I’ll be honest I wasn’t too nervous about any of it.
Half Marathon- done a few of those.
Guide running – I’d certificate in that.
Putting up with company the whole way round – a perfect combination for a long run.
I met Tony away back in July at Cookstown Half whilst I was finding the race tough. He literally held my hand and got me through mile 7 and 8, sending me on ahead to ‘pace’ him to the end. I got a 4 minute pb that day and I’m sure it was all down to his belief and support. From there a friendship blossomed. I took on the 10k at Running Blind highlighting that I was a terrible guide as Michael ended up in a few trees.
Then just before Dublin Tony asked if I fancied doing Derry with him. I’d yet to even make it round 26.2 mile but I was blown away that out of all the people in the world he could have asked, he asked me. So always up for a challange I agreed and so began my venture into guide running.
I completed the Athletics NI guide running course in addition to my Lirf course and just in case got me my first aid certificate. Can never be too prepared says me.
Making my way through the Guide running course
Looking at the race schedule I knew we would be pushed for events to practice running together and Larne Half came up. Perfect, however with the event selling out Larne AC where super accommodating and the two of us had the green flag to run together.
With the weather indicating a complete wash out we travelled tentatively to Larne as clear skies and lack of rain followed us. With Michael having to stay at home with the kids it was me and the girls destined for 13.1 mile together.
I have to admit I love how within the last year between Caitriona, Brenda and myself that we’ve racked up some serious milage and didn’t even flinch at the thought of another half marathon even if we are forever the other end of the ‘MAC sandwich’ when it comes to results
Team MAC at Larne
The girls had pre race gitters whereas I was in search of a blind man. As the hall filled at Larne Leisure centre I began to wonder where Tony had gone. He knew I was here as we were thankfully early but where was he! I kept circling the place just in case I’d missed him. Thankfully I got a call and he was outside with all his County Antrim Harriers team mates. This was it…game on!
As the race got underway we waited for the majority of runners to pass before joining the madness. Caitriona and Brenda passed and we followed in behind.
The first 2 mile of the course was lined with spectators. The atmosphere was buzzing as around us there were those taking on their first half marathons, crossing the line to taking the first steps into a new distance. As for me it dawned on me as we passed the start line that ‘crap I’ve to run a half marathon and guide run.’
It’s not like I didn’t notice I was attached to Tony, but with the reality of having to run and then be sure I was taking in and sharing everything happening around me was overwhelming.
I spent the first mile at Tony’s pace just to see how things panned out after the first mile. Surrounded by the familiar faces of those from other races and exchanging the usual pleasantries. It seemed that Tony was running royalty in his own right. Everyone knew him and as we cruised through Larne town centre and he encouraged spectators to join us. This wasn’t the last time he’d invite people to join us.
Picking up randomers, the Craic from Derry in the form of Peter
As we made our way out to coast the sun shone down on us. Possibly a terrible weather trick before the flood of rain arrived but it showcased how beautiful the route was. At 3 mile I looked down at my watch. By now the Pack fallen into it set order and we were comfortably motoring along. Comfortably…I had just blew my time trail time out of the water. I could believe it. Although we had slowed down bit it wasn’t sore or too much effort. I then got the head up and headed for the 10k point.
As we began to pass the runners on their return leg it was clear we where headed for a strong time. When I saw 1.09 10k on the clock I knew I’d over 9 minutes advantage over my first half marathon time and relaxed into the second half of the race.
By now Tony and I had worked out each other. 2 kindred spirits out for the craic and a few mile. It was lovely to find out more about him and share many times of laughter and many times of sadness. I run for the journey and what I learn along the way. So between cheering on others and getting there ourselves, it was a mighty race.
The weather continued to hold and it began to heat up. At 10 mile the blister that Tony first detected at 7 Mile was becoming an issue. With procrastination and history of running shoes it was decided that a run walk to the end was the only way we’d get there. Let’s be honest it’s the best way to get there.
Crossing the line to the familiar faces of runners right across the board we clocked a decent 2.48. And when you look at it, that was 5 minute quicker than my venture out at Carlingford 2 weeks previous so was delighted.
I am really looking forward to Derry Marathon now. It’s going to be the best quarter of a day of my life and lucky me that I get to share it with Tony.
Guide running is like running with a mate and being stuck with them the whole way. I didn’t suffer in anyway from additional post race pains and it was a great 13.1 mile.
Team MAC had outdone themselves again and with a rake of pbs to boot everyone had a great race.
Although only a small contingent of the club ran Larne, it was lovely to cross the line to all but 1 of them for post race support. It’s that which makes being part of a club- worth it.
Hugging Tony goodbye for the second time in 2 days after he accompanying Michael the day before at Craic I knew I’d see him the next day as he went for his 3 in 3 at the EAMS event. I reflected on the way home about my running journey so far and what opportunities that it have afforded me.
Always a great believer in inclusion myself I never knew running would allow me to explore that further and be able to be useful to someone. Over the 3 race days I shared the events with not only Tony and Peter his VI friend but also Team Kerr who have been at the forefront of inclusion in running in NI with son Aaron through an assisted wheel chair. Just showing that running is an option for many and that there are people willing to support and event organisers who will do what they can to make their events fully inclusive to all.
A huge thank you to Tony for last weekend at Larne. Here’s to the best 26.2 mile of our lives in June.
Couldn’t be any luckier to have met this man on a dodgy country road in Cookstown in July . 💗