Architects of Community who were born to run

Architects of Community who were born to run

July 23, 2013 Blog 0 Comments

It was a tale of three cities in Belfast on Saturday.

We had the Energia Belfast 24 Hour Race at the refurbed Mary Peters Track, 27,000 people enjoying the concert of their lives with The Boss at the King’s Hall and a protest about parades in North Belfast.

I attended the first two and was left awe-struck. The third, thankfully, passed off peacefully and it has to be hoped wise heads will prevail and dialogue will replace street demonstrations at this sensitive North Belfast interface in the days ahead.

Grit, perseverance, determination, and sheer guts were on display at the ultramarathon in South Belfast. Limited to 50 entrants, the annual 24 hour race started on Friday evening and ran throughout the night to finish at 7pm on Saturday. I popped by to run the last hour with the dogged band of never-say-die super-athletes as they dug deep in scorching weather to finish a challenge beyond the ken of most of us.

The thrill for me was to get to meet the runners as I accompanied them on the final furlong. Some of them were well and truly zonked, others, like young Susan McCartney who cleared 120 miles, were bundles of energy. John O’Regan relinquished his Irish title to the incredible Eoin Keith from Cork who covered a breathtaking 152 miles during the 24-hour race. Ruthann Sheahan from Galway came in second, demolishing the previous Irish women’s record, as she clocked up 140-plus miles.

What made the greatest impression on me, however, wasn’t the invincibility of the athletes — there was that of course — but their sense of community. Like warriors who had been in the trenches together, they had formed an unbreakable bond during their 24-hour ordeal.

The importance and dignity of community shone through as well at the Bruce Springsteen concert. Isn’t it a testament to the power of the muse that the most scathing condemnation of the Great Recession has come, not from the speeches of politicians, but  from the songs of Bruce Springsteen. And among his many songs of pain, suffering, recovery and redemption from his Wrecking Ball album was the rap anthem Rocky Ground which he performed at the King’s hall gig and dedicated to Belfast. For we too have walked on Rocky Ground but sense A New Day Coming.

The lyrics are worth repeating:

(I’m a soldier! ) 
(I’m a soldier! ) 
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 

Rise up shepherd, rise up 
Your flock has roamed far from the hills 
The stars have faded, the sky is still 
The angels are shouting “Glory Hallelujah” 

We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 

Forty days and nights of rain have washed this land 
Jesus said the money changers in this temple will not stand 
Find your flock, get them to higher ground 
Flood waters rising and we’re Caanan bound 

We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 
(I’m a soldier! ) 

Tend to your flock or they will stray 
We’ll be called for our service come Judgment Day 
Before we cross that river wide 
Blood on our hands will come back on us twice 

(I’m a soldier! ) 

Rise up shepherd, rise up 
Your flock has roamed far from the hills 
Stars have faded, the sky is still 
Sun’s in the heavens and a new day’s rising 

You use your muscle and your mind and you pray your best 
That your best is good enough, the Lord will do the rest 
You raise your children and you teach ‘them to walk straight and sure 
You pray that hard times, hard times, come no more 
You try to sleep, you toss and turn, the bottom’s dropping out 
Where you once had faith now there’s only doubt 
You pray for guidance, only silence now meets your prayers 
The morning breaks, you awake but no one’s there 

We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 
There’s a new day coming 
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 
(I’m a soldier! ) 
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 
There’s a new day coming 
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 
(I’m a soldier! ) 
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 
There’s a new day coming 
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 
(I’m a soldier! ) 
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 
There’s a new day coming 
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground 




About the Author

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is the Sinn Féin MLA for South Belfast, a publisher, entrepreneur and civic leader.