Author: rockyroad2dublin

Being taken up the Knockagh backwards – A tale of my first Ultra 

Being taken up the Knockagh backwards – A tale of my first Ultra 

Limits…everyone wonders where their limits are. I know I prefer a mild curry but I like my baths very hot. How far can I push myself running was something I’d never thought about much. 

Still quite a baby within the running community, this time 2 years ago I could barely run a tap never mind a mile. Yet after only 2 marathons I found myself flirting with the idea of a 50k.

So quick rewind. As part of Brendas London training we took part in East Antrim Marathon Series or EAMS as better known, Knockagh Challenge. It was more the appeal of a medal for a 20 mile training run that drew us in and the flawless reputation of their events. Smaller more intimate event but great bling and super supportive. What’s not to love. 

Mile 16 of the April Knoackgh Challenge with Brenda 

In short these are the stats of this particular route:
10.3 mile a loop

900 ft elevation each loop

Choice of 1,2 or 3 loops

Big ass hill leading to a monument 

2 laps in April was everything I had imagined the race to be. Yes the elevation was tough but we had a blast and was cemented as one of the best races of the year. I even took a small obsession with finding various Knockagh-likes on training runs.

Top of Slieve Martin, Rostrevor 

I had guided Tony round Derry Marathon and we had talked during the run about teaming up again in the future. The return of the Knockagh challenge was one that I had said I’d happily join forces with him again whenever it rolled round. Well I didnt have long to wait. 2 weeks post Derry marathon ..whispers of a return of Knockagh where heard for the end of the summer.

Derry Marathon June 2017

It was almost immediate when word went live, that up popped the message on messenger. Tony didn’t waste anytime and with it being so close to Derry I still had the miles in my legs so ramping up the miles in training would be safe enough and managable. So when the question of 1,2 or 3 laps appeared…it was no contest 3 laps it was.

So I had until August 19th to get my ass in gear and attempt my first Ultra, roughly 6 weeks. I kept it to myself for a few weeks though. The girls had followed suit to tackle the Knockagh but once 2 x 20 milers appeared on Strava in quick succession I had to admit what I was training for. 

I had plans this summer to work on my 10k and half time so this wasn’t really in the plan. Yet amongst intervals and better structured training I managed to get my 10k down another 3 minutes. I was beyond ecstatic to even manage 5.5 minutes off my half time at Rock n Roll the week before Knockagh. A testament to how hard I had been working between the crazy long runs. 

The day was soon upon us and using her brain to make a sensible call, Caitriona dropped to the 2 laps. Brenda and Jennifer had their hard hat’s on and where going to go the full distance too.

With a 5am start on Saturday morning we arrived with plenty of time to spare. Nerves where high. I had my own mini meltdown on Wednesday about the event but didn’t let onto the girls that I was suffering acute maranoia. Afterall this was technically my bright idea and I’d to be strong for us all. However once we got out of the car and got mixed up amongst the participants I relaxed and had a very much ‘nothing I can do about it now’ attitude.

I looked up and there is was. The Knockagh Monument towering over Greenisland. I aimed to visit it 3 times over the coming hours. A message from the wise man to take my time with no silly messing at the start and ease into it, brought me firmly back to earth. What was I doing? You fecking eejit Siobhan! So with the plan being to arrive alive each lap. I didn’t think in distance and embraced the only way I know how to run which is to smile and count the laps. 

Tony arrived and although I was accused of being too full of beans for the start of the days proceedings, he knew he was stuck with me for the next 31 mile. 

EAMS had kindly suggested that the resident “Knockagh Knuts” lead off the race. So there was Tony and I about to set everyone off on their days adventure. After a chilled, animated briefing we were on our way. 

8.30am as everyone took to the line

Lap 1 was relaxed. The weather had been kind and although a tad windy it was refreshing and cooling. Being a clockwise course it meant that Tony, who prefers to run to my right, was to the inside of the paths. This meant only one thing, brambles, nettles and brackens. I admit,I missed a few to warn him about but considering I am a bit shorter and they didn’t reach my head I’m easily forgiven. Though I am sure there were a few bad stings that I swear I couldn’t avoid. I ran along a grass verge and on the road at times to ensure I didn’t have him running in the ditch itself. 

We had agreed to tackle this as a team. We had welcomed Susan with open arms into the team knowing she was of the same pace and she had also hoped to take on a marathon the next day in Letterkenny. At that she was more than mad enough to be hanging with us. 

The turn to the climb was soon upon us in the 2nd mile. Up, up and up it went. Then it got steeper and steeper. Forever in the shadow of the Knockagh Monument as it looked down on us laughing at how silly it must have thought we were. 

The whole team together on the approach to Monument Road.

That last turn was heaven, one more push got us to a gentle incline followed by a banana like down and up. As we picked up pace again we were soon welcomed by the 2 most amazing marshals to ever grace any race. Lorraine and Michael were there for the duration and offered hugs, encouragement and an array of goodies. This fuelled us for the final climb to the monument. Meeting others as they descended was filled with encouraging and supportive words which is always fantastic to hear. 

And there it was… Knockagh. Looking out onto Belfast Lough the sun shone for miles around. Doing the obligatory lap of the monument I had forgotten how beautiful and peaceful it was up there and how God damn big the thing was. 

The big lump of stone on top of the hill

But knowing we were coming back 2 more times we set off on our way. The team firmly together as we made our way to the corkscrew bends. Definitely Knockagh clockwise is a nicer way than the anticlockwise direction. Even on the downhill the corkscrew goes on forever! 

As we made our way back to the road we began to spread out. Probably safer. Tony, Susan and Myself close together as we made the final stretch to the start/finish line. We arrived at the checkpoint and as I stopped I felt it. I couldn’t believe it. My bloody right leg began to cramp. Stopped too suddenly maybe, I don’t know but thanks to the paramedics on site I had half a can of deep heat sprayed on me and I had to get going again as quick as possible. So we were forced to leave Jennifer, Brenda and Caitriona behind and off the 3 of us set off. 

