An Irish Wog

An Irish Wog by A. K. Buckroth

            Although a “wog” denotes a negative, racial connotation in Australia, Britain, Ireland, and Scotland, this story projects quite the opposite. For good reason, I changed this adjective into a verb. To me it means “walking and running = wogging or a wog-run” for walking intermittently with running.

“Running?” you ask. Yes indeed, running.  

            Because of my sense of goodwill toward fundraising for worthy causes, the American Diabetes Association (“ADA”) was no different. I had made life-changing commitments by walking numerous miles through different city streets in different states over numerous years doing coast-to-coast fundraising for a cure of several different human diseases. However, this organization had something big on its desk to offer money-raising runners and walkers, diabetics and non-diabetics.

            Through an open invitation, interested peers gathered for a tri-monthly ADA meeting in a plush, downtown Los Angeles, California hotel conference room to discuss, learn, and hear about positive advancements in the care and treatment of this disease, with lunch included. I was in.

            During this meeting, a special announcement attracted my attention. “This year we will sponsor a marathon in Ireland to raise research money,” a speaker bellowed to the audience of at least 30 interested individuals. This meeting began the organizing of the ADA’s first participation in a 26.2 mile run, walk, skip jump, rubber-on-hardtop-or-concrete marathon. “Eager participants in this “Friendly Marathon in Dublin, Ireland should sign up immediately,” she told us.

            How exciting!

            Dublin, Ireland? Never having been there, I became so intrigued that I signed up on the spot. I paid the registration fee. Oh, what had I done?! Was I serious? Could I do this? Sure I could. I sensed this wonderful opportunity would be personally empowering.           

            “For those interested,” the speaker continued, “you’ll find more information packets on the back tables. Please help yourselves.”

            Before she stopped talking, I approached that back table and gathered multiple explanatory brochures, flyers, business cards and whatever information I could carry.

            Thus began my personal training. I had participated in 5k and 10k fundraising walks for Cancer, Heart Disease, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Alopecia, Leukemia, etc. Now, I began pounding the pavement for diabetes. Training started in February and lasted through September. With California sunshine on my back, my prepping began after work each day with a two-mile walk, which extended a little longer each day. I looked forward to this routine. Each day I grew stronger, leaner. I felt good in this new body!

            Having received more of the required registration forms, an ADA administrator contacted me by phone with an invitation to another luncheon to be held in Santa Monica, California.

            “…My name is Barbara Ann, and I’d like to welcome you to the marathon fundraising efforts with the ADA. So far, thirteen people have signed up for sure. Have you ever participated in a marathon?”

            “No, I haven’t and I have a lot of questions.”

            “Good, good,” she responded. “Save them for the luncheon in two weeks. I’m hoping all thirteen of you will have many of the same concerns. I’ll cover them all. Are you excited?”

            “Yes, I sure am,” I blurted along with the others.

            “Good. I’ll let you go for now. See you in a couple weeks! Bye.”

            She sounded friendly enough. My questions would just have to wait.

            The main purpose of the Santa Monica plan was for registrants to meet each other. Anxious, I happily drove the hour to get there. After a meatball and spaghetti lunch with a green leaf salad and iced tea, Barbara Ann encouraged each of the thirteen of us to not only get our passports in order, but to invest in good running shoes, foot tape for toes and upper foot bones, and a water bottle carrier. We were each given a white t-shirt emblazoned with the words “TEAM DIABETES” in red along with a red tank top reading the same in white letters and a navy-blue canvas duffle bag embroidered with the phrase “American Diabetes Association” in bright red. The plan was for all of us to meet at the Santa Monica Pier each Saturday to learn how to stretch properly, breathe properly and increase our mileage as a team.

            At a Sports Authority retailer, I purchased a belted-waist water bottle holder, safety sunglasses to avoid dust and insects in my eyes, feet-wrapping tape, appropriate, high-soled, supportive sneakers, and white cotton socks. The sunny Southern California coast became my initial practice wog. I called my routine “wogging” for walking intermittently with running.

            Trekking 17.5 miles beginning in Wilmington, California on the concrete sidewalk toward the shores of the Pacific Ocean in 3.5 hours, I passed through Harbor City, Lomita, Torrance, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, all the way to Manhattan Beach. Although I wanted to go even further to Venice Beach, I did not, knowing that I still had to turn around eventually and go home. With this trek confidentially under my cap, I knew I was ready. At the age of 43, I had relearned how to take care of myself to participate in this goal, seeking a worldwide cure for the pandemic of diabetes.

            On two separate occasions, different individuals blocked my pathway, causing me to veer into the street. “Wait, wait a minute, pretty lady,” a grungy-looking, middle aged man said. “I want to talk to you. I see you running by every day.”

             Politely stopping, I kept a yard’s length between us. Panting slightly, sipping my water, I quickly asked “What? What is it?”

            “Can I have some of your water? Or is that vodka?” he chuckled out loud bending backwards in his foolish delight. “You’re gorgeous. What’s your name?”

