There are times that you just have to set aside all your principles and tackle a race for what it is.
There have been too many times that I have lost sleep and panicked about a race. Ok I am not the world’s fastest but isn’t the want to always improve competition enough? It drags me down constantly and after Shore 10k on Monday night I felt that I needed to set my own competition aside and just enjoy the impending Sea 2 Sky route for what it was.
What is that I hear you ask? Well let’s back track. Sea 2 Sky is exactly that…a run from the promenade to half way up the mountain and back down again. A perfect example of what goes up, must come down race.
Sea2Sky is a highlight on the July running calender. A race organised by local running events team, Born 2 Run, who host “great races in great places.” I didn’t once doubt that this again was going to be one of those race. After doing the majority of the Winter Run Forest Run Series I knew along side the scenic route, awesome medal and great crowds the race would be amongst the most challanging.
A mixture of road and trail running all thrown in for good measure and the way the weather was shaping up it was going to be a wet race too.
Starting at the end of Newcastle Promenade the route took you up the South Promenade and climbed onto King Street. Reaching Donard Wood, the main elevation gain began at 3k right up to 6k. With water stop, some rather moivational qutoes and plenty of mutual feelings being shared on the go, the route descended out of Donard Wood into the bog which separates it from the Tollymore Boundary wall. A single file system did grid lock you in your position for about 1k but as you hit the Tullybrannigan Road and on into Tipperary Wood the field would spread out again as you took on 2km on relatively flat paths back into town. The final km seen you arrive back onto the promenade with Slieve Donard back in full view (abiet on the night it was wrapped in sheets of rain) and a fast finish to the end.
I had heard from those who had taken part in the race previously and knew it wasn’t going to be easy. With even the strongest of runners knowing that they would have to sacrafice an additional few minutes throughout the race due to the complex nature of course. Yet still over 800 people graced the start line on the night ready for the challange ahead.
So off I set with a clear aim to just enjoy the route. I set off with race virgin Moira, my next door neighbour and friend who i had dragged along to club run 6 weeks ago to do c25k. I will elaborate on this in my next blog as it deserves a piece all to itself.
I have to admit, I love the pull of the crowd on race day when there are vast numbers. In contrast to Mondays 10k at Killough, where I was basically on my own from the outset, at no point was I alone during this race. There was always plenty of people infront, behind and beside me.
It’s always pretty clear who knows and doesn’t know what the route offers ahead of them. I had walked it a few times but the language from some of the participants who didn’t know what was coming was really entertaining, for me at least. Yes everyone knew it was a big climb but then again under race conditions the normal elevation seems twice as high. I was surprised myself post race to see that elevation didn’t even hit the heights of Slievenaslat which I can normally do without must bother.
The head wind on the first 3 k was exhausting as we headed out of Newcastle. I’d thought to myself that maybe that’d be a bonus as it would obviously be behind me as I was finishing…how wrong was I. Many club members passed me but with encouraging taps on the shoulder and smiles greeting you, it is always a welcomed addition to any race.
Heading up into Donard Wood the climb went on for what seemed like forever. Of course Race Photographer Mervyn Mc Keown had stationed himself on the hill to capture everyone in all their glory. Trying to pull out a race pose mid hill climb was a challange all to itself!
The water stop did offer a much needed refresh however as I motored on toward the 6k mark the famous Mourne rain that comes at you sideways had arrived and although at the start very welcomed ..It was brutal as we headed through the winds and onto the bog.
For once I was able to put to good use the hours I’ve spent up the mountains in terrible weather. As the field split right and left to avoid the bog I looked ahead and could see my path appear through the middle of it in the shape and form of grass tuffs. I laughed at myself as I could imagine Lauren on the side lines reminding me to plan my next 5 steps and I literally took over about 20 people at that point. I came out of the bog, my feet barely wet and heard the screams and shouts of those behind who ended up submerged in the boggy bits.
Grid locked into single file the craic was mighty. I guess maybe this is something the lads at the front don’t seem to experience in races. However it is possibly the one thing I love most about them. With Brenda, a fellow Murlough team mate, 2 people ahead of me and an ormeau runner between us we came down off the hills surrounded by laughter and revived for the final stretch home.
It’s this sort of commardary that makes it worth while. As we came out of single file we pretty much stuck with eachother keeping one another going when we started to find it tough. Shouting to eachother when we got to the 8k and 9k milestones. Even picking the pace right up when we felt the tiredness set in.
We were being beaten by all the elements. Said head wind at the start had reappeared and together with the side ways rain I was surprised we kept going. Fair play to all the marshalls out on course who stayed there to the death as I wouldn’t have wanted to stand about in it. A special shout out to Gerard Rowe who somehow managed to appear at 3 different locations across the course. I’m sure he must be able to teleport himself and the Born2Run jeep as I’m sure it’s not human or legal to get around courses so quickly!
As I neared the promenade for the last 500m I spotted the woman herself, clad in her Newry City Runners gear being blown and soaked to bits. I’m sure patiently waiting for me to make her marshalling duties worth while! Seeing Tara I knew that just around the corner was the end. A small S Club 7 “Reach” jump to brighten her wet and miserable evening and off I headed around the back of the Tropicana. Knowing a marshall on route is beneficial for the morale…Having your best friend marshall gives you superpowers.
I must have been on supercharge mode as I turned the corner there was post race Michael standing waiting for me for the final push and his now infamous words of “go now” rang through the air but I was sure I didn’t have it in me as the finish did still seem quite far away. However before my head had processed all that…my legs automatically reacted and I was off.
As I crossed the line I fell into the arms of Selena who had shouts of encouragement for me at the 3k mark too. Couldn’t have asked to have finished the race any other way. A strong finish and a great friend there to catch me. I’d literally just stopped my watch and a immediate post race selfie. Thank God for Double Wear foundation!
So 1 hour 19mins.
I have never been so not bothered by a time in my life. As I had such a great race, in a great place, surrounded by great people. The hotdogs afterwards at Ohares where fabulous and after a quick trip home to get showered and changed we headed back for what was a fantastic evening…even better that I woke up hangover free too!
So that was an eventful first week of Marathon training. 2 10k races, a trek up Binnian and well I’d to walk the 5mile on Saturday morning to pick up my car in Newcastle so that counts as training right…even if it involved a stop at Nugaleto?
We did share it between us!