It wasn’t long before Jennifer caught us just before the bend. But I felt my leg ease or maybe it was the can of coke kicking in but I took on the hill the second time like a woman on a mission. I’d my mountain head on and I was not going to let a hill defeat me. It was here I had a very humbling moment. We had begun to be passed by those on their 3rd lap. With 10 more miles completed than us, I was amazed to see them stop to walk parts of the hill. These are marathon runners who run 6 minute miles on normal runs being reduced to walking on the hill. I did look upon it as a way to conserve energy but it was reassuring to see that those who were leading the pack had similar tactics just a lot quicker. 

By now my race stories had become deep and meaningful. Reaching the half way point at Knockagh, Tony took me to the edge of the grass to let me see over the drop. I’m not a fan of heights and knew there was a sheer drop there. But I was tackling an Ultra – I was fit to embrace the height. 

As we reached 18 mile I was comfortable, had found my groove and poor Tony had to listen to Susan and Myself swap motherhood stories and remedies. In the distance there were dark clouds. The weather had said there would be showers but these clouds were nasty looking.

As we approached the final half mile to the end of the 2nd lap, rain began to fall. Of course this lead to the ground being wet and me totally missing a mud pile after a footpath, nearly losing Tony as he slipped. I really am a terrible guide on open roads. Quick reaction meant he stayed on his feet but I was sure I had hurt him. Though being the man he is, he ran on saying he was fine and didn’t tell me until after the race he had pulled something in his knee. As we reached the end of the lap the heavens opened. Thankfully it was a short, sharp shower and soon gone.

Before lap 3 Susan had gave me some magic magnesium spray for my legs which was unbelievable. It instantly loosened my legs and I was ready for lap 3. No sign of the girls behind. I took on what I could stomach in solid food. I was heading for marathon distance and beyond this lap. 

I was lucky to welcome Gillian (first lady home) and Stephen (strava buddy) across the line before setting off on my final lap. Time wise I was doing ok. Second lap was a bit slower than the first but I put that down to the pull of the other runners in the first few miles in lap 1. 

Off I went on lap 3. My legs were fuelled by magic spray and knew this was it. Even if I had to crawl I was going to do it. And surprise, the hill was still there. Looking a lot more steeper and higher than before. I am so grateful for my trips up the mountains, they served me well. Tony was great and my wee legs managed to keep up with his long strides. We lost Susan on the climb but knew she’d never be too far behind. 

Oh my god my legs were in bits at the top of the hills. I don’t know if it was a thank God that hills done but knew marathon distance wasn’t far away and as we met marshals extrodinaires at the bottom of Monument Road we where 1 hill away from 26.2.

Hitting marathin distance

Saying goodbye to Knockagh 1 more time was a relief. The steps back to the road where the hardest part of that lap no joke. As we descended back down we passed Susan followed by Jennifer and her colourful language and greeted by a positive and smiley Brenda who we met at 26.2 on the nose. 

Stephen and Gillian had come up in the car with beer on offer. In fairness if I had accepted, that would have been me. My body would have shut down thinking it was party time post marathon. So politely declining we used the downhill to take on the final 5 mile.

Excitement came over me at 27 mile that I was actually going to do this. My body was beginning to wonder why it wasn’t at the pub as per normal marathon tradition. We had been met by Tonys team mates for his next big challenge the PAT 2018, Pete, Matthew and Janice up on the bikes with Pete on the tandam piloted by Matthew. It was a great boost.

 By this stage Tony was sure I should write a book on my life as he thinks I’ve some worthwhile stories to tell from my past. Both entertaining and enlightening. We had some lovely moments on those final miles. Just me, him and road in front. Both of us about to achieve something people would have deemed impossible for us both. Making dreams a reality and showing the world there are no barriers, it’s just finding a way to get around them.
Mile 28 saw my legs begin to protest. I felt a blister pop on my right foot and knew this was going to take all the positivity I had to get to the end. Obviously if I had trained harder over a longer period of time I wouldn’t have had this minor struggle but my body was in uncharted territory and it knew it. 

Yet it wasn’t long before we were preparing ourselves for the home straight. The medics had been past to check on us and informed the finish line of where we were. And there waiting at the line I saw Caitriona popping her head out to see us coming, Wallace Tonys guide dog, Emma Tonys fabulous wife and a number of the EAMS team and runners. 

I have been so happy to see a finish line

We crossed the line, hand in hand to rapturous applause. I couldn’t believe it. It was the best hug I’ve ever had. I didn’t want to let go of Tony. We had done it. 31 mile/50k/a lot of hill.

In amongst the haze I wanted to ensure I had clocked over 50k so took myself for a short third of a mile recover run to push the numbers up. Yes everyone thought I was mental. But I needed that minute to gather myself and my emotions. 

I arrived back and text Michael followed by checking in with those on Snapchat awaiting my finish photo. Tony got mobbed by Wallace and I stood in disbelief. An Ultra marathoner. That’s me.

What people don’t realise is that I had more than determination and madness driving me through the miles.  This day 5 years ago I made a phonecall that was to turn my life upside down and inside out. From here I broke into little pieces and began to build myself into the person I am today. Against the odds and losing a lot of people who I thought cared, I fought for justice and had my day where I was proven right and a burden eased (I would say lifted but the past never goes away).

I found running in my journey to find who I was and it was so appropriate to cross that line at 50k when I did. A true indication of how far I’ve come in the past few years and the how I didn’t have anything or anyone holding me back.

As I pretty much ate everything in sight, Susan crossed the line and had picked up the two lads, Ivan and Ronnie, out on course to accompany her through the final miles. 
It wasn’t long before we welcomed Jennifer and Brenda. Smiling together they crossed the line and hugs where aplenty. I feared that I was being cursed up and down that Knockagh by them. Brenda not so much..she knew what she was in for but definitely sure Jennifer had lots of choice thoughts for me. 

So here we are…Ultra Runners. Jennifer marking her 10th marathon and Brenda going from 10k in January to Ultra in 8 months. Unbelievable stuff. I’m so proud of everyone. I think you need some sort of crazy idea radar as we’ve seriously pushed the boat out this time.

