Month: November 2016

Death By Dermot – A Whole Other Level

Death By Dermot – A Whole Other Level

Hands up if you woke up on Friday morning thinking you got off lightly from Thursdays session and felt like dancing and singing that you must be in a lot better shape than expected given you felt so good.

Yet as the day went on your thighs started to feel like jelly, you realised you must have abs hiding somewhere  as you could feel them burn and the thought of pulling your shoulders back into a good posture was just way too much effort…people that is what is called DOMs – delayed onset muscle soreness but we’ll rename it Dermot’s Obscure and Mean Sadism .

Thursday seen a whole new side to the many skills and sadistic tricks Dermot has on his list of “running related skills” as a running coach.
We all know that crosstraining and branching out from just running will breed better times and stronger running. Working your muscles in other ways and strengthening them is always a good thing..right? Well yes but it doesn’t come without pain.

I think I do my fair share of non running training. I spin twice a week, both followed by a circuit or abs class and I have my pt session with Shane which simply works primarily now with where doesn’t be hurt given that the session is Wednesdays at 7am after Wintervals the night before.

So the bottom line was that I “should” be well fit for a Death by Dermot strength and conditioning session.

However I thought I wasn’t too bad at the running thing until Dermot arrived so how naive was I to think that s&c would be any different.
A taster session of a mix of cardio and core. I swear after 6 minutes of the warm up I was wrecked. Though I was encouraged as everyone else around me looked how I felt.

As we moved from station to station, the tunes where banging out – old school hits too, excellent and everyone was giving their all. Round 1 and 3 where cardio and round 2 and 4 core. Then as always there was a Brucey Bonus Round just to keep us on our toes. 

What I’ve learned:

  • There is no end to Dermots skills to induce early death.
  • But never show any fear..he can spot it a mile off and exploit it.
  • Knowing you only have to do a certain exercise for 30 seconds is good
  • However doing variations of the same exercise 1 after the other is just mean.
  • Having a toilet nearby is ALWAYS handy when star jumps are involved 
  • Men might not understand the importance of that- women with children, will.
  • Hurting your funny bone…isn’t so funny
  • There are big boy and little boy variations of exercises. Doubt that’s the technical term but we got a good laugh out of it.
  • Bringing your kids along to a session means you can’t show any fear or hurt.
  • Remember being a positive role model for running results in even more bling in the house as they start running too.
  • Note regarding my kids… if only they behaved like that all the time I’d not fear taking them in public
  • Apparently duct taping your kids to the wall is not an acceptable form of child management.
  • American football drills are my favourite
  • I will never ever EVER like burpees.

So it’s Saturday evening and guess what. ..I’m still bloody sore. I could blame a week of back to back training. Though let’s be honest every step I take I curse the evil man who takes great pleasure in knowing his memory lives on long after he’s gone. 

I just hope that the calories are burning on long after the session and somewhere a long the line it helps my running. It’s definitely improved my procrastination that for sure. 
I hope that bottle of wine I gave you for all your help over the past few months results in a huge hangover. Then that’s us even! 


It’s Only Cold If You Are Standing Still

Sweet Mary Mother of God and little Baby Jesus. It is baltic! But I’m all about positive thoughts…at least it isn’t raining also.

Last week set the scene for Wintervals. With over 50 members of the club taking themselves out for a 3 mile Time Trial over the past 7 days and cementing their resolve to improve over the coming weeks, morale is high within the MAC camp. 

We all now have our benchmarks *wohoo second last* and know that coming out to Wintervals week in and week out will hopefully have a good impact on everyone’s performance. 

However the hardest step for anyone is…the one out the door. Tonight that step was taken by 45 of the MAC Massive, showing no fear of the tough session that lay ahead. 

Split into two groups after our dynamic warm up, we set of for the session.  My first stop was the Bath Lane steps. I had never heard of them before so as I stood at the bottom of them, I wondered where the elevator was. 75 concrete steps that went up a bit and then got steeper and went up even more. 

Like seriously who even thinks this is a good idea. Under the wing of Coach Hugh I tried not to show that I was dying of fear inside and eventually (from the back of the pack where the fun is as always) I got going.

First half of the steps weren’t too bad but oh my they got a lot steeper and legs turned to jelly. It was awful. I was still trying to figure out was it the steps making my legs feel funny or the fact I haven’t had a rest day in nearly a week. 

But as with all intervals it’s short term pain for long term gain as although at the time it felt like forever, it was soon over and at least 350 step in our legs. 

Departing Bath Lane we headed for the Harbour to take on the “Zig Zag.” We passed the other group on route and was reassuring to see they where in fine form and not looking too bad. 

What lay ahead was another hill session. Coach Selena promised us that after we were done there where buns and protein milk at the end. So as some runners run because they like to eat, many of us where ready to earn the fluffy fairy cake goodness. 

So 5 sets of reps lay between us and the buns. The quicker we done these, the quicker we got the buns, simples. The flow of the running was spot on. Not standing about too long and perfectly managed so I passed Anne on her way down everytime. I don’t know if I could have coped with not seeing her on the 5th rep! 

As we finished up and had “session lessons” well embedded in our heads (which where now always looking up and not down) we set off for home.

It was nice to have Caitriona calling the shots as she embraced being able to run again. 

Alongside Miceal we tooted back down the promenade for our cool down. From warm up corner, we continued to test our ability to balance and figure out our right from our left as we enjoyed a cool down lead by Hugh. 

As the other runners who took the long road home began their cool down we got stuck into the homemade buns and protein milk. Please don’t tell Dan the Avonmore man that I was drinking Dale Farm! 

Best end of session treat ever though that means expectations are high for next week and all following weeks. I’d even happily do another rep up those steps just to “earn” another bun.

So another end to another Wintervals session. Nothing could beat the joys of the thaw in the shower afterwards as I regained the feeling in my fingers. 

I may harden up as it’s going to get colder as the weeks progress on. However I am already looking forward to next Tuesday and the return of ” The Train.”

Hug this session was supplied by Joe! Much appreciated!

Hi ho, hi ho,  it’s up the mountain we go

Hi ho, hi ho,  it’s up the mountain we go

OK so next quest is the Christmas Cracker. 

