…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.