Whats the next challenge planned… is what I keep getting asked. Well nothing I haven’t done before- DCM17 where all the madness began last year. For now though I’m resting my wee legs, showering my feet with love and I’ll get back to proper training for the marathon once I’m fully recovered.

I’ll wake up everyday for the rest of my life an Ultra runner. However the reality is I’ll forget somedays what I’ve achieved after all its just a very long run. Guaranteed though everyday I’ll be woken by my kids, who although don’t understand what I’ve achieved, will someday be proud of how far I’ve actually ran. Proving to them that they can achieve anything they can dream of. And that alone is an invaluable lesson to be taken from being taken up the Knockagh … 3 times… backwards.

A huge congratulations to Susan Dixon on completing not only 50k on Saturday but also on getting up the next and completing a marathon. Just unbelievable. 
Thanks to everyone for all the photos especially Lorraine and Simon from Seapark AC. Just lovely to have the day also in pictures. 

On the road to 50k 

On the road to 50k 

Lock me up now. I am now one of those runners where distance doesn’t scare me anymore. This time last year I was beginning to build my miles for Dublin City Marathon, venturing into milages above 13.1 for the first time ever. Fast forward and here I am about to tackle my first 50k.

Again I have no idea really why I am doing it. Obviously I bent the fine line between madness and the craic yet again. After Derry I knew I had more to give. I let myself down (and Tony) due to 1 minor flaw in the build up to the event in my prerace prep- only myself to blame. Yes I got round it and never gave up but it’s haunted me the past 2 months. I’d worked for a better time and I knew it wasn’t a reflection of what I was capable of. So my attentions turned to DCM 17 and I sorted out the training plan and got focussed. Aim number 1 to knock my 10k time out of the water by the end of July and by the time Rock n Roll came round to get a my half time down.

A few weeks after Derry as I was beginning to embrace speed training there was whispers of the Knockagh Challenge coming back. Brenda and myself had tackled 2 of the 10.3 mile loops in April for her VLM training. It was the best run of the year. It was brutal but the support from fellow runners to get round it and up and down 900ft of elevation each lap was vital. It was also helped by the smooth running and invaluable support of the EAMs crew round each lap. 

Then the post went up. Knockagh was coming back in August and offering the same choice of 1,2 or 3 laps. It would have been rude to not sign up. Though the voices in my head started. Why do 2…sure you could do a 3rd. It’s only 5 more mile than a marathon. You were well able for a 3rd in April. Afterall when are you ever going to get a bash at an Ultra. I knew in my heart it wouldn’t take much to sway me. 
Cue a message on Facebook.

 “You going to Knockagh, would you mind me tagging along?’ It was Tony. This was my opportunity to pay back the million sorrys from Derry. It was another person to add to the ‘team’ on the day. A strong, supportive and encouraging one at that. It was a no brainer agreeing to guide him round. 

So Siobhan 10,20 or 30? 

Sure why not let’s go for the 30! (What is wrong with me?)

And here we are. Of course it wasn’t long before Brenda was signing up…like me she loved the day at Knockagh and even though she knew what was ahead she was all over it. Caitriona was reluctant to follow suit but after about 10minutes she gave in to joining for a lap or 2 and the team grew.

It took some subtle work on Jennifer to come round to the idea but soon we had her thinking about embarking on the challenge. This is going to make it her 10th Marathon and 1st Ultra in one. Quite poetic if you ask me!

Ok the girls are blaming me for all this where I am blaming EAMs for presenting the opportunity to me lol 

I have worked hard the past 2 months, yes you can always work harder but I had for the first time – structure. However I achieved the aim of a 10k PB knocking 3 minutes off my time at the end of July, the same week I had clocked up 50k in training including a 20 miler on the Monday. 

I’m just back from taking nearly 6 minutes of my half marathon time in Dublin so things have been falling into place as per the plan.

The Challange of the Knockagh was daunting until that first 20 miler. I knocked over 15 minutes off my time for the same route 8 weeks previously proving to me that Derry was solely a bad day and not the fact I thought I could do better. After that 20 on one of the hottest days of the year, I had a new lease of life come over me and the game face was well and truly on.

I put in solid training and with the support of the girls over the next 20 miler 10 days later I was feeling in control and strong. It’s amazing what a good run can do for you. I do have to offer a lot of the success to the fact the kids where in various summer camps. This gave me the opportunity in the mornings to get stuck in and the weather has been  kind to me. Weekly sessions torturing the girls at intervals also proving to be effective. 

So here I am in recovery from a tight run on Sunday in Dublin and I’m free from any form of maranoia or fear about the run on Saturday. I know it’s not going to be easy, I know I’m venturing into the unknown in the distance stakes but I’m comforted knowing I won’t be doing it alone. 

Ok don’t get me wrong it wasn’t part of the actual plan post Derry but aren’t I lucky that I am able to actually even believe that this is possible and that I hopefully can do it? A distance like this was something totally unachievable 2 years ago. Even this time last year I’d have laughed at the suggestion. 

So roll on Saturday. It’ll take me a while that’s for sure but I’ve yet to give up and I’ve got a fantastic team of equally crazy people surrounding me on the day and in the wings and for that I’m blessed.

Leaving It All On The Road

Leaving It All On The Road

It’s funny how even though your focus is elsewhere in running, you still wonder why you haven’t achieved what you should have.

Ok it’s pretty obvious I don’t like shorter races. I’ve found myself quite content within the bigger miles. I’ve even caught myself saying yeah it’s only 13 mile. ONLY! What is wrong with me…thats a very long way. However not doing shorter races left me wondering what I was capable of over 5 and 10k in a race situation.

Cue 26 Extremes, Women’s Mini Marathon. It was the 10k race I did last year before beginning my climb in miles for DCM16 so you could say I was in 10k race fitness then. It had been the 4th time that year that I had clocked a 1.09 and the illusive 1.08.59 never happened. So I left 10ks behind and seemingly never returned to them.

