crawl to his record-breaking 6:49:33 finish. The undulating route of the Ecotrail 80k takes in Bray Head, Small and Big Sugarloaf mountains, Powerscourt, Lough Tay, and Vartry Reservoir before doubling back the same way. The glaring sun on the day coupled with 2,470m of elevation made for an immensely tough task. Having personally tackled the 46k last year and its baby brother 30k this year I can attest to the challenge. The 80k souls have even more to deal with but Luke is no stranger to hard work.

A 30,000km cycle ‘From Bristol to Beijing’ began in 2019. It saw him cycling through 29 countries he was forced to turn back before reaching China due to the Covid pandemic. He managed to raise £120,000 which went to various charities.

He’s no stranger to smashing races either. He ran to victory at the Eden Marathon in 2021 with a time of 2:45:27. A Great Bristol Half Marathon time of 1:20:08 is also on his list of achievements.

Perhaps my own father’s passing from Cancer in 2001 makes Luke’s story hit that bit harder. Growing up watching him sweat around 26.2 Dublin miles every October always placed him among the toughest people I’ve known. It’s worth adding that these were the years before GPS watches, gels, and Nike Zoom runners.

I remind myself regularly that it’s a privilege not only to be able to run but to run in events with incredible people. Some with stories yet to be told. Luke Grenfell-Shaw is just one story that’s worth sharing even if it helps just one person.

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