Run by neighbouring club Newcastle AC, the route is nothing short of challenging.  Each year the route changes and spans anything from 8 to 10 miles. 

That’s alright if on road but since its Christmas, it’s a bit of Craic and sure we’ve plenty of hills on our doorstep they might as well throw in Slieve Na Slat and some muck too. I imagine this may be on par with Causeway Coast and as a Christmas Cracker Virgin I say this might just be the death of me.

Also the great thing about this race is the fact you do it in pairs! So who else fits the bill other than similarily mental running buddy extrodinare, Caitriona who I am desperate to get off the bench and back out there doing crazy things with me.

So the only way to train for this is really to embrace the hills. I’m still trying this embracing concept. In fairness I like hills and mountains and have walked too many of them the past few years. However I just don’t think I’m cut out to run up them. 
Though when has that ever stopped me from doing something?

So a Saturday night chat with Caitriona resulted in us deciding that instead of going round the lake to break her in again…we’d go up Slieve Na Slat. Sure it’s only 220m elevation. Not a patch on Donard or the likes more of a hill.

So as I woke on Sunday morning and looked outside, a heavy frost had descended upon  Castlewellan and it was starting to look a lot like Christmas.

Though the clear blue skies meant that on a hill you’re sure to get great views so in a bid to take advantage of the weather and get back up where I am happiest the time was set and at 10.30 Caitriona was there ready to rock n roll.
Layered up and ready for a few hours passing a Sunday morning. We headed for the hills. It had been brought to my attention that Caitriona had never been up SlievenaSlat so I was looking forward to the stark realisation of what exactly the cracker was asking of us as we began the short but steep climb to the top.

It wasn’t long before her face was as picture. Each corner brought another even steeper hill and even though I’ve been up it a hundred times it never gets any easier. 

Though as the tough bit was over and more stunning views came into full view, she began to see the reason why it’s worth it.

It was like a winter wonderland. The trees where thick with ice and as the ground began to thaw you could hear the leaves crunching and crackling. Icicles fell like rain drops and as you looked up beyond the trees there was a low mist engulfing the foot of the mountains as they towered above the white fields surrounded by cleat blue sky.
That’s it right there. That’s the feeling I love. Nothing beats being up the mountain..fact. Standing there, there was no denying the existance of a God. There was no way this can all coincidently occur at the same time. 

The walk was finished with all wee tour round the hills and down into the Cyprus Pond finishing the lake. 

I returned home less than 2 hours later; refreshed, content and realising I’ve a hell of a lot of work to do for the Cracker in 5 weeks. 

You don’t have to always run

You don’t have to always run

Winding down from the marathon definitely has benefits you thought you’d never appreciate.

On one hand you seem to miss the challenges of the long run and being out doing monotonous laps of the lake, breaking milage milestones week in week out. However now post marathon you can enjoy a weekend morning knowing you don’t have to dedicate around 4 hours to training and have that bacon sandwich.

What I found out on Saturday ..I don’t have to always run to get out there and part take in events.  Today’s race saw team MAC descend upon Annalong. A fundraising event for the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team.

Run4Rescue had an option for all athletes. Felt like you wanted a challenge there was the 10 mile race up to Dinnywater and back. Wanting to push your limits and get some solid miles there was the 10k. And of course for those who wanted to stretch the legs, on the injury bench or like me, just couldn’t be arsed running there was the 4 mile walk.

Of course MAC had someone in every race which strangely for a running club, the majority of the club representatives in the 4 mile walk category.
We set off around an absolutely fabulous route around Annalong and kept a relatively brisk pace along the shore and past the most quaint wee houses I’ve ever seen. 

It was fresh but with clear blue skies and the sun shining it was the perfect Saturday morning in November.  

John lead the way with 5 of the MAC ladies falling into line, Norah, Ann, Anne, Caitriona and myself. It was so lovely to walk along and chat about life in general. By around 3 mile the 10mile leader and winner was coming along. 

I remember the first time I was ever passed by William McKee. Born2Runs Kilborney 10k last January. My initial thought as he passed me while I was on my first lap and he was finishing was “who let him out with hardly any clothes on.” This was a thought that I had numerous times over the rest of the Winter Series when I saw him. And Saturday was no exception! Short shorts and his Mourne Runners vest. 

I have come to realise when you go as fast as him you don’t feel the cold I suppose. 

Anyway as the leaders came past us we cheered them on and reaching the top of that hill we waited to see the rest of the runners onto the flat, cheering on the Mad MACs Hugh and Judith who tackled the unforgiving 10 mile route.

Getting to the finish of our walk we arrived in time to cheer on the 10kers on their 2nd of 3 laps and see the 10 mile runners finish. 

After all the MAC crossed the line, we headed in for what can only be described as a phenomenal spread with soup, tea, cakes and sandwiches. Definitely a way to replace the calories burnt out on course. Making noted for next year to run at least the 10k as I need to burn more than a 4 mile dander worth of calories for those brownies!

And the bonus was…we got medals! So no need to run to earn the bling in this case. Could the day get any better!

Wintervals. ..Go Hard or Go Home

Wintervals. ..Go Hard or Go Home

A winter tale devised by Hugh and Selena.

Tuesday seen the start of the club’s “wintervals”

In short for those who don’t feel like thinking today that’s the Winter Interval sessions. 

Only joining the club at the end of March, I was late to the Winter Party so didn’t get to do sessions however from my 2 sets of Death by Dermot, I really enjoy intervals and the visable improvements it offers to your running and your ABCs. I can now even stretch my quads without the need of a pillar or person to steady me-wohoo!

So after months of hard graft, very long days and very late nights, Hugh and Selena gained their coaching qualifications. This is fantastic news for the club given that we now have two coaches who are not only dedicated to expanding their own knowledge and skills within athletics but also willing to dedicate their time, effort and expertise to the members of the club to improve our overall performance at no additional cost to us yet at probably a detriment to their own training. How lucky are we?!? And to Hugh and Selena…thank you in advance of the next few months!

So we kicked off with a time trial. The dreaded phrase everyone shutters at when they hear it. 