I did plenty in training and did do both the Mourne Way Night 10k which was a serious bit of craic and then Newry 10k guiding the hippo but they weren’t races as such. 

I have spent the past month or so working hard in intervals and on the hills in amongst ridiculous miles as I train for my first 50k. I had pb’d at Rostrevor parkrun two weeks ago and was feeling strong. But with that comes the self doubt and obsessive behaviour of looking at times in longer races and debating pace.

A wise man once told me that if you want to go out and run a certain pace on race day…you’ve to train at that pace as to not shock the body. I’d completed sessions of epic jelly leg proportions and at that nerves set in. Yet all I had to do was just keep running.

Sunday morning I felt weird leaving the house with just my phone in my pocket and none of the paraphernalia I have with me for longer runs. Kept thinking I’d  forgot something. Arriving at Kilbroney it was the usual suspects who greeted me. And this is what I love about running. 

The running community is ace. I’m sure I could turn up at any race in the North and know a handful of people. The craic and banter was flowing as the threat of rain soon disappeared and the ground began to dry up. As nearly 300 women and their families gathered amongst the tunes and buzz of the event. 

I know 26 Extreme go by the ‘we don’t do easy’ tagline which they do live up to 99% of the time. However the Mini Marathon is one of their races which flirts with being a normal run. I said flirts!  8k of tarmac along a beautiful country road shadowed by the mountains. Then you ascend up towards Kilbroney to hit a hill where the language heard on that hill is let’s say, colourful. Finishing on the most immense downhill finish through the trails which would take every last ounce of hill training to nail perfectly to use to your full advantage.

On the buses we got and as we passed the 8k point all that could be heard across the whole bus was ‘that’s the hill.’ In fairness, it isn’t the worst, it’s short and sharp however after 5k of a downhill it is a shock to the system. 

I did have to laugh that out of all the buses there where, the ‘naughty crew’ had randomly all got on the same bus. So amongst friends and our running family there was plenty of laughs to be had. 

Starting the race we set off toward Leitrim Lodge. Knowing the route, I just wanted to get to 3k in good time. A gradual climb but nothing I couldn’t handle. Passing Leitrim Lodge I thought about how much I had rather have been up the mountain than running. But as I looked ahead I could see on the brow of the hill the NCR colours of Patricia Brown leading the pack. 

It was hard to catch my breath, it was very humid however I could hear the same panting all around me. So I knew everyone was feeling it. Passing Santa’s Cottage I had found myself in amongst friends. Laura Jane had pushed on at the start and I was delighted to see that as she undertook her first 10k since returning to running. I could still see Jennifer which was my plan but she was far enough away so I couldn’t catch her. And beside me was Donna who had come down for the event after a tough run the day before at Dark Hedges Half. We played cat and mouse for a bit and she found her stride and took off in the direction of Jennifer to catch her.

The 3k point arrived and strangely I said to myself gosh that was quick, 2k was only a few minutes ago. How times have changed. Working in miles means that the kms come thick and fast. Here I began to run along side Janet. Another eejit who had completed the half the day before and PBd on the course. Having spent many a mile with Janet over the year, the most memorable being the last lap of the LOS recce and the 20 at Knockagh, I knew keeping pace with her would keep me focused and on track. 

As my watch beeped every mile I could see my pace was strong and I aimed to keep it under the 11 min/miles. I knew I could let the hill take me down to Kilbroney and that the hill wouldn’t hinder me too much. 

Lorraine had made up ground on me and although we were both giving our all we were able to keep eachother going and moving. Even as we turned to the hill I recall telling her not to stop and we made it to the top together. Into the trails, down the track I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve ran down it. It was here I knew the pb was about to become a reality.

Race maths does help me pass the time. But knowing turning onto the hill with a mile to go I could walk the whole way and beat last year’s time gave me a real buzz that I haven’t felt in a while. I had no idea exactly what time I would come in. As I turned onto the caravan park onto the parkrun route I knew it was all or nothing. 

I started to pick people off as we approached the final hill down. Even finding myself on the grass taking over. I was literally giving every thing I had. I was determined to catch Lorraine out in front and as I did, managing to feel her bum on the way past, I powered onto the flat where my legs turned to concrete. It was the clock 100m in front of me that kept me moving. The wee red numbers reading 1.06. 

I crossed that line knowing I had did it into the arms of 26 Extremes finest, Emma. Who said ‘take it that’s a PB Siobhan’ I could barely talk but just smiled. 

Grabbing a bottle of water and the event beer thank you Mourne Brewery, I’m getting used to celebrating with a bottle of your finest these days, I headed into the crowd of finishers. I spotted Laura Jane and delighted to hear that she had done so well. 

Then I bumped into the wise man himself. Think it’s the first time a race ever brought tears to my eyes. I could barely spit out that I had taken 3 minutes off my time. I just stood and cried. Another tick on the list of mad and mental attributes I’ve displayed in running. 

You see the thing is, I don’t even like 10ks simply because of the pressure you put on yourself. At HM I have a 15 minute window where I would like to finish time wise, however 10ks is very much a very very small window if I want to be happy with my time. I put the pressure on myself so I cant blame anyone else. So to have clocked up 50k last week before setting foot across the line on Sunday, I knew I had a battle on my hands with tired but possibly strong legs. And to pull a fast 10k when you are turning out long 20mile runs for an Ultra was a pipe dream.

Celebrating with everyone on the line was great. Caitriona and Brenda had put in strong runs and Donna caught up with Jennifer. Delighted to see the now run/walk duo of Liz and Aine powering through the distance. Denise had words of wisdom and the Ormeau Runners posse keep Kilbroney looking bright. Of course I can’t forget The Dame, running royalty herself. Who always makes me smile and her jokes of being taken up the Knockagh backwards where welcomed.

So more miles and more smiles amongst us all. I had actually surprised myself yet now I’m wondering what I can pull out of the bag at Rock n Roll in 2 weeks. I clocked not only a 10k pb but also a 5k pb. I was so busted after I didn’t manage a celebratory drink until Monday evening. I’ve recovered quicker from Marathons. 

