Month: June 2017

High on a Hill – The Mourne Walking Festival 2017

High on a Hill – The Mourne Walking Festival 2017

So with Derry Marathon now confined to the memory bank, it was time to find myself again for a few weeks before launching into another marathon training phase.

Not one to stick with the mundane, I set myself a challenge on a whole new level. The Mourne Walking Festival. Lets face it, I love the mountains, I’ll never run in them but I do love getting lost in my thoughts as I trek my way over them, never walking the same step twice.

It might sound a bit odd that I would take myself off on a walking festival- sure is it not for retired people? WRONG! I arrived to be greeted by those who like me just wanted to get up the mountains. People from all over the country, from across the water in England, Belgium, Germany and even as far afield as the US.  It was very multicultural and with that came the mutual respect for everyones beliefs, values and a common goal to enjoy the experience.

Being my first walking festival I was feeling very out of my comfort zone surrounded by people I didn’t know and no idea what lay ahead in the coming days.

Day 1- Spelga over the Mourne Way to Rostrevor.

So after a cracker few weeks weather’s.. .the weather gods decided it would be perfect to open the heavens and let it rain.

Standing at Spelga it was minging. But the Mourne Way was calling and with a spring in my step I was off. It wasn’t long before I found myself surrounded by those who were my pace and unlike running, I was in the lead group.

  I am convinced that I couldn’t even get that wet in the shower. However the craic was mighty, the stories and journeys of those out enroute where interesting and as we came down of Rocky (the mountain that I had a few weeks earlier watched runners catapult themselves down) I knew the track ahead well having run it a few times, including in pitch black at the 26 Extreme 10k Night Race in January. 


With it being a mixed ability group we stuck together between the guides. But day one was done and that evening I had the best shower ever! 

Day 2 Carricklittle Annalong to Ott car park, Slievenaman Road.

So this was the big Challange of the weekend. Right across the heart of the Mournes from one end to the other. There was going to be some big climbs but as always I kept in mind what goes up must come down.

Day 2 started with seeing all those drier versions of the people I had spent the previous day with. The sun had come out and knowing the route I couldn’t wait to get to Binnian and look over the middle of the Mournes. By far my favourite mountain ever.

We set off and as the first hour passed the group split up into those who where out to walk and those who where out to walk and take in the views and photo’s. A natural split in the group was welcomed and as we sat on the side of Binnian overlooking Ben Crom eating lunch, I felt that mountain moment set upon me. I relaxed, I felt calm and counted myself lucky to be apart of this festival. I love how the mountains are able to do that to your mind.

Discovering the actual way down from Binnian to Ben Crom was a tick on my list of things I wanted to figure out but the descent was short lived as we began the ascent back up at the other side of the Dam on the approach to Doan. 

Over marshland we went, navigating the bog cotton, hidden trenches and rivers we arrived in what I would say is the heart of the mournes as we where surrounded by the main mountains associated with the Mournes. On the climb to Loughshannagh the sky was clear and the rain from the previous day had left the ground green and glowing. 

Adding on an additional 2 peaks to the original route was welcomed by me as we climbed Carn and Ott before descending onto the Slievenaman Road. 

Growing up at the other end of the the Slievenaman Road it made me think about why it took me so long to get up the mountains in the first place. Maybe having them as your back garden I took them for granted but finishing that day I knew that I’d be back on that route again soon. 

The walk was finished off with a cool bottle of locally brewed beer with thanks to Mourne Mountains Brewery.  Perfect end to the day.

Day 3 The Rostrevor end of the Mournes

There was a choice to go for as multi peak walk on the Sunday but I had enjoyed the weekend so much and with an impending half marathon in 5 days I opted for the moderate walk and this time I had brought along Michael for company.

Lesson learned…never take someone with fresh legs with you on the last day of a walking festival. He was motoring up the tracks and cross country mountains with ease and although my legs where still hanging in rightly. I was glad when he finally took the pace back and realised it wasn’t a race and more an experience. 

With some members of the group recovering from the blister ball the night before and others who had been by my side for the past few days. 

As we made our way from Ballintur to Knockshee across the skyline we could see Slieve Martin in the distance. Again another hill and Dale classic where I wondered what lay beyond Fiddlers Green that had runners looking so ruined on the way back down. Although the weather wasn’t as nice as the previous day, the ground was still tight and as we went up and over many smaller hills and mountains it was let’s say, refreshing. 

With views out into Carlingford Lough to one side and the whole collection of the Mournes to the other. We could see the Tors of Binnian, the scene of the previous days adventure. And across the way Slieve Gullion poked out from behind the Cooley mountains. 