3 Miles from one end of Newcastle to the other. Doesnt seem too hard…yeah unless you are currently struggling to break the 13 minute mile barrier since DCM. 

Fridays run around the hills was one of those just plain hilarious runs when all you could do was laugh at how pathetic you imagined you looked. On a route I was familiar and confident with, although very hilly and challanging, I was 7 minutes slower over the 4.2 mile than I was achieving back in April before the madness of Dublin began.

So I had hoped a 38minute 3 mile would be achievable. I was going to give it all my wee legs could manage even though I’m still holding onto the “marathon legs” excuse. So it was simply go hard or go home. No point going to intervals for a chat and craic, you go to do what your told, bust yourself over the short period, embrace being out of your comfort zone and be assured that everyone else around you is feeling exactly the same as you. Chat and craic running is for other nights. 

So meeting Caitriona, who is thankfully on the road to recovery, we set off for a quick half mile to test her legs from the Pearcy to the Bridge and back. Sitting at 10 minute miles I kept saying we’re going too fast and to slow the hell down! Seems after weeks on the bench her legs had to stretch out where mine just got a rude wake up call.

Happy to hear there wasn’t any immediate pain and discomfort we set off for the start of the time trial. 

I knew myself that if I started with everyone in the club I’d have been busted before I even started. I don’t mind a wee half mile but 1.5 mile would have ruined me. You’d think after everything training for DCM I’d have confidence in myself. I do – just in my own speed and ability to eventually get there. I hate holding people back or people waiting on me and someday I might blend into the group but knew it wasn’t going to be this week. 

So I was happy to set off that bit earlier and with the company of Caitriona who was going to walk it back to the car afterwards, it was a rather enjoyable warm up. 

It wasn’t long before Selena and Hugh arrived followed by over 30 of the club members. Absolutely fantastic turn out, showed how much everyone wants to improve and take advantage of what the club has to offer. Plenty of the Death By Dermot crew returning who I’m sure like me are missing the kick you get from a short sharp session. Nice to see those who have been on the injury bench back out and also fabulous to see so many faces that I’ve only ever seen in the computer too! Hello!

So after our safety brief and the route outline again, we were put into our speed appropriate groups and off we went. 

I knew that I was going to be passed by everyone and it’s actually a nice wee boost to have the faster runners come past. Psychologically it stops you from walking as you don’t want to show weakness to the better runners in the club. Also the verbal words of support are a great kick. As for the physical support Micéal, you near had me jumping the barrier into the sea. Scared the bejaysus out of me! 

I’d hoped to manage 12 minute miles and keep it steady. Allowing for a drop in pace later on. By the time I’d reached 1 mile, Phil from the last group had caught me with ease. 

By the time we’d reached the Slieve I could see Sinead and Maria at all times in front and knew Norah wasn’t too far behind me.

Passing the other runners who had already lapped the Slieve was the highlight of my run. It was so lovely to see everyone going strong and exchanges of encouragement across the road. I was particularly impressed with Laura who was looking so on point and comfortable in amongst the “middle of the pack”.  I may get into this cross country malarkey as I want to run like that! 

Selena was at the exit to the Slieve to mark the 2 mile point. As I picked up pace up Golf Links Avenue I could hear talking and then Selena shouting encouragement at me. She had obviously joined Norah to run it home. 

No joke. I could hear them getting closer and was prepared for coming in last. Soon enough the 3 of us where running together. As I spotted the Holy Grail that was Hugh in the distance I was delighted that the end was near as I’d gave my all and there wasn’t much there…or so I thought. 

The usual head stagger hit and knowing I’d only 200 metres left, I did what I wish I could do right throughout any run and I emptied the tank for a strong finish into the crowd of 30 runners waiting for us to finish. 

Looking down at my watch I couldn’t believe my eyes. 

Not only had I broke the 13 minute mile that has been plaguing me since DCM, I smashed it with an 11.15 minute mile average. And low and behold not a kick in the arse of my 5k pb set at the Women’s Mini Marathon in July. I have found my legs again. *insert happy dance*

The dream is alive again. Short distance running is something I want to improve on as let’s face it, it’s as slow and steady as my marathon running after a few months of several 1.09/1.11 10ks. I was sure since August I was never going to find the next gear up again.  

So targets are a plenty for me. Big aims for me, like any runner, is to break into the next time barrier, so I’d love a sub 30 5k but I’ll be delighted with seeing 31.59 and anything below a 1.08.59 10k. 

This is my focus for the next few months until half marathon season kicks off in February. 

So ready to get stuck in with renewed hope next week and ready to take on whatever Coach Hugh and Coach Selena have to throw at me. From moments of pushing the limits, to moments of elation.

Right MAC, let’s do this!  

A Marathon Journey – a complex relationship

Wow its been 2 weeks since the big day. I wasn’t really sure what to expect at all as I crossed that line. It had such a build up and anticipation. Gosh I was overly emotional in the week before hand, planned everything; all strategies and tactics to cope with the situation. What if something went wrong, what if it all went to plan. I swear to God, as I reflect on it, it was nearly as well thought out and strategically planned than the first time I had sex.

Yet as I crossed the line, a line I knew I would cross regardless of the performance on the day, I didn’t feel what I thought I would. It was like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I didn’t have the overwhelming emotions, no tears that had engulfed my previous week. That’s not to say I wasn’t elated. I was, and I knew I had achieved what I wanted to. Faith in the training the whole way round got me there. I danced up the finishing straight to pick up my medal and t-shirt and to Michael and Brendan. I smiled for most of 26.2 mile, I smiled for the days afterwards.

You see I look back and realise…

The marathon journey is like a relationship. It starts of with meeting the concept by booking the event. Anticipation, excitement, scared of what is to come from this relationship and journey. It gets off to a fantastic start, you go with the flow and focus turns from the normal training plan to something more dedicated and streamlined.

You progress onto spending most of the day thinking about it. How you begin to enjoy the long runs, they are hard work but like a relationship, sometimes it can be challenging. You have the good runs where they like a perfect date, just everything fuses together and plays out according to plan. There are the bad runs, when you push through it and negotiate with yourself and the situation to get through it.