So it seems training hard does pay off and I’ve been back to the road this week with an impending 20miler this Saturday if anyone wants to do multiple laps of the lake? 

With August riddled with events all over the place the full naughty crew is due to reconvene in force together at Causeway in September. But plenty of running to be done in the meantime. Let’s just start praying now that the sun will shine down on us at Causeway this year but sure we’d a great time last year in the rain! Either way I’m sure it’ll be another cracker event by 26 Extreme.

Sign up for Causeway HERE

I can’t imagine life without you

I can’t imagine life without you

Very few things in life make you smile like this….

In all honesty, in the year that you have been in my life, we have been inseparable. You are the first thing I check in the morning and last thing at night. Even during the night I am checking on you. Even when I can’t sleep you are the light that keeps me company. We go everywhere together, I can’t even go to the toilet without you there. I don’t mind, you where my choice and I knew that this would happen from the moment you arrived.

I coveted you for so long, I hmm’d and haa’d over how you would fit in my life. I had coped well with your sister and the immense changes that it brought to my life. But you would be much more different. You would feel my every breath and heartbeat. You would know my every movement and be able to read my emotions. I had so many other options to weigh up, so many other things that would maybe fill that void in my life. Cheaper options not requiring such investment of my time and effort. Yet I couldn’t shake the longing for you.

I spoke at length with my husband, as you would expect any wife would do when it came to big decisions. He was also unsure if this was exactly what I needed in my life. Of course he knew only too well that it would be loved and cherished just as much as the previous one. That it would bring that something extra to my life but he wasn’t convinced I was ready for such a commitment.

I had friends who empathised with the dilemma. Those who had been in the same situation, some who understood the gravity of the decision and the impact it would have on my life. Of course there is always the ones who didn’t get it at all and queried what was wrong with what I already had. But that’s the thing, there was nothing wrong with what I had, it was perfect but I wanted more, I needed more. It was just an empty gap in my life and I needed it.

So I took the plunge.

It wasn’t as hard as I had imagined, it was literally as simple as a click of a button and I was lucky to not have to struggle to achieve it. I guess this was a blessing that I was able to do this when so many others battle and have to work harder to get what they want.

When the day arrived to welcome it into my life, I was nervous. My whole body was buzzing. I just couldn’t contain my excitement, actually nobody could, as I got messages asking had the big arrival appeared yet? Oh but it was worth the wait even if it was going to hit the bank account a few £££.

It was everything that I had imagined. Perfect in shape and form. I guess not everyone saw the beauty of it but in my eyes there was nothing to fault. Promising such a bright future. There was a long run ahead for us both from this point. A steep learning curve but such achievements and memories to be made. I knew I had made the right decision and got ready to welcome it into my life.

It was such a game changer. So much so it wasn’t long before the husband was bowled over by the new addition that there was another on the way. It even won over a few close friends who also started to see how much my life had changed and they too joined “the club” and where soon expecting their own bundle of joy.

This year, together, we have covered endless miles, climbed many mountains and shared in many special moments. You are the only constant in my life, day in, day out and you are the last thing I look at when I’m about to embark on my next challenge, keeping me grounded at all times throughout.

Who ever thought that I would become so attached to you. When you have to sit out a day or two when I’m not allowed to bring you along, it brings a smile to my face when we are reunited as you are missed in that time.

Like my two children, I can’t imagine life without you in it. There are times, I don’t like what you say and other times I get you to tell me over and over again because it is just what I need to hear to make it all worth while.

Dear my Garmin Forerunner 235. Thank you for always keeping me right, be that pace, heart rate, step count or just simply telling me the time. I owe the tan line around my wrist to you but no one ever sees it as you never come off, only when I am having a shower. You have saw me through marathons and many, many miles of training. You have known when I was at breaking point long before I did. You will continue to always be there, beeping when I need reassurance and tracking me when I’m lost.

Together for many more miles and many more smiles.

 

Don’t forget there is only a week left to vote for me in the Rock n Run Idol competition with  Rock n Roll Half Marathon Dublin in conjunction with Affidea Ireland.

VOTE SIOBHAN GRANT

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

 

Kilbroney Parkrun Round Up

Kilbroney Parkrun Round Up

They do say the best runs come when you least expect it. Today I couldn’t fault that.

Caitriona had mentioned that she was down to marshal today at parkrun. Doing her bit and all that. She did ask if I fancied going but with a glass of vodka and diet coke in my hand as I wound down from a mental week of wedding madness and my legs recovering from a day in heels- yes I got doms after the wedding. There was no way I was getting up to run.

Of course I woke shortly after 8 and as I turned my phone on there was the snap chat.

Beautiful blue skies and parkrun?

I replied ‘meh’ however I’m sure Caitriona was having withdrawal symptoms as it had been 5 days since she last saw me, she insisted she’d pick me up in 20minutes.

I briefly debated it replying… sorry I’ve got the kids. Damn her goodness (potential madness) she said bring them along and they could marshal with her. So there was me jumping out of bed, sticking on my gear and throwing the kids together. Off to Kilbroney we went.

As we came over the hill into Rostrevor I was able to explain to Caitriona where my escapades during the walking festival went. Pulling up to Kilbroney we had a few minutes before starting.

I absolutely detest 5ks. Give me a half marathon anyday. Yet even I couldn’t have faulted the weather, atmosphere and stunning surroundings. Kilbroney parkrun offers everything. A challanging route, well supported by marshals and other public users of the park and breathtaking scenery as you weave in and out of lush greenways, riverside track, woodland and through Narnia-twice. Ok there are 2 hills but it adds to the challange and makes finishing that bit sweeter.

I’ve a Rostrevor parkrun personal best of 38.06. As I took off lap 1, pace was strong as the field spread out. Smiles and encouragement from marshals and also those staying in the caravan park. Before the descent into Narnia I was greeted by the personal cheer squad and made the resolve that I was going to push on and not let the next lap beat me. I crossed the start line in 18mins dead. I was delighted that for once I wasn’t lapped by the winner!

