The GR8 …the race through the eyes of a Marshal

The GR8 …the race through the eyes of a Marshal

It is that time of year. 

The annual club run. 8 mile of everything a race can throw at you, road, gravel, sand, boardwalk and grass, finished off by a nice stretch on road to the finish line. At least the weather was nice to us this year.
With near 1000 participants taking to the start line it proves that everyone loves a challenge or at least a good view as the route is encased in the beauty of the mournes from every angle.

The GR8 for me this year was a race I would be a Marshal at. I know with Dublin so close that if I where to take to the route, I’d be unlucky enough to get injured. I might as well wrap myself up in cotton wool the next 3 weeks. 
I have to admit I was very excited to find out I was on the beach. Right in the heart of the action. My positivity at times can be overbearing but definitely perfect for that part of the race where after 2 miles on the beach, you need some annoying positivity.
My day started nice an early. Plenty of sandwiches made and biscuits bought. Off to Dundrum Hall to get registration underway. It is such a team effort. As each MAC member arrived whether running or not, they came adorned with goodies for the runners. 

MAC hard at work

I think full marks go to Selena for the 60 Hot Cross Buns that where served up as a pre race treat to keep everyone’s bellys warm. 

I love the pre race excitement as there are so many different people in the room, with such a mix of emotions but there are mainly three types. 

The returning runner; those who know exactly what lies ahead

The friend; where their mates have recommended the race and thought “sure why not”

And the first timer; no idea what lies ahead, picking up passing thoughts and views from others in the hall and wonder why the hell they signed up to it.

As registration came to a close, we jumped in the car headed for our checkpoints.

Selena and Moira had the fun of the water stop whilst Micéal and myself heading down the board walk to our stations on the beach. 

Team water station

Doing the route backwards I knew that at this point which would be 6 miles, would be tough for the runners. The boardwalk was springy but with the wind being quiet mild, it was the lack of breeze to cool them down after coming off the beach that would be a killer and they’d be glad to get to the water station. 

As I reached my very well signposted station I waved goodbye to Micéal as he trudged up the beach to his station.

I was all alone. 

I assumed the race would be soon underway so in my quest to pass some time, I found a stick and as any respectable adult would do. I began writing in the sand. Productive art work obviously.

Just incase someone missed me

I finally got a sensible Snapchat from Micéal to say the first runner was on route. Let’s be honest, David O’Flaherty could have been mistaken for a lone runner, as there was no one near him. No stranger to the route, he knew where he was going and flew past, confident in his ability to make this race his own. 

Shortly in the far distance, the most fantastic sight greeted me. A sea of brightly coloured runners consumed the shore line. It was something a camera couldn’t catch. I knew right then that I was apart of something special. Our club had done this. Our club had enticed all these people to take part in this challenging route and pulled it together. These where the people who had to eat all the sandwiches at the hall after! Glad we made extra.

As the runners started to filter up through the stones and sand towards the beach exit,  I wondered what would I like to hear from someone at that point. 

So I complied a list and these where some of my favourites. 

“Keep er lit” (obvious one)

“I am the end of the beach”

“Don’t let the beach win”

“Show the beach who is boss”

“Looking strong” 

“The water stop is half mile that way”

“No I’m not getting tarmac for next year”

Gosh the pain in some people’s eyes. That 2 mile on the beach had sucked everything out of their legs and let’s be honest, my positivity didn’t always go down well. It was great though to see some of my encouragement got people digging that bit deeper at a tough part of the race. 

Also fantastic to cheer the MAC crew on as they came through along with the club pacers who worked very hard to keep the pace for their allocated time. Always a joy to see the runners I know from previous races, some who had obviously forgotten about how Causeway Coast made them feel and came back for some more sand!

Of course you can always count on the MAC runners who where out for the craic. Time for laughs, hugs and selfies was the only way the race was going to go. 

Micéal and I began the trek back to the car park after we thought everyone had been but luckily enough the man on the quad came back and let us know 1 more was still coming. Micéal went back and I went on with bags to the car. That moment I was filled with intent and only 1 mission. I have ranted so much in the past about back runners and not getting the same treatment as other racers. I knew the club would wait for the last person and I wasn’t going to let them finish the race alone.

So as I got to the car,  I literally stripped in the car park as I’d my winter Base Layer on underneath and it wasn’t going to be kind to me over 2 miles, great for the beach though!

I was honoured to accompany Rosy on the last 2 mile to the finish.  There was no other way I could imagine that would be a better way to end the day. 

We chatted on route home about the race, the joys of being a back runner,  running your own race and about how life had thrown us some bad hands but we were still to be beaten. 100% success rate.

I admire her strength, her resolve and her pure grit and determination to get those 8 mile done. If the world gave half of what she did today finishing that race, it would be a much better place to be. 

As I imagined, every Marshall was still out and cheered Rosy on right to the end where she ended the race the same way she began it…a runner. 

Rosy to the left and Selena to the right

So as the rest of the club go out to toast what was a pretty flawless day, I’m sitting at home, writing. Debating my 16 mile for tomorrow, with a pint of Avonmore. Life of a Marshall is really rock n roll.

A huge well done to everyone who came out today and took on what was a challanging 8 mile. I hope you are all looking forward to coming back next year and owning that beach! Don’t let it beat you!

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