Feeling like you have nothing more to give to something that means so much and that you want so bad.  You have the arguments and the hurt, the pain of niggles and injuries, the uncertainty if this is going to work out and trying to manage the ups and downs without admitting defeat. Its worth fighting for. The pure emotional roller coster of every breath and movement being encapsulated by the journey.

So when it comes to the defining moment in that relationship, in my case the marathon day, you put all your eggs in one basket and hope to God that you are going to see it through to the end because more than anything you want it to work out. You stand at the start line and you are there with possibly every odd stacked against you. You recall the training, the hurdles you overcame to get here, the mistakes in the bad runs and what went well in the good runs to make them so fantastic. You know there are people who are watching intently and emotionally immersed in every step you take, most of whom want this to go well for you, some sadly who want you to fail.

You know you have the ability to make this relationship a success. But what if your best and your everything isn’t enough? That the relationship isn’t going to be the roaring success you thought it could be?  You stand there and face every last little bit of incompetency and struggle you have encountered, not just since the relationship started but of the many years of life before that. There’s so much that your smile is hiding. Beyond the surface there’s complexities, struggles and a history which could easily consume you and ruin it all. And although you are a million times over and over again, above and beyond what your past dictated, you still have the scars and the wounds are still open.

So as you go through each mile, every inch of the whole journey of life passes from your head to your feet and to the ground below as it takes every moment in your life to keep you moving in the right direction. You pound out the bad runs, you pound out the negativity and as you cross the half way point, you know you are half way there to making this relationship work. What faces you in front is not pleasant, but you are not willing to give up on it. As you spy the 800metre line you realise that actually your best is good enough. The relationship is going to work out and be a success.

Though I guess as with every relationship, even when you achieve relationship milestones and life goes on, it doesn’t mean what you achieved in the past will naturally flow into every other day of your life. You will still face the same ups and downs, niggles and injuries because actually the journey of the marathon turns out to not be a stand alone event, just like a relationship. Its just part of your life, it’s just not your whole life.

I will still wake up tomorrow a mother, a wife, a friend and still trying to get better at this running malarkey. Yeah I’m a marathoner too, but its just part of the story. Possibly the first chapter of a much longer relationship, with Derry on the horizon, and many good and bad runs ahead, with many more encounters with the darker thoughts in my head to come. A repeat of the journey maybe. But you know what, I’ve got this far and haven’t done too bad.





Winter is coming…

Winter is coming…

…This phrase might excite many a GOT fans however to the runners in and around the north of Ireland it simply means that the Born 2 Run, Run Forest Run, Winter series is back!

The 7am alarm on a Saturday morning means only one thing. As I open the curtains and embrace the view of the Mourne Mountains on a clear morning, I am soon to realise that clear blue skies on a November morning means that it will be bitter cold and involve a lot of jumping up and down under the Born2Run arch followed by unlocking hidden gems during a 10k run.
This weeks hidden gem was Minnowburn. Set just off from Shaws Bridge, the race would take in the calmness and beauty of the Lagan Towpath at the end of Autumn, the hills and views of the Giants Ring and you’d feel like a proper athlete as you start and finish on the Marys Peters track. There was nothing more the race could offer to a runner other than a pair of speed boots to get me going a bit quicker, post Dublin.

What I love about all the Born 2 Run events from the Winter Series, to the Castleward Challenge to Sea2Sky and Dambusters, is the people. The atmosphere from the minute you get out of the car is electric. The Born 2 Run crew are always smiling, even though they are trying to manage 20 million things at once and will take their time to stop and chat, personalising the race for each runner. I got the most immense hugs from the team after they waited for what I am sure was forever for me to make it to 19mile at Dublin Marathon last week. This was above and beyond the call of duty but made such a difference to me on the day. It’s the little extra touches like that which make this events team more than just race organisers. Respecting every runner from the elite to the plodders like myself. Fully inclusive right across the board.

The Forest runs have also become more of a social event for me. Arriving early you get to catch up with people you may have ran with or supported in a previous race, the usual suspects who make the races fun to run on route from the four corners of the island and get the craic from the world of running as we all try to forget that there are 6.2 miles of running ahead of us.
Minnowburn was no different, smiles and hugs as many of us had finally got the chance to congratulate each other in person for what we accomplished at Dublin. I was sure Mary Peters wanted in on the action too but she was a bit cold towards me and left me hanging. The usual antics and support from the Murlough crew was aplenty. You can’t beat these guys. Always buzzing and ready to enjoy the day.

As we set off, I could hear the “I told you so voices” in my head. Those of Michael, Dermot and Selena resonated within my head. I’d been living on the marathon high and feeling invincible that I could easily manage a wee 10k trot. How wrong was I? Lets be fair, the first 3 k where great. As we came off the track and embraced the long drag to the top of the hill, I felt awesome. The downhill after was even more impressive. However as I got to the second bridge and began the climb to the Giants Ring, I felt it. 26.2 miles of pain shot up my left leg. Wishing I had done the 5k instead, I had to motor on but 7k seemed a long way.

I had to drop my pace, even though I had planned to take it easy I was hoping I could have at least done myself some justice. However I was comfortable at my half marathon training pace and was pretty consistent throughout the rest of the race.

Because I was slower than usual, I found myself alone and not with the usual pack. Though as the sun shone down on the towpath and the leaves crunched underneath my feet, I was able to just take in the world around me. The sounds where really intense, the plodding of the feet coming from across the towpath from the other runners, the odd fish jumping from the Lagan and the rustling of leaves and trees as birds made there way through them was so calming and peaceful. I reflected on what I have achieved 6 days previously and although in discomfort, I was really enjoying the run and realising there was no where else I’d rather be at that moment.

The support on route from the volunteers was, as always, next to none. With familiar and new faces popping up at marshalling points encouraging you on and willingly taking any abuse I was to throw at them gave the race that extra special touch and a few extra smiles.

As I approached the track, I was met by the MAC crew at various points. In fairness they had to wait for me as all their gear was in my car and I had the key but I am sure they would have still been there even if that wasn’t the case.  A hug from now Coach Selena as she took a brief break from her course to run onto the track to push me through the last 200m. I guess in the absence of Michael she was doing his job of pushing me in the final part of the race.