So realistically if I kept the same pace this lap, I’d blow my PB out of the water but without the field pulling me the first km I went back to my usual chanting and focused on my breathing to get me to the next hill. I didn’t get as far up it as I would have liked but with only a short uphill to go I knew I would do myself justice on the downhill.

I also knew that Rónán would be asking to run with me when I met him and as I opened up on the downhill I shouted for him to join me and the little ginger head took off in usual fashion and I chased him right into Narnia. As we turned the corner to the finishing straight he was in full flight and me too. Together watching eachother we emptied the tank taking the person in front and finishing neck in neck.

Some people do say you should let the child win. But he’s beaten me so many times I needed the victory of the final half kilometre.

I looked down to see 36.51. A new personal best by over 1 minute. Can’t be bad to that and for the record slightly hungover and definitely not in racing shape.

That’s the thing about parkrun though. It’s not a race. It’s a community event for everyone to join in and set themselves a goal. I always welcome getting new bests, who doesn’t? Yet the only pressure you have is yourself. Today for me though it was a gentle nudge from the running buddy who either knew I needed a good run, knew I was fit to do myself justice or just plain mean and wanted to laugh at me running. Either way… thank you Caitriona for getting me to run this morning and also for marshalling. Without the volunteers, parkrun wouldn’t happen.

Also want to draw your attention to another local event for both runners and walkers alike for a very worth while cause. Will be a fantastic way to spend a Saturday evening with friends and family.

And don’t forget to keep voting! 

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

Ards Half- the return to racing ways

Ards Half- the return to racing ways

Marathon training does take over your life and not essentially in a bad way. However I learnt a few lessons after DCM. 1. Don’t race too soon after a marathon and 2. Don’t leave too long until your next race.

Doing Minnowburn 10k 6 days after DCM near killed me but the post marathon blues set in afterwards as it took 6 weeks to race again at Kilbroney and then the Cracker, where I found my love of running lay beyond 6miles. So this time round I agreed with myself on a happy medium. 3 weeks. Ok I did throw in the Mourne Walking Festival but that’s not really running, more extensive 3 days hill training. Ards fell lovely just short of 4 weeks after Derry. I had felt great post Derry physically, mentally I was still beating myself up.  So Ards was my come back. I had done enough training but no where near what I was doing in the run up to Derry, though I think my body thanked me for that.

I had cleared my head of cobwebs, lingering worries and concerns that where weighing me down whilst up the mountains and I was feeling fresh as the end of term set in and I was ready to run, for me.

I have to admit I love how this year has panned out for me with running. Training with Brenda for London and seeing her through all her milestones, then straight into tagging Derry training onto the end of that with Caitriona as she hit the same milestones and embraced 8 laps of the lake. And of course being privileged and honoured to run Derry with Tony being able to carry out the promise I made in October. In amongst that I had completed my LiRF course, guide running course, trained the school cross country team to gain a 1st place and shortlisted as the Ulster Representative as 1 of  the countries 5 most inspirational runners. It’s been a hell of a 6 months.

So Ards was technically the first race of the year I was running, for me. No one else was relying on me and that quite frankly scared the shit out of me!

Ok I had talked Caitriona and Brenda into the race as well as Jennifer so I wasn’t alone and obviously signed Michael up for good measure. As with all running events there was a plethora of runners and supporters who I’ve come to know over the past 2 years who where there also.

I procrastinated something shocking on the start line. I never really get the reality until the field starts moving and then its like ” holy crap I’ve 13.1 mile to find!” So all you really can do is put one foot in front of the other, a lot of times.

It was also the first time I choose to not run club colours after deciding to step back from club running for a while. So here I was at the start of what was billed as an undulating course, setting off with a whole new way about me.

I settled into the race fine. It was a strong start but I knew there were hills ahead and I wanted to make the most of the flats whilst I could. At mile 2 the hills started. As we climbed towards Scrabbo Tower, the town below got smaller and the views over the countryside widened. Normally this would be my worst nightmare but from the word go, the marshals out on course where so supportive, encouraging and quite frankly, everywhere!

At the first water stop I was greeted by the legend herself Rosy Ryan out selflessly on the eve of her 100th parkrun lending a hand and of course a much needed hug. This set me off into mile 4 and the headwind that whistled over the hills was proving to be a bit more challenging than I had expected. I played cat and mouse with Caitriona and Brenda at this stage but as we began to come off the hills around 6 mile, I found my happy place.

My body and mind had found comfort in the miles and as we came towards the half way mark, I pulled a bit further away from the girls. I hit the half way point at 1.20. I knew in my head that Alan Johnson was about to finish in the same way that he had finished in Derry when I had reached the half way point. And on finishing, I was spot on. 18th place in 1.20.

Though as I gained ground on the runners in front, I knew this was where the months of long miles would pay off, after all during a LSR 8 mile was only half way and you where only really getting stuck in. The support and encouragement from everyone was phenomenal. Residents in Comber stayed out to cheer on the back runners, this is something that I can’t praise enough. Usually they stay for the fast runners and as the field thins out they go back inside, however this wasn’t the case as kids lined the streets with jelly babies and marshals and supporters shouted encouraging things. There has been only 1 or 2 events to rival this in my opinion.

Onto the carriage way I went and set my sighted on Tony in front, him and Becki where about 500m in front and I had so hoped my wee legs would get to him, however I had another person inbetween to catch first, as I turned the corner onto Ards’ own heartbreak hill, I’d caught the fella in front but Tony and Becki where out of my reach. Together we motored up the hill but I could sense a body not far behind me – Brenda. We had merged in with the walkers at this point and as we passed the water stop, Brenda caught me and cursed the sight of my ponytail which she had been chasing for 5 mile. I was glad to see her. I had spent most the race on my own and although you can keep going for 2 more miles, its always better when you have a friend beside you.
As we entered into the final mile and my legs turned to concrete coming off the hill onto the final flat into Newtownards, we knew a good time was within reach. Doing our usual “at most its a 15minute mile” we pushed on and as we turned the corner to see the finishing arch, 2.43 had just turned on the clock.  A PB for Brenda and a 2017 best for me, both outdoing our joint effort at Dune in February of 2.45 dead. Caitriona wasn’t far behind us and that was us all home safe.