            A bit frightened by this confrontation, I didn’t reply but hurriedly resumed my pace, veering back onto the sidewalk. I started thinking about people becoming a safety hazard. Gosh, I hope he isn’t waiting for me on my way back. He wasn’t, thank goodness.

            The second time, in Lomita, a straggly, unkempt middle-aged woman blocked my path waving her arms to stop me. “Jesus Christ!” I yelled. “Get out of my way!” And I kept going. She hollered something at my back about wanting some food and liking my sneakers. Oh my Gosh! I thought. I’m going to get clubbed over the head for my shoes!  Due to these confrontations, I changed my direction ‒ forward and back ‒ never seeing either of those characters again. Whew!

            During the second Santa Monica meet-up, two of my younger teammates beat my time. I was appalled! Heck, a few of my teammates even ran up and down 27 concrete steps during these practices. I was jealous yet did not bust my butt to kill myself. I wanted to enjoy this experience.

            Over the following seven months, I raised the required $3,000 plus, including the $672 roundtrip flight cost. My ego became inflamed once again and I was un-shy to ask for monetary donations from the restaurants I had passed daily. Employees and managers of numerous public establishments had seen and wondered about me. One seafood restaurant gave me a check for $50; another Bar & Grill gave me a check for the same. Other checks were made out to the ADA. Onward bound!

            On and on, my pleas for help for a cure of diabetes brought monetary success. Family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances of friends, medical doctors, etc. – I asked almost everyone I met or came in contact with. Blessings and good wishes poured in along with cash and personal checks! I was going to be part of the cure for this baffling disease. I knew it in my heart and soul!

            Sure, not everyone believed in my hopes and dreams for a cure of diabetes, but I remained upbeat, positive, and pressed forward.

            Scheduled for October 30th, this “Friendly Marathon” brought me a delightful, anticipatory planned flight to the other side of the world.  My excitement overflowed through this overall participation and my having made such a huge commitment.

            Taking a pre-planned two-week, paid vacation from work, I left Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on October 25th for the 12-hour flight to Dublin International Airport (DUB), and arrived on October 26th.  During the flight, I witnessed the awesome time change in the sky, from very dark for seconds to a bright dawn that continued in the same five seconds. Awesome! My spirit was aflutter with this experience. This endeavor was meant to be, I knew it.  

            Upon landing, the scent of rain filled the air, immediately invigorating and awakening my senses to the surroundings. Not having reviewed weather reports before leaving California, I thought I had all I needed. This early-bird arrival allowed me to get to my Dublin city hotel with plenty of time to get settled in and become familiar with my surroundings: restaurants, shops, theatre, etcetera. I was psyched and ready for my first marathon in an unfamiliar and strange country.

            The following day, leaving the comfort of the Jury’s Royal Hotel room,                                                                                             I wandered its lobby collecting various pamphlets of sights to see as a tourist. Despite reading the colorful and delightful variations of many different brochures with interesting venues, I knew I was here for one thing – the marathon. I was already living a dream just being here without the enticement of touristy ventures. I was glad to have brought my old faithful hooded, winter butt-covering coat since the weather was unusually bitter cold and rainy. The country was experiencing “the worst storm in fifty years.” Having to purchase a knit cap big enough to cover my ears for warmth along with woolen gloves in the hotel’s gift shop, I carefully bounded through the surrounding neighborhood within walking distance of the hotel. I wrapped my sock-covered feet in plastic bags for extra warmth and resilience in my sturdy rubber boots. Numerous people walked the streets in long wool coats, covering their heads and faces with scarves and hats for protection from the non-stop cold wind and heavy rains.

            Grey hues in the sky matched the light gray and brown cobblestone streets and walkways. Cobblestones. I was used to seeing such a thing in movies, but coming up close and personal with having to walk on them became mandatory. They were unavoidable yet delightfully different at the same time, although a bit cumbersome to walk upon.

            The hotel restaurant’s numerous hot meals whetted my appetite. Irish Stew with lamb or beef, vegetables and potatoes; bacon and cabbage with a side of brown bread; something called a “rasher” and something else called a “Blaa.” Prime rib with mashed potatoes, brown gravy and green beans ‒ sounded tasty, safe and familiar ‒ along with a leafy salad was available as well. Mm. Something called a “Colcannon” that consists of a bowl of potatoes mashed with milk, butter, scallions and kale; another available item called a “Carvery” would take too long to explain. The warm, freshly home-made lamb stew was a great choice on my first visit on this cold and wet weather day.

             I realized it was October 28th meaning I had actually lost a day due to jet-lag. I wondered about the other ADA team member marathon participants, hoping to meet with them. I sighted only one team member from the Santa Monica runs who stayed in the same hotel. Come to find out, others were in different hotels scattered around Dublin, not to arrive until later.

            6:00AM, October 30th, marathon day, I taxied with two other marathoners to our designated starting point. Although the rain calmed to a drizzle, during this exciting set-up and meet-‘n-greet, plastic trash bags were offered as body covers to the racers as wet gear protection with racing numbers safety-pinned to the fronts and backs.

            I was ready!