I finished with overwhelming applause and cheering from those along the finish straight. Caroline was there with the Morris clan, Joe was at the finish line egging me on and the Mad Macs where at the side giving it their all. I may have come in at 1.20, over 10minutes slower than normal but I felt like I was first! Bang on Half Marathon pace and as always living by the mantra finish lines not finish times

In true Born 2 Run fashion the medal was just the best, I’m not materialistic, ok I am, I’m all about the bling and now after seeing all the bling for the series, I will find it hard to not go to every race and collect them all. Soup, water, banana and Free’ist bar, all you could want from a race finish, no wait there in the distance, I spotted Artie and his table! I was sure he was going to tell me off for running too but as always he was supportive and took one look at my legs and rubbed them enough to get me home in one piece. Promising that I’ll get to see him early next week for a proper go. So yeah all the stuff and your sports therapist in the one place. Full marks B2R!
So today I am a bit sore, finally the pain I avoided last week has been unleashed however I fairly enjoyed my run yesterday. What a location! That’s what I love about the Winter Series and Born 2 Run, they live up to their tag line of “Great Races in Great Places.”

Here’s to four months of unlocking more hidden gems and adding to my own wee forest animal medal collection.


Death By Dermot-The Round Up Part 2

Death By Dermot-The Round Up Part 2

So tonight seen the last session of the 3rd block of sessions with The Running Coaches, Dermot Mathers. Now a household name within the MAC camp, respected, revered and cursed up and down the promenade every Thursday, in this block of sessions we were able to expand and experience the collection of sadistic interval sessions he had to offer.

In fairness I knew this block of sessions where going to be more observational for me with Dublin Marathon imminent and I questioned whether I should even sign up to them. However Dermot did assure me that they would be of benefit to me and not one to play hard to get, I was there every session.

Week 1; Dermot tries the concept of “fun”

The Train. It wasn’t that we weren’t working hard, we were, it was just a different approach to session working more on team work in our groups instead of being out for yourself. I think the fact it was the first training session of hi vis gear and the back drop was amazing, helped set a peaceful and calm scene.

Week 2; Tea + Running = Life

As the nights began to draw in and the cold started to bite a bit more, the revelation that tea was a big part of Dermots life came to light. I ended up on the side lines of this 400m followed by 200m blast intervals due to being on a scarey dose of antibiotics. This session showcased how the group had grown to support each other. Demonstrating inclusion right across the mixed field of athletes as they all crossed the line together, shouting words of encouragement to get everyone to the end. Something that I have watched grow and develop in the sessions which is lovely to see.

Week 3; Loving It

A recap on the theory which was priceless. You get complacent and you do sometimes forget things so it was great to go back to basics and “fix” yourself. This was followed by two mini sessions that Dermot kindly overseen by our coaches in training. The highlight of the session was the Q&A section and the insight into Cadence breathing. No joke I passed a few mile and laughed to myself around Dublin singing “hooked on a feeling” whilst focusing on my breathing, thanks to this session.

Week 4; Just here for the craic

Dublin was happening at the weekend so I was taking a back seat. However session looked really beneficial and Death By Dermot was back with a vengeance. 1000m intervals. 1000m is a long way! It was like they set off and didn’t come back for at least 5 minutes. But as always, a method to the madness and I will be trying this interval out in the coming weeks. Running this distance and repeating will get your body used to race pace and pushing yourself in a race. No point going out to push yourself and expect results, if your body isn’t used to it. See I’m taking the theory on board.

Week 5; The aftermath

So with Dublin done and dusted, I returned to the promenade to give session a go. I know not much was expected of me but I gave it a shot. 400m x4 with a short recovery. I managed half of each block as legs where feeling heavy and didn’t want to push on. Everyone done well and a sense of being lost now the block of sessions is over was felt throughout the group.

There is no doubt that in the run up to Dublin, the sessions did help me, my form continues to improve and it added more thoughts to my head to keep me occupied around 26.2 mile, drop those shoulders, head up, slow down (well for my first 10k anyway).

I am always in awe at how Dermot manages to keep the whole group together. Its not an easy task I am sure, but to have me crossing the line, with an average 12 minute mile, with others who turn out 8 minute miles on a training run really opens your eyes to the level of thought and planning that goes into the sessions.  A professional, a coach and dare I say it, a friend.

So who’s up for Nugaleto next Thursday night to fill in the gap? – I hear many athletes frequent there and I am sure a Nuggypot wont be the death of us in the way an interval session would be.







Today I woke up a marathoner…

Today I woke up a marathoner…


It was like the past 48 hours was all a dream…until I tried to get up to go to the toilet. Yeah definitely not a dream.

Beside the bed lay my Murlough jacket, the bright green finshers t-shirt and the coveted centenary medal. My first thought was “Oh my God, I actually done it, I ran a marathon.”

48hours earlier

The double and triple checking of lists and making sure everything was packed, was well underway. The sun wasn’t shining down on Castlewellan but there was an element of feeling warm with pride inside. We were about to embark on what was to be the biggest challenge of our lives.

We left the kids at Grannys and knew the next time I would see them, it would all be over. Brendan and Aine pulled up at the house and at that point, there was no turning back. We were bound for Dublin.
Arriving at the Expo you could feel the excitement and anticipation building, thousands of participants walking around the stands and eyeing up new running gear, the latest Garmin and an array of fancy pieces of bling from races to entice you to sign up. And no joke, I need to remortgage and sell my kids to enter all the races I want to, to earn all the medals I want! Clonakilty and the Quadathalon in Donegal rated high on the list along with the Rock n Roll and 3 medals for 2 races.

I had a wee go in the recovery boots and hung out getting some love from the Born 2 Run crew where I was honoured to meet and finally hug all of Team Kerr who not only where taking to the start line but receiving the mayors medal to award their success in raising awareness of inclusion and promotion of wheel chair assisted running. Making running a more accessible and inclusive sport for everyone, breaking down barriers which where once there.

I enjoyed reading the mentions on the wall and adding our own mark to the collection. We spoke with the pacers who lets face it must be magnificent runners to be selected to do so. Also great to see a few women in the pacing line up given that the number of women doing to the marathon has steadily dropped over the past few years.