As we descended down past Cloughmore stone and into Kilbroney I was saddened that after nearly 5000ft in elevation gain and over 20hours out in the mountains that the weekend was coming to a close. 

Of course we finished the day off with another cool one and toasted a successful weekend where new places where visited, new friends made and where I saw through a challenge which was not only tough going  but enlightening and restored peace in my mind and body. 

Remember that time is ticking on the chance to vote for me in the Dublin Rock n Run Idol competition. As always scroll to the bottom and vote for Siobhan Grant!

http://www.runrocknroll.com/dublin/rock-idol/

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The Walled City Marathon 

The Walled City Marathon 

Running a marathon is like the process of child birth. You sign up and think ‘I really want to do this’ hitting the confirmation button is like getting a positive on a pregnancy test. Mixed emotions of excitement and fear.

Then as you train you have your doubts in your ability to do this marathon and how you are going to cope. Just like the doubts you have during pregnancy about your abilities to get through labour and be a good parent.

Impending doom sets in as you know the big day is about to arrive and it’s going to happen. Holy shit what have I let myself in for and how is my body going to cope with this but everyone reassures you that you can do it…others have.

The big day arrives and off you set. Bits of it you feel you’ve got this in the bag and other bits you are having to mentally and physically push yourself to get through tough parts.

But you’ve started and you are going to finish, you’ve no other option. But you reassure yourself that you are NEVER ever doing this again. As you finish, a feeling of europhia washes over you and everything you’ve endured over the past few hours is worth it as they hand you your medal/baby. Yes your body hurts but you are amazed at what your body has just went through.

Yes your body has taken a beating but holding the achievement is priceless and totally worth it and you forget about the struggle you went through to get to this point – it is all irrelevant- you’ve survived against all odds.

Then not long afterwards you think ah I fancy another, forgetting everything you had to endure to get through it last time. But you go ahead and try for another. And the vicious circle starts again of ‘why the hell am I fecking doing this all again.’

So before I had even endured my first marathon I had agreed a week before hand to guide Tony at the Walled City Marathon in June. Because that’s what you do when you haven’t been through the Labour of marathon day.

Knowing Derry was hilly and that I would be in great company, I thought why the hell not. I was honoured he even wanted to spend 26.2 mile with me when he could have chosen any one else. So that was me crossing the line at DCM knowing I’d to do it all again in June.

So the whole marathon cycle started again. Long miles, aches and pains, maranoia, then the reality hit, shit I’ve got to do this all over again AND make sure I don’t kill Tony in the process.

So what happened in Derry?

Having “trained” for VLM with Brenda and then getting stuck straight into the big miles for Derry, I was well ready to take on the big one. 6 months of exhausting miles all lead to this point. As I packed for 4, someone has to sort the kids out too, I was feeling optimistic that I was ready for this. I hadn’t suffered the same level of panic and maranoia that I had done for DCM. Only having one minor melt down the previous week as the magnitude of the situation set in. I was confident in my abilities to guide run. Tony is a pleasure to run with and I am always at ease when running with him.

After a gentle walk on Saturday morning around the Lake with Lauren on her brief trip home, the kids got left at Grannys as Michael, Brenda, Caitriona and myself set off for the North West. Arriving at our apartment we were greeted by fantastic views and comfort. Definitely a winner on the accommodation front. We set off to Foyleside to pick up our packs. Where we met the main man himself. It was lovely to catch up with Tony in person before hand and also made explaining to the people that I was his guide and needed a t-shirt!

Ok I was a bit miffed I didn’t get an official number but as I am sure the EAMs guys will confirm, I had the fear that I was not going to get “the medal” under the no number/no medal t&cs. However I knew that they wouldn’t dare try to not give me one, they gave me a t-shirt after all. Though it was nice to have a wee rant about it!

We headed back to get ready for an early dinner where we would be meeting MAC speedy man- Alan Johnson for a pre race catch up. It was nice to have a relaxing meal and some craic with him and Hilda. Alan was as uncertain as the rest of us about what WCM was going to produce. Being the clubs best runner by a long shot, he was feeling the same emotions as me who is twice as slow as him. This is what I love about sharing running with such a mixed field of abilities. No matter how hard we train, no matter how much we are ready for something, everyone from 1st place to last place, deals with the same emotions.

An early night followed but I watched every hour on the clock go by. I was relieved to see 5am on the clock knowing it was human then to get up and ready. Between the four of us we had a can do attitude and just wanted things to get underway. Meeting Alan and Tony at the bus stop meant we all went together to the start.