Only 50 seconds off my all time PB, in a race I knew was physically tough. It was just what I needed. The demons that haunted me after Derry disappeared and I proved to myself I did have it all along, I had just had a bad day on June 4th.

I was delighted to see everyone had made it alive, some in not so great shape others lapping up the awesome donuts and Suki orange juice post race. Based on the exemplary attention to detail of the marshals and their guidance I will be coming back next year to Ards Half. Yes its a tough course and its anything but flat, however it is priceless to be treated exactly the same as every runner on the course from front runner to back runner. Equality across the whole field, inclusion allowing everyone an opportunity to take part and respect, many of the marshals out on course where runners themselves and not one negative comment the whole way round. Yes I was in the last 50 finishers but I felt valued and supported throughout and that is something every event needs to strive to achieve whether its 5k/10/half/full/ultra.

So July sees me on bridesmaid duties, working towards my 10k time and then launching into August with Rock N Roll Weekend and of course the EAMs Knockagh Challenge where I’m pairing up with Tony again for some uphill and downhill fun. 

Don’t forget to vote for me as the Ulster Representative in the Rock’n’Fun Idol competition as one of the countries most “inspirational” runners. Would quite fancy a trip to Vegas to represent the country and I am sure I definitely need a holiday.
  http://www.runrocknroll.com/dublin/rock-idol/

 

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/

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 😉

I didn’t sign up to guide oversized Hippos

I didn’t sign up to guide oversized Hippos

So you are going to run Newry 10k dressed as Henry the Hippo…this I’ve got to see.

It’s not like Michael to have a random idea involving dressing up and let’s face it I married him in the hope he would balance out my crazy. Always the sensible one in the marriage even the suggestion of this to raise money for Cash 4 Kids caught me off guard.
As always I’m such a supportive wife and collected the suit and took the pictures however it was 24hrs before the event that the bombshell was landed on me.

“I can’t see out it”

So there was me on Saturday, getting my head around the fact I’d to guide run with him dressed as a hippo. When I completed my guide running training in the view of raising awareness of inclusion and getting visually impaired runners out there, I didn’t think inclusion would extend to oversized hippos, especially my husband dressed up as one. We don’t run well together…ever. My first 10k I told him at 7k to bog off and leave me alone as his form of encouragement enraged me. At Running Blind I nearly killed him more than once you can read about it here: Running Blind – An Eye Opener. So my confidence wasn’t high that the marriage would make it through this latest challange.

So here we are before hand. Happily ignorant to the 6.2 mile ahead of us. I donned the tutu as if he was going to look an eejit, I might as well join him.

I had so many worries. Primarily the fact he could easily over heat in that outfit was at the forefront of my mind. Usually a 50min 10ker he knew he had a big drop in pace required and when it comes to slow and steady, I’m your woman. I told him it would be more near 1.15 factoring in some breaks to let him breathe and drink.

As we set off the kids in the street loved it. Who doesn’t want to high five a huge Hippo. The adults too just loved seeing the familiar face of a childhood icon again. On the lap of the town we had our first and ONLY mishap where I told him to wave right and he turned right instead and went straight into a cone but didn’t fall.  As we entered into the second mile, we were going strong and hit the Tow Path where we knew the only people we would see where the other runners.

Even the Psni where going to lock him up for his random idea.

It was warm, although the sun was firmly behind the clouds, I was feeling the heat. Yet I was tied to Michael in the Hippo suit, tied together by the strap of the child’s Trunki skilfully looped so he could be guided safely. I kept checking was he ok and reminding him to slow down. The leaders in the 10k race passed, with local NAC member David O’Flaherty in 1st and the main man himself Dermot Mathers in second. We got the look of “what the hell are you two at” from him as he cruised down the familiar tow path that he runs a few times a week. I don’t think anything I do now, surprises him.

With the leaders coming our way it wasn’t long until the rest of the 10k runners came past. Shouts of support, high fives, laughs and giggles from the runners made what could have been a lonely part of the race more fun. Michael did offer them at times to swap but there was no takers. At 3.5 mile we had the well needed water stop. I knew I was making good time in general and when Michael took the head off for a drink, the sweat was running off him, he had to take his glasses off as it was steaming up inside and the buff he was using as a sweat band was wringing.

The next 2.5 mile was going to be hot but we were homeward bound. By now we had a steady stream of half marathoners passing us. Many familiar faces and continued support. On the return leg we met Peter for a selfie, wouldn’t be a race for me if I didn’t get the craic with him!

As we came off the towpath with under a mile to go, Michael took a breather as we walked for a minute. After all the rest of the race was going to be amongst the eyes of the public so we had to at least let on we were loving life!  The fact of the matter was, I was feeling great as he melted to death in the hippo suit. We came into the final half mile with Michael waving and giving thumbs up to everyone about. Turning onto Hill Street, the announcer had spotted us and the cheers where mighty. Not only from the spectators but the fellow runners who had finished and had passed us on the way.

We clocked 1.11.24 – lets face it, not to shabby for me and a hippo.

With Gillian Fitzpatrick Chair of the Council, Fiona Valentine from Newry Branch Ulster Bank and my side kick always willing to support the Grant madness without question…Caitriona. 

After a quick breather and meeting up with Caitriona and Fiona who had been shaking buckets for change and showing flawless support of Michaels endeavour, the head was put back on and Michael kindly posed for photos with runners and children. I have to admit I was taken back by the way he interacted with the crowd, I knew he couldn’t see who he was shaking hands with or who was in front of him, high fiving little babies, talking to the toddlers and letting wee kids kick him. Though what stood out for me was the fact there was a family with a child with special needs and he didn’t think twice when the girl asked for a hug. He then had to hug the whole family including the dad. Admirable and made that families day.  I guess that there are a lot of things that the money he has raised will go to help and support within the Cash for Kids charity however sometimes its just the simple things like a hug or taking time to listen a child that is priceless and something money can’t buy.