After a hectic few hours, it was time to find the hotel and go for a prerace recce to find out where we needed to go in the morning. Dublin is one of those cities that once you get your bearings it is easy enough to get around on foot. We were close by staying near St. Stephens Green so just a stones throw from the Start and Finish Area. We were able to see the Start line being erected and walk around the finish. I could feel excitement building but I was also starving so ate in a wee Italian place and surprisingly had pasta!

An early night was on the cards and after setting everything out and pinning on race numbers I was soon out like a light and that was me, it hadn’t even gone 10. According to Michael one minute I was awake and the next I was fast asleep. I actually thought I would find sleeping tough but I guess the 15k steps that day helped.
The next 24hours where huge. Not only was it Michaels Birthday and not only was it our 7 year wedding anniversary, we where going to run our first marathon. Definitely not something I would ever imagine being on the hit list of ways to spend this weekend.

I woke up and didn’t feel nervous. Actually I was strangely calm and collected. I tooted about with a cuppa, checked in with the world online and got ready. I swear though I never imagined I’d need so much Vaseline. But I have realised that you can never have too much Vaseline as I found out when I got into the shower afterwards. Words of encouragement from friends online where lovely. Some fab motivational quotes and I knew they were all rooting for me to go out there and do it.

We headed to a nearby café to have breakfast and 2 perfectly poached eggs, some bacon and a round of toast was just perfect. We met Clare, Eddie and not so wee Eddie to hand over his race pack. It was lovely to touch base and walk down the road towards the bag drop together. Clare and I have walked some long roads together in the past but I know its never lead to a marathon. Some hugs and good lucks and we left Eddie to get a bite to eat and we headed to the bag drop.
I have to admit what a smooth operation in place. From entering into the bag drop area to the start line. Smooth filtering from side streets onto the main starting straight and it was flawless. Exemplarily organisation from the DCM team.

As Michael, myself and Brendan waited in the wave 3 holding area, I still didn’t find the fear I was expecting. I had no tears of impending accomplishment, my heart rate was normal and I was very gathered considering what lay ahead. It wasn’t until I heard Amhrán na bhFiann that I welled up. Here was me, Siobhan Grant, ready to take on Dublin Marathon with a send off of the national anthem. Proud of how far I had come to get to this point, proud to be representing the club and proud to be Irish I guess.
We began to hear the waves moving through and began to move towards the start ourselves. Surround by thousands of people, the atmosphere was ridiculously upbeat and jokes about what else would you do with your Sunday emerged. Turned out many went to Mass the night before (only in Ireland) and really I felt that I should have went too but with an RE degree I was hoping I had a golden line direct to God or at least Granda had sorted something out with the big man on my behalf. After all he has been up there for 5 years!

With the start line in our sights there was only one thing left to do and that was to run 26.2 mile. A quick good luck kiss from Michael and a hug from Brendan and I watched the two of them head off together. And that’s it, me, myself and I for 26.2 mile. I had no idea what was ahead, I had no idea who I would meet, if anyone. I had a fear that maybe no one wanted to talk and I’d have to play all the games I had made up in my head to get me round. I knew though, that I had to keep following the people in front as I had no idea of the map or how I’d get back.

I had several plans of how to get around the course, so if one didn’t work I’d switch to another. Though all plans where built upon 1 single foundation. I was going to smile the whole way around. I may not be the fastest runner but boy I know how to smile.

So this is how it roughly went

Mile 1; Ok I’ll go with the crowd, after all within a few minutes we will break up and settle down more…oh look there’s Clare and not so wee Eddie. Nice wee starter boost to keep me going. Remember the plan Siobhan and stick to it.

Mile 2; oh that’s a wee hill, still going quite strong and out the side of my eye I catch the NCR colours and there’s Tara. I veer across the pack for a hug and run on. Ah ha! what goes up, must come down and heres the downhill. I’m still going a tad too quick though not overly beyond where I want to be. I’ll use this hill though as feeling ok.

Mile 3: Tap on the back and its Eddie, going great and water bottle in hand which I was glad to see. Making his way through the pack effortlessly as he works his way from wave 4. I swear though some of the wave 4 who got in by the lottery, where scary fast. That’ll teach them to leave entering to the last minute. I did feel a bit sorry for them as the energy they used to weave through the pack I’m sure was something they didn’t have to spare over the distance.

Mile 4: This is going quite well and I’ve a few minutes to spare in comparison to the 5.30hr wrist band I have on (they didn’t do any longer times). I hear shouting as we turn a corner and there’s Thomas flying by, I catch up with him to wish him good luck and to keep er lit. Ok the thought goes through my head, I’m not sure if I have anyone else due to come by, nope that’s it. Really on my own now. It’ll be a long 22 mile. By this stage I had barely exchanged pleasantries with the runners around me and started to doubt DCM as “the friendliest” marathon.

Mile 5; Into Phoenix Park now and being passed by a Minion. A bloody Minion! I guess I may just get used to this as you wouldn’t run a marathon in dress up unless you knew you had it in you to begin with, so go on ya good thing. In well under the hour and I can hear Selena telling me off (in my head obviously) that I am going way too fast and to remember my pace. However with the water bottles being green with yellow tops they blend into the grass and from a distance look like primroses lining the Avenue.

Mile 6; Lets face it if I keep this pace I will burn out before half way. If I was doing a 10k I’d be happy with this performance but as I cross the 10k mark I give myself a virtual slap as there is no way I can do this 4 times over. I rein her in and vow to stalk my watch. But 20 mile to go, I  know I can do this distance, just looking at it as a 6 mile warm up.

Mile 7; Feeling a bit more confident that I’ve slowed back. Plenty of water on route and happy to carry a bottle along with me. Into Castleknock  *I think* where the crowds where beyond fabulous! Between the music and support there was no way you couldn’t smile. Definitely the winners of the best support across the whole course.

Mile 8; And back into Phoenix Park, felt like I was back in Castlewellan at the lake. I was now in my head entering into lap 4 of the lake and feeling good. The weather was unseasonable mild but made for a lovely run through the woods so to speak. Pace has began to steady at my training pace thankfully.