            Many times during this long, Ireland, walk-run, I purposely slowed down to admire Ireland’s beauty: ancestral, ivy draped stone buildings, wildly rushing streams, and the tremendous amount of bars as we wogged out of the city. Separated by speed, in no hurry and often left behind, I wogged alone. Realizing this, I decided to become a tourist after six hours, when I accomplished the 20-mile mark, a sharp, right knee pain gave me reason to stop.

That’s it, I thought. I fulfilled my promises to myself, the diabetics of the world and the ADA. Climbing aboard a readied and pre-planned ambulance for a return ride to the hotel, I certainly was not the only one to stop early. We were each wet from the inside out due to the rain and sweat, so the warmth of the ambulance was most welcoming.

            Once showered, comfortable, and full of some delicious Colcannon, I began to plan for the rest of my stay. The following day, I stiffly walked to Dublin’s nearby ‘rail tour/bus’ office for a meandering, half-day trip into the Wicklow Mountains, the ancient and monastic home of St. Kevin,along coastal scenery, and into GlendaloughandThe Vale of Clara. Due to the continuous heavy rains with flooding in areas, the tour bus carefully slowed down, causing the tourist company’s scheduled events to change. I didn’t care. I felt safe, happy, warm. For 24Ł, this experience could not be passed up.

            Heading back to Dublin, this tour bus coasted through Cork, Limerick (home of author Frank McCourt), and through the cities of Cashel, Cahir and Clonmel. We passed miles and miles and acres and acres of bright green, healthy grasslands nourishing goats, cows, sheep, lambs, lambs and more lambs. Hmm, I couldn’t help but wonder if the delicious lamb stew I had the day before had come from this beautiful pasture.

            The early morning of November 1st found me on a tour bus to the historic city of Kilkenny. I greatly enjoyed a different yet delightfully delicious stew in the Witch’s House’ Restaurant/Pub before crossing the street to a jewelry store. Yes, a delicate pair of emerald earrings came into my possession. Continuing along the east coast, the tour continued to the Waterford Crystal Factory, which is spectacular. I learned the ingredients in making lead crystal wares are a certain type of sand, potash, and red-lead. Most interesting ─ and expensive ─ but I sent home a beautiful, lead-crystal, cut-glass whiskey decanter along with a decorative vase of the same design.

            On November 2nd, I made the tough decision to wander the streets of Dublin alone. After checking my expense account from the former purchases, I was good to go. Walking through the continuous rain along with numerous other people, I felt comfortable blending right in and happily found a gift shop where I purchased an Ireland shaped magnet to add to my prodigious ‘refrigerator magnet’ collection. I roamed the outer and inner grounds of Trinity College, and continued to the beatific Christ ChurchCathedral near the Dublin Castle. Tired and cold, I hopped onto a convenient city bus back to Jury’s Court. Buses were available every 15 minutes.

            The next day, November 3rd, I purchased another bus ticket at 7 AM for a day trip to a place called The Burren, known for its scenic landscapes; onto The Cliffs of Moher,that included breakfast; then to Galway Bay,with a lunch stop at a seafood pub. There was enough time to enjoy a pint of Guinnessbeer while befriending another passenger with small talk of home. Back at the Jury’s Hotel after 10 PM, exhaustion put me to bed fully clothed.

            By now I was out of clean clothes, so I found the hotel’s laundry useful. Purchasing ‘slots’ at the information desk, I was directed to the laundry area, ready to use the machines, and bought vending machine laundry detergent. Never having done this in my own country, I chalked this up to another experience. This time also allowed me to relax and rest my knee by using a hotel towel full of machine ice on my knee. That helped.

            Finally, the rain stopped on November 5th. Hallelujah! This day, another point of interest offered Italian Gardens, Tower Valley, Japanese Gardens, Winged Horses, Triton Lake, a Pets Cemetery, Dolphin Pond, Walled Gardens,and Bamber Gate─ all in one place. The history of these grounds begins in the 1840s, taking “one hundred men twelve years to complete.” I did not view all these areas because my intermittent knee pain caused me to rest on the tour bus. No matter. Bus driver Owen and I befriended each other for the duration. His thin frame topped off with fluffy white, thick curly hair, remained seated in the driver’s seat as he fondly spoke of growing up on the island. His light blue eyes sparkled through his stories. I intently listened to his smooth Irish brogue.

            After a restful, peaceful sleep, November 6th greeted me with light grey rains as opposed to the former days of torrential downpours. My spirit remained heightened for the days’ plans: a train ride past The Giant’s Causeway, through the Glens of Antrim, and onto viewing the Wild Atlantic Coast but not for long. The downpours returned. This trip had to be halted due to a fallen tree blocking the train tracks.Another passenger invited to play dominoes, and we pleasantly passed the time. Stuck on that train for I can’t remember how many hours, I fell asleep at one point after being told that the food ran out. Oh well. I remained happy to be where I was ─ in Ireland.

            Finally, another train pulled, or slowly dragged, the original passenger train all the way back to Connolly Station in Dublin. Gosh I had never experienced that that kind of rescue before.  

            The whole trip was definitely something to write home about. I truly cannot state which was my favorite site or favorite experience. It was all good. Would I wog it again? Yes indeed!

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