Arriving at the Everglades Hotel, hoards of people gathered. Toilet queues where long but the atmosphere was buzzing. I loved the whole start line buzz, meeting those from races gone by, the first timers, the hard core and of course the MAC crew. With 10 of us toeing the line, it was lovely to have that support.

As 8.30 neared, everyone gathered at the start line. We remembered those who aren’t with us any longer, Martin McGuniness and Andy ‘Tick Tock’ Califf both great ambassadors and supporters of the event. It was poignant and emotional. As I stood at the front (yes in front of everyone) I tried to hold back the tears. I was overwhelmed by the whole atmosphere. Here I was ready to lead off a marathon.

It wouldnt be a marathon without a photo with Bootsy 

For 300m we lead the race, receiving cheers of support along the road. I did feel really self conscious but I knew it wouldn’t be long before nearly everyone else in the marathon would take over us.

You heard it coming towards you, the galloping of runners pounding the tarmac. It was frightening to say the least. And there they were, the lead group of 4 striding past. Next thing I heard was “Keep ‘er lit Siobhan” It was Alan chasing up the lead group. Holy shit was my reaction in fairness.

The first few mile were brilliant. There was the expected abuse from John O’Neill as he questioned Tonys ability to still hear running beside me. Sean give a wave as he passed, Michael dropped past to share some love, pretty much everyone from the running community gave us a shout and a hello. The craic was mighty. Also having the marathon mad ladies of Paula, Jackie and Linda come past made it all the more merrier.

The lead group passed us at about my 2.5 mile point, I was counting. 1,2,3,4…wee break 5,6,7,8,9, ALAN!! Go on Alan, he even managed to wave! On the turn at 3 mile, we came across Bill who was settling in nicely to the run with friend Tommy. As we descended down the hill, there was Caitriona and Brenda. Everyone was moving and still smiling.

I was feeling comfortable, nice steady pace, plenty of support along the way and as the groups thinned out and we settled more, we approached the city again. A steep descent to under the Craigavon bridge and out towards the countryside we went.

This is where the hard work began. A steady 1.11 10k was quicker than I wanted but Tony and I were having so much fun and laughing so much that it didn’t bother me much that I was a few minutes in front of planned pace. Then the climbs began, one after another. There was idiotic drivers who couldn’t read that the road was closed and we had a few near misses and the opportunity to literally shout in through one of their windows that they were idiots.

If a photos spoke a 1000 words..this is it.

As we headed towards 10 mile, we met the Ballymena ladies who spent 2 laps of Knockagh with me, Allison, Mairead and myself debated the prospect of 3 laps next time. Who in their right mind discusses Ultra attempts during a marathon. But here girls, I’ll be there!

We picked up a lonely runner as we approach the water station at 10 mile. Lorraine who had travelled up from Drogheda & District AC to do the marathon became a constant over the next 8 mile. Her laugh, her smile, her outlook on life was refreshing and she stayed with us along the lonely tow path back into town.

It was here my race fell apart. 10 mile came in around 2 hours, I was headed for a strong half time. Something began to niggle me. By 13 mile I was walking, I had got hit by cramp and I feared this could be it. I was so angry as well as perplexed. I had done everything by the book, I took plenty of water on board during the early stages, I had ate and drank well in the run up, so why was I cramping? Caitriona had made up ground on me by this point and pushed on ahead. I was delighted to see her pushing on, as far as first marathons go- this wasn’t the easiest. At the 14 mile gel stop one of the marshals got stuck into the leg and did what she could. Lorraine had assured me that her club mates had a bag with ibruphen gel, after the first aid guys had feck all. So I made it alive to meet the happiest bunch of supporters ever. I got hugs and love from these strangers and of course the all important gel to ease my leg. It was the power up I needed.

We set off to take on the Limavady Road and I could feel the cramp begin to ease. However Tonys promise that it was flat once we got to the bridge, was all a lie. Never trust a blind man! Not like he could see what he was at 2 years ago either! I could have killed him. After leaving behind the hugs and support from the Born2Run crew, the ascent began. God it was just constant and hardly flat! I train in amongst the hills and this was just a nightmare. I kept saying what goes up must come down. And eventually it did.

As we turned down into the housing estate to rapturous applause it was followed by rain drops as big as tennis balls. “Its only up the path a mile to the Peace Bridge” as the rain saturated the ground not taking time to come down. A mile my ass, it went on forever. At 18 mile we found Caitriona again who had hit the wall. Egging Lorraine on and reminding her she would always have us behind her, she picked up pace and took on the last 8 mile on her own. For me at this stage I knew running wasn’t going to happen. I had tried but my leg was not playing ball.