On the marriage front; we are still together, it was actually a really enjoyable outing as I couldn’t hear what he was saying so we didn’t fall out. It was great practice for guiding Tony next week at Derry marathon and hey it was a comfortable 10k for me and gives me hope that the past 6 months of big miles hasn’t totally ruined the smaller run, so after Derry I might give the shorter races a bash again before jumping back into marathon training.

As always everyone, make sure you have voted this week for Rock’n’Run idol. Brining a whole new level of inclusion into my journey and Michael being inspirational (and absolutely crazy) this week, it would be lovely to represent Ireland in Las Vegas.

VOTE HERE

 

Proud Coach/Teacher Moment

Proud Coach/Teacher Moment

Today has been such an unreal day.

A few weeks back I was asked by the school principal to take the Cross Country Team for an event. Of course having completed my LIRF this year, I was happy to undertake the challenge. My first question naturally was “who is in the team?” And the answer I didn’t want to hear was given to me, “there isn’t a team, there’s never been one!”

Ok so taking on the Cross Country team meant I would have to run trials and break the news to some kids that they didn’t make the cut. Devastating for some I was sure it would be.

So marking out a course around the school grounds, I set about timing and selecting the team. With the task to choose 4 girls and 4 boys from each year group meant that with the small classes, it was a matter of losing just 1 or 2 from each class. It was heart breaking. However there was potential, natural runners who performed well over longer distances, not just sprinters.

We set about everyday after school learning the basics. With only 3 weeks until the event, I knew time had to be used wisely and effectively. From simple warm ups and understanding the theory to why we do it, running technique and good form, to breathing tricks and negotiating hills. There was so much information being thrown at them, I’m surprised they could keep up. Working on building the distance in the legs the poor critters ran multiple 100m laps round the schools green area. This could have been anything between 4 and 10 laps depending on the time limit on each run. We even managed a few interval sessions.

I thought taking the time on their feet approach to running instead of the distance would help serve them better on the day. Trying to explain pacing was tough but as time went on, many where going for longer and had that little bit extra at the end to push on so some of it was sinking in.

I did worry, who wouldn’t, it was 32 children hanging onto my every word. They were enjoying this new challenge of running and even when county footballer Mr Johnson came to cover for a day, they busted themselves to show him what they could do, even getting to run alongside him. The whole school had been swept up in the cross country excitement.

I didn’t sleep the night before. It was like results day. Running marathons didn’t compare to the nerves I had over the Cross Country. It was like they were all your own children and the hope that I had done enough to reassure them that they could and would complete it. . Being a back runner myself, I know that it takes that bit more determination, ignorance and support to finish a race and at the other end of the scale, the front runner had pressure, serious adrenalin and every eye of expectation on them. My mind boggled.

I had spoken at length about doing their best, finish lines not finish times and enjoying the atmosphere. I wish I had convinced myself as good as I had convinced them that everything was going to be alright.

Arriving at Kilbroney we were greeted by a sea of children. Different colours, hundreds of school kits and parents, passers by and officials. The sun shone brightly as clear skies engulfed Carlingford Lough, it was a day that the weather gods had kindly prepared for us.

We got numbers pinned on, hands marked with the school number and kids got their final race instructions. I was going to be all over the place but thanks to a great support from other staff members I knew the kids where in safe hands as I sorted out the race paperwork and ran round the race from place to place, cheering the kids on.

With all teams entered in Race 1 of 2 across the whole event, it was the P4s to go first. The girls set off and did a great job. There is so much potential in those wee legs and as a first event and 3 of the girls coming in the top 30, it was admirable and definitely experience will help their confidence for next year.

The P4 boys race was always going to be one to watch for me. I had watched Christopher square up shoulder to shoulder with the P6 boys in the school in training and keep the pace strong. I had hoped he would place in the top 10 but I didn’t expect what happened over the next  two and a half minutes. As I watched him confidently tussle with the boy beside him to have his body in front, he took off and was mid pack by the first corner. I could see the yellow jersey steadily pick up places as we came towards the half way point.  Sitting in 7th place at half way my heart pounded as I went from point to point to cheer him on. At just short of 200m I caught his attention as he sat in 4th place and just screamed (as you do to a pile of 8 year olds) “Christopher- empty the tank- good man” and there he cruised past the remaining few runners and was a good stride in front of the race leader crossing the line. A first place finish, in the schools first year in the competition. I couldn’t believe it.

That wasn’t even the last of it, the other three P4 boys powered home fearlessly and between them the boys bagged a team place.  An unbelievable team effort from them and the tears rolled down my face with pride. It wouldn’t be like me to be emotionally unhinged.
The P5 races should definitely not go unmentioned. With a top 10 finish in both races, Leah came 10th in the girls race and Darragh took 9th in the boys race. I know the two of them had been working hard at home practicing and I cant wait to see how they perform next year with a little bit more coaching and training. Definitely ones to look out for in future.

The P6 and P7 races where tough races. Spotting children I have seen myself at organised events highlighted how competitive these races where going to be with junior club runners involved. Yet the children didn’t know who they were up against and as the distance increased for both races, it wasn’t as plain sailing as you would hope. But there they were, working their way through the field and pushing themselves on to the finish line.

For me though, I know what made the day for me. It was the sheer grit and determination or some might say stubbornness, of those runners who weren’t as fast as the front runners, continuing on to the death. The way they fought the demons in their heads as they gasped for breath and their bodies hurt. They kept moving. I was so blessed to be able to come onto the course and support them through the final 100 metres. A special moment for me, every single one of them finished the race whether first or last. They ran when they could and walked when they had to, moving forward towards the goal in their own time. Running their own races to the best of their ability and this made me realise I have done more than coach them how to run, I have taught them also to have faith in themselves and not to give up. There is nothing more a teacher hopes to leave as a legacy with their students.

 

I did have to laugh as we got back onto the bus.

“Miss since we did so well does that mean you get to go to Vegas then?”

IF only it was measured on that alone, I’d be taking off to the moon right now.

But while you are here you might as well vote for me again.

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