Thoughts on fitness, health, good nutrition ... and running.

Welcome to Bald Man Running, a blog launched by Frank Murphy on January 1, 2015.

In March, 2013 I was selected as a contestant for the sixth season of Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner. Through this amazing program, I learned about good nutrition, sound exercise and accountability. By October, I would lose over 88 pounds (almost 37% of my original weight)! One of the many things I acquired through FWSW was a love for running. You can retrace my weight loss journey and discover how I became a runner by reading those entries labeled "fwsw" ...

Note: Many of the blog entries on this website predate 1/1/2015. Prior to launching BMR, I had written articles for various projects, and I have imported many of them into this blog (labeled "retro").

Friday, April 14, 2023

Ireland Day 5

Full photo album - https://photos.app.goo.gl/jxHZMPmLp7etkjZDA

Locations - Derry, Bineveagh, Dark Hedges, Cushendall

Derry - I'm told that it's a "... complicated ..." city. I heard this from multiple people across the island as I chatted about my trip. Whenever I mentioned going to Derry, this was the most common word used to describe the city.

Let's start with the name ... Irish nationalists prefer Derry (which comes from the Irish word Doire), while those with ties to the UK prefer Londonderry. It is the name of the city and the county. There's a joke about the name being unusual in that it starts with six silent letters ... 

This kind of divide existed (and still exists in some forms) throughout Ireland, but it was particularly prominent here in Derry. It's often portrayed as Catholic v Protestant. During the Troubles, Derry experienced more turmoil than most places. There have since been some laudable and notable initiatives focusing on peace.

I'm not trying to write a full-blown report on Derry ... it's a fascinating, complicated city. My understanding of it's history is simplistic. If you'd like to know more, it's worth a deeper dive.

The city is old. It was encircled in high stone walls about 400 years ago. Even though the city has grown beyond those original walls, the walls are intact. You can walk the perimeter of what is now "downtown Derry" atop the old city's walls. It's very impressive.

Derry is even known as "The Maiden City" because the walls have never been breached ... 

One thing I noticed while traveling throughout Ireland is the love of murals. Derry is particularly well-known for this, in particular the murals doting the neighborhood known as "Bogside." Many of these murals depict scenes from the Troubles ... schoolkids getting hit with tear-gas, militarized checkpoints, etc.

It wasn't so long ago either. Many of the murals depict things that current residents experienced firsthand. It happened during my lifetime! The Good Friday Agreement (which ended much of the violence) was signed in 1998! It was a powerful and moving experience to walk through town.

I think this is my favorite Bogside mural. You've got the oak leaf (the traditional symbol of County Derry) merged with a dove (a symbol of peace). I find it to be hopeful and pleasing. 

This mural just seemed out of place ... so many of the murals were making a political statement or drawing attention to some injusctice ... and then there's this spaghetti lady.

The "Hands Across the Divide" statue is a well-known monument. It was built shortly after the Good Friday Agreement and represents the hope for peace in the aftermath of The Troubles.

While trying to get the perfect pic of the statue, a bird settled on one of the heads. I'm not sure if it was the Catholic's head or the Protestant's head ... I chuckled.


Also of note, Derry Girls is set here. It's a very clever, fun sit-com set in 1990's. You can catch it on Netflix. Highly recommended!


Also set in Derry, is the excellent memoir Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O'Reilly. The author was one of 11 children raised by a single father in Derry during the Troubles. Mom died of cancer when he was five years old. It's a beautifully written, easy-to-read book. It'll make you tear up and chuckle on the same page (in good ways).


Gortmore - Manannán is the Irish god of the sea. Poseidon has nothing on him.

In the stories I read as a kid, he's wise, kind and strong ... which reminds of someone I admire greatly, Rick from Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner. I knew the statue was shirtless, so I wanted to put a FWSW shirt on him and take a pic, but the shirt wouldn't fit! Oh well ... at least, he's got something in common with Right Said Fred ... 

The statue was stolen a few years ago by vandals. Eventually, it was found and returned.

This particular statue is located in the Bineveagh Area of Outstanding Beauty (which is a very cool way to refer to a national park). He's looking out over his demesne ... 

Mussenden Temple - There's a large park and garden area surrounding this landmark. I got quite the workout exploring the grounds. It's gorgeous. It was a private household for many years. The idea of living in a space like this ... wow. Sign. Me. Up.

Over the course of my trip, I discovered that many places charge admission, but you don't need to pay. For example, the car park nearest the attraction might cost a few euro/pounds, but if you're willing to park a bit further away in a free car park, you can enter the grounds free. This was one such place.

If you're traveling to Ireland and going to visit places like this, google "free entrance" and the attraction's name ... you should find tips online that can save you some fees.


This day is April 14, which can be a difficult day.

It's my daughter's birthday. Ellie was born and died in 1999. Each year since, this day is a roller coaster of emotion. I wasn't too sure how I'd handle being being abroad and alone on this day ... some years are harder to cope than others.

While walking through the gardens, I found some Forget-Me-Nots. It didn't catch me off guard. As soon as I saw them, I thought "absolutely." I will not forget. I sat on the ground nearby and had a good cry. Never forgotten, Ellie. Never. 

Dark Hedges - famous site showcased in media (such as one of the a filming locations for Game of Thrones). It was dreary weather, so it didn't have much opportunity to show off, but it's still a gorgeous view.

Cushendall - This is on the far west/north coast of Ireland. I wanted a location close to the start of my race (which would be early the next morning). It's a point-to-point 20 mile race from the Carrick-A-Rede bridge to Portrush.

What I didn't realize is that I needed to park at the finish line. They provided shuttle service from the finish line to the start. I realized this several weeks earlier, but not before I'd already booked my room. It made for a longer commute in the morning, but it wasn't too bad ... 

I am glad I spent some time in Cushendall. It's an adorable little town that is hurling-mad. They love the game. Their GAA pitch is famous for being in such a beautiful location ... and they've got a lot of nice murals on the grounds.

My favorite mural was of Cú Chulainn. He was quite the hurler. Just ask Culain's hound. The caption roughly translates to "there is no strength without unity."

I got to visit with the groundskeeper for a bit. He was prepping the field for a big game the next day. I also got to watch a few kids practicing. I had bought a sliotar (a hurling ball) earlier and I asked a dad if I could ask his son to sign my sliotar. He thought it was neat idea.

I told the boy (who was eight years old) that I am from America and I collect athlete's signatures (I have about 250 autographs in my collection). He signed it like he's been doing it his whole life. I really appreciated it!

And if in 15 years Antrim wins the All-Ireland Championship on a late goal by Aidan of Cushendall, I got a ball that'll be worth something. :)

(yes, it got smudged a bit, but enough remains)

A day well-spent ... lots of mud ... and lots of memories.

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