For 10 mile I had fought it but I knew I was lucky enough to be able to walk at a respectable pace and just put my head into “out on the mountains” mode. At the Peace Bridge I felt a sense of calm wash over me. Crossing it I knew I had 6 mile left in me and I would get there. Coming off the bridge we spotted Linda, followed by Jackie for a quick cheer!

Along the water front we went and into the Industrial Estate where for the first time in the whole race I was faced with my first experience of the day of feeling like a 2nd class runner. Not a marshal to be seen, no route mapped out and we had no idea what to be at. We just looked at each other in disbelief and continued moving; hoping and praying we were going the right way.

There was a Lucozade station, unmanned. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. At the exit to the industrial estate stood more than 10 people, yes they cheered us on but it made me wonder where they not meant to be out there directing people?

With 3 mile to go, it was only a Parkrun to go. A Parkrun nonetheless on pavements as they had opened the roads. Now I am very lucky that Tony is a confident runner and we navigated the pavements well. But it was a kick in the teeth after the events in the industrial estate. We endured a mile of that before turning in to zig zag through the city to the finish line. And as we approached the Free Derry corner, I knew what lay around the corner, THAT hill.

I had refused to get any indication to what it was elevation wise, I had climbed Binnian in training, a tarmac hill was not going to scare me. As we swung round the corner we were greeted by the now rightly named “White Kenyan” Alan and Hilda who ran/pushed/encouraged us up the hill. I knew Caitriona was struggling but I was pushing up the hill like my life depended on it, after this it was downhill and flat to the end. As we entered into the Diamond, tears rolled down her face. I wasn’t sure if it was the sheer overwhelming feeling of making it up the last obstacle or the fact the end was near or a mixture of both, but as Tony grabbed both our hands I felt it too.

I felt so responsible for not only Tony in that moment. Caitriona was here at mile 25 because of me. I had talked her into not only this but all the other mad miles and here we were, together, about to finish her first marathon. I knew she had cursed me up and down throughout the marathon, maybe not always verbally but she must have. It was emotional. As shouts of 500m to go and then spotting the finishing tunnel, the reality hit, we survived.

The green carpet glowed in the distance and although the crowds had dispersed and I had had a stinker of a run, I was about to cross the line with the only 2 people in the world I would want to share this moment with. Picking up pace, we smiled as we crossed the line. Would have loved to have seen the picture but the race photographer had fecked off by then. Ok not captured in picture but forever captured in my heart which is priceless.

As we finished getting our hands on that bling, there was Lorraine and all her supporters to share in the post race relief. Everyone was buzzing.

Atthe end with Lorraine 

I looked back down to the finishing line and I saw people begin to dismantle it, hello, we still had Brenda out there! Cue Siobhan style rant at the organisers and ensuring that finish line stayed up. Brenda would finish, there was no doubt about that and she deserved to finish the same as everyone else, only she got a finishing photo as I took it!

Its been a long road for the 3 of us the past 6 months. Training with Brenda for London, seeing her first 13.1, watching her kick ass in London, back to the training to get ready for WCM. We deserved our moment on the finishers podium and we enjoyed it.

Cue the celebrations…

After party at City Hotel

Regrouping…wouldn’t be a marathon without also sharing a drink with Bootsy

OK, don’t shout at me again Tony. I was disappointed in myself on Sunday. I knew I had trained to be better than 6.09. I knew I had more to give and Tony deserved to have a better race with my help.

However that’s marathons for you, eggs all in one basket. Sometimes you crack them, in my case I dropped the stupid basket. I still finished, I still have marathon number 2 completed and I enjoyed my time out on course and getting to share in other peoples journeys around the 26.2 mile. There is always other marathons, on other days, maybe even go back to Derry next year and give the course the assault I had hoped to.

Getting out on Monday night with Dermot and the beginners at The Running Coaches for 2.5 mile, reminded me why I love running. I love it because I can. I can run, I can keep going until I get there. I have made so many amazing friends because of running and it has brought me to places physically and mentally that I never thought I would ever be.

Marathon #2 in the bag…DCM17 I am coming for you!

 Other very important highlights 

 Michael gets himself another 2 minute personal best of 4.32

Got to hang out with Peter who I picked up in DCM and welcomed and looked after us in his home city!

Jennifer and Michael waiting in the only place for me…the pub 

 The White Kenyan … Alan Johnson. Who earned himself a 9th place finish overall in 2.46. A superb, unbeleiveable and an ‘eggs all in 1 basket’ assualt on Derry/Londonderry/Walled City Marathon 😉