Mile 9; You would have thought you where in Tollymore- flat course my ass. It was easy to spot the flat road runners and the trail runners a mile off. I remembered all my hill training and smile as I tooted up. I had fallen in with 2 Dubs and the craic was mighty. Strangely it was the first people I had talked with the whole race. And was to play cat and mouse with them the whole way to the finish line.

Mile 10; Came in on plan but knew I was capable of better. I wasn’t at all annoyed, I just knew that I have done better, but a few minutes wouldn’t kill me. I did know one thing, I needed to pee. That was a long mile after I decided to stop at the next portaloo.

Mile 11; Marathon Portaloo…oh sweet mother of God. It was minging. I was heaving but I had to go, so deep breath and emptied the bladder as I hoped not to throw up. Definitely the worst experience of the day. boke boke boke. Note to self, figure out exactly how much water I can take on board before I need to pee.

Mile 12; At this point I decided to play my ABC game. I was meant to be on letter L at this stage so a mile of what begins with the letter L, I knew I would hopefully be seeing some friendly faces by this point as Cheer Squad MAC was due on route and boy was I delighted as I spotted the banner high at the brow of the hill. It was 3 much needed hugs and support from Pat, Caitriona and Clare, who had been there a long time waiting on me as all the super speed MAC had passed long before me. But as I neared the half way point Caitriona was able to assure me I was on track and that I was going well. Stupid App tracking my every move.

Mile 13; Half way there. There was a sense of achievement and relief from the field, many, including myself, taking selfies and the sun shone down on the bright green makers. Encouragement from everyone saying we need to go and do the same again spread across the pack. I began employing more coping mechanisms. I was beginning to feel lonely so I checked in on the progress of everyone else on my tracker. Michael McKenna and Hugh where powering through and entering the last stage of the race. Michelle and Nicola right on point and a smile crossed my face as I wondered if Nicola had burst out crying on Joe yet. Eddie, Sean Looby and Sean Armstrong where putting in great times and there was Brendan and Michael at exactly the same point. The Bromance has made it to 18 mile together and I knew then that they would see each other through to the end of the race safely. I knew they wouldn’t leave each other in their final stretch. With everyone on point, I knew I didn’t have to check in again.

Mile 14; We passed by Crumlin Childrens Hospital. I was content in knowing everyone was doing well and that spurred me on. No need to sweep anyone up from the club but at this point I began to see more and more bodies at the side of the road. Between people stretching and those receiving medical attention I counted myself lucky that I was having a good day and sticking to pace and not busting myself (like I ever would anyway) nothing wrong with comfortable.

Mile 15; I met Sarah, we had passed each other  a few times but it wasn’t until now that we realised that we where going to spend a huge proportion of the next 11 mile together. We watched a man in bare feet running by and between us laughed at the thought of him slipping in dog poo.

Mile 16; I hit here just outside the 4 hour mark. I knew once I broke 16 I was going to be ok. I don’t know why, but I knew I could always find 10 mile. I had hoped to hit nearer 18 mile in 4 hours to allow for a cushion of 15min miles all the way home but I knew it wasn’t to be and that was ok. A few gels popped in the belt for later and delighted to see Michael McKenna hadn’t cleared the station and lined his own pockets leaving a few for the mere mortals like myself.

Mile 17; Still plodding along with Sarah and I hear my name being called. It was Young Young. Kieran shouted from the side lines and I was never so excited to see someone. I wasn’t expecting him, but the MAC mountain goat had pulled out all the stops to make it to Dublin and be in the 1 place where I was fading. It was the worlds best hug, ok I mobbed him but I couldn’t do anything else. I smiled from ear to ear and with that boost I powered on for the next two mile.

Mile 18; by now I had resorted to conversing with the supporters on route, with DJ booths about, I was powered by music. I was out on my first run and first marathon without my headphones. So although I have been reducing my dependency on them, it was liberating to know I was running fuelled by the crowd. Though I felt like I was on some special liquid diet with the gels and my stomach was beginning to become wishy washy and I feared that I might throw up. Though it was here that I received a shock revelation. A man running passed me “Rocky Road to Dublin, its your fault I’m doing this” seems the blog had gave someone an idea that Dublin was a good idea and he signed up. Travelling from across the water. He must have recognised the club vest and then my smiley happy face.

Mile 19; Saved by a water station which had a few bananas. Solid food is what I needed and that banana was like a steak. So plain, not sugar laced and mopped up the gel filled belly. I was soon sweeping around the corner and heard the music of the Born 2 Run team. A huge hug from Gerard to power me up and then I was joined by Jane and Carol as they accompanied me for another half mile. Providing jelly beans, a run down on how everyone else with the club was going and positive encouragement. Again full marks for the club support.

Mile 20; Met a few wee hills and was waiting in anticipation for Heart Break Hill at the next mile. I celebrated with Sarah that I had broken the milestone of furthest run ever and now I knew I’d have to find anything I had left to finish that last 10k. By now I had resorted to “uh haha” to pass the mile as I needed some sort of distraction. So I done what Dermot had asked of me, I kept on smiling and I focused on my breathing.
Mile 21; The mile that I wish never happened. Well this and mile 22. I was powerwalking quicker than I was running. I wasn’t ashamed but I just couldn’t find momentum in my running so I channelled my inner Collette and I power walked like there was no tomorrow. I don’t think I hit the wall as I was still in the game in my head but for that half hour- lap 9 of the lake was getting the better of me. I actually ran Heartbreak hill as I was powered by Faithless “insomnia” which is a staple on my playlist and the DJ belted it out.

Mile 22; I’ll be honest I have no idea what happened in this mile I was just so focused on keeping going and getting to 23 mile so I’d only 5k left. Anyone can do 5k right?

Mile 23; Right 3 mile to go, just a wee 5k. yeah after doing 37k before it not as easy as I have imagined it. Also Heartbreak hill wasn’t as heart breaking as the slip road off the dual carriageway! Here I met the man with the Effil Tower (what a nut job) Rather him than me. But between us all, we knew the end was near and that we were going do it.

Mile 24; I’m looking for the RDS, I am looking for 2 strong miles. The sub 6 hours is possible if I pull out 2 10k race pace miles. However the reality is I am so buzzing that I was going to do it that I forgot about time and want to just finish strong in the home straight. I fall in with 2 Belfast lads and they keep me paced and focused.

Mile 25; the RDS, right now, come on Siobhan you can do this, its just a mile.  Though I’m a lot more noticeable than I thought. One of the supports shouts “Murlough I recognise you, you finish strong, don’t stop now” I didn’t realise my finish was famous, so to speak. I see the 800m metre mark and pick up pace, I hear my name and there’s Pat and Caitriona, flag still flying. I just shouted to them “I’m about to finish a marathon, check me out” I was in disbelief.

Mile 26; I missed the 400m marker and I could see the line, the street lined with supporters, and runners as happy as can be. I see a marshall try to usher an imposter off the course and it was a bit distracting as it was right in front of me, but I focused my eyes on the finish line and went for a modest finish in the hope of a good finish line photo (not like me to be vein). I look up and see the time and just smile to myself and cross the line.I just completed a marathon! 26.2 mile. Mental!

I came across the line and walked towards the medal collection. I got a great hug off the medal man and held the bling in my hand. It was so much more than I had imagined. I was holding the medal I trained for, for 6 months. I, me, little old me, was in Dublin, had ran around it and earned it. There was no blood, but a lot of sweat and a hell of a lot of smiling. No tears. I collected my t-shirt and there at the exit, at the front was Michael and Brendan waiting for me. Such elation, I literally danced towards them. Oh my god it was just so unreal.

They had stuck together every step of the way and even waited for me together. As I heading into the baggage collection I had to stop and admire the medal. The Grant selfie happened and I motored on to collect my bag. As in my bag was the coveted Vodka and Diet Coke. I passed many of the participants I had ran with in the area and exchanged congratulations and hugs.
Though I spotted the legend who is Bootsy, about to get stuck into a can of beer and for once I was prepared to be part of some sort of gang and joined him for a drink in baggage. Probably a sign of what’s to come at Derry in June. Start as you mean to go on and all that.

Michael commented on how fresh I looked and how it took nearly an hour for him to come around afterwards whereas I was walking and talking as normal. But lets face it, I wanted to get to the pub and share the moment with everyone. We were met by Pat and Caitriona at the exit to the baggage and got proper hugs. I cant thank the two of them enough for giving up their day to travel to and around Dublin to support us all. Again I highlight how special it is to be apart of not just a club, but a part of Murlough AC.
I switched my phone on to see millions of messages and snapchats of support, even as everyone else in the club had finished, they continued to track me. As I walked into O’Donaghues I spotted Nicola and as we made eye contact you could see her eyes fill. After pulling out a fantastic PB she was visably moved by the occasion and I guess to see me, meant the Dublin 10 made it across the line alive. Surrounded by the MAC and neighbouring Newcastle AC crew, I stood proud with my medal and tshirt. The same medal and tshirt as those who came in under 3 hours, athletes who I stalk on race results to see how unreal they can put out times.

I couldn’t stop smiling. After a few drinks we headed back to get washed and fed. The usual post long run shower brought your attention to areas that needed more Vaseline. As small areas showed signs of chaffing but not on the same level as after Lisburn. So as I said earlier, you can never have too much Vaseline.

A quick change and we headed out for dinner. I should have been starving  but my eyes where bigger than my belly. But we headed to Eddie Rockets and massacred buffalo wings, a burger and chip. Polished off with an immense strawberry milkshake. The thought though of going out after soon passed and by 9 oclock we where back at the hotel and in bed.

So I woke this morning a marathoner. In disbelief, pinching myself to ensure it wasn’t a dream. Am I proud, extremely. I stood at the GPO this morning with my medal, I thought about the struggle of 100 years ago and the events that unfolded over the years. I fought my own battle, ok it didn’t result in huge political upheaval, or impact on the countries history, but I came through one of the toughest things you can put your body and mind  through in one piece and smiling, that’s got to stand for something. I thought about my Granda at length on the way round, which I do from time to time, and how he would have been so proud of me and would have loved the medal.

I was annoyed briefly that I didn’t make the sub 6 hours, but I know exactly what I need to change both in training and during the race. And its only 2 minutes, if I didn’t stop to pee I would have come in on point, with wet pants. But I loved nearly every minute of it. I never once faltered in my head or doubted that I wasn’t going to do it, I was just going to do it in my own time. Could I have dug deeper, of course I could have. But as the toll says on the road to Dublin, “Arrive Alive.” That was my main priority.
It gives me a bench mark. Will I come back, damn right I will. Am I scared to never run a marathon again, certainly not! I’ll not be turning them out every week but I may tackle one or two a year. A marathon is 90% mind and 10% physical fitness for sure. I have a plan now for the next 4 months after I recover from the marathon. But I will be quite content to run 10ks and halfs for a while.

But adding a disclaimer here as I know I might be a bit influential. Do not sign up to a marathon just because I made it seem fun. I didn’t find out about myself over the 26.2 mile, it was the training that built the relentlessness and I was born pure stubborn. I knew standing at the line that I had it, just didn’t have a sub 4 hour or anything like that. I knew mentally I had it, I just hoped and prayed that I my legs would have it too.

Tomorrow and everyday afterwards I will wake up a marathoner. A fantastic title that I can boast about forever. A quarter of a days work, for a lifetime of pride and achievement.

So next challenge has already been accepted. Derry Marathon in June. I am unbelievably honoured that Tony Barclay has asked me to be his guide for the event and lets face it I do think he is bonkers to think I’d get him around alive. So not one to pass up an opportunity, I will work on my guiding skills, after Running Blind turned out to be pretty iffy on the not letting someone get hit by branches front, I foresee a few 10ks and halfs spent with Tony in the coming months.
However for now, I am going to recover, I’ve been promised the week off from the gym and I’ll find a mile or 2 for a recovery run.

But I want you all to take away 1 thing from this round up. Believe in yourself and all that you are. Always know there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle, its just a matter of locating it and utilising it. And as I always told the kids in school…