Author: rockyroad2dublin

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/

 

Back where I belong 

After a few weeks of playing with new routes it was clear there was only one place where we should be doing our 20 miler.

The Lake.

2.4 mile of trail in the shadow in Slievenaslat, bordering a fresh water lake in Castlewellan. Literally on my door step.

As you all know, I grew up disliking the lake and being dragged around it. In all honesty I am still not too keen on it. Actually I hate it. So why am I always drawn to it when I do big miles?

  • It’s 2.4 mile, makes the maths easy
  • Has a car park on the route, handy for fuelling/water stops 
  • Elevation isn’t overly extortionate in comparison to other routes round here
  • Secluded, no one sees you 
  • Not on the open road, not as dangerous
  • As mentioned right on the door step so near to home
  • Finally laps means symmetrical elevation chart

However like doing laps of anything it is tedious and considering I never turn to go the opposite direction opting for the long gradual hill over the short sharp hill it is monotonous. Kieran Young would rather run up and down Binnian 4 times than run the lake… using marathon chaffing as the closest analogy he could find to how he feels about the lake. Which trust me is a horrendous side effect of long distance running. And speaking of Binnian. Climbing 750m mountains 2 days before a long run is not advisable. My quads where on fire.

Primarily for me 8 laps of the lake is a mental battle. If I can survive that I can survive anything. It served me well in DCM training when I did it on my own and I hope it will serve me well this time round in Derry.

So what happens on 8 laps of the lake? It’s pretty basic. It’s 8 times of looking at the same things. But each lap is different and defined in it’s own way.

Lap 1 … tough getting started. The head is riddled with wtf I’ve to do this 8 times. Both of us wondering why we even signed up to a marathon in the first place never mind 2! 

Lap 2 … wow there’s loads out runners this early in the morning  oh wait crossfitters…7am is a lie in for them. There’s loads of them.

Lap 3 … Jesus where’d that lap go. It was like oohhh we’ve started and bam we are finished. I’ll take that.

Lap 4 …the lap of the red squirrel. After last week’s thoughts of being attacked by a flying squirrel we were greeted by the rare sighting of a red squirrel which thankfully didn’t have wings.

Lap 5 …geography lesson on wind. Why is it is the wind picking up Siobhan? Cue me launching into the an in-depth explanation of isobars (not isogels) and  weather patterns. Caitriona wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped 

Lap 6 … was there not always a bin there? We’ll keep going to the bin. Caitriona swore there was a bin there. Nope no bin just a tree trunk. Then she totally missed the tree we pointed at every lap. Running amnesia in full flow.

Lap 7 … the death lap. Started slow finished strong. End is near but not quite. I did pick up pace this lap. Feeling exceptionally comfortable and embracing the fact the miles where flying in and I knew 26 was very possible. Must have been the pickle onion mega meanies last night .

Lap 8…victory lap. We offered up the final mile to the MAC members who have left us for yellow and red pastures this year.

Last 0.75 mile … I’m gonna sprint finish the last 0.2 mile like it was race day. Which I did at 8.50min/mile pace. Empty the tank!

So all done and dusted by lunch time and fit for bugger all else the rest of the day. The Lake didn’t beat me, dare I say I even enjoyed it. It was a new mileage milestone for Caitriona and belief that her first marathon is now possible.  

So bring on the taper I guess. 17, 13 and 7 milers in the next few weeks and no more going up mountains on Thursday at Hill and Dale anymore the poor quads have seen better days…must phone Grainne for a rub out. 

We don’t do easy, we don’t do fast But we do, do

So it’s the final weeks of the big miles before Derry.

I’ve been rather lax with training since doing The Knockagh 20 with Brenda for London. Think knowing you have the miles is actually having a detrimental effect on my training as let’s face it my head is telling me I’ve got this when quite frankly… I had it and lost it over the past few weeks.

With a manic weekend ahead of the club awards and Belfast marathon, my only option to long run was Friday evening. I hate running on a Friday night after a week of work when I just want to put on my jammies and chill yet the thought of 18 mile on a Friday was just horrendous. But what has to be done, has to be done.

All forms of procrastinating had taken place before the run and most of the way through it too. Even Kenny had told me just go out and do it. But bank holiday traffic meant Caitriona had got stuck on traffic on the way home and instead of starting at 5pm as planned…it was 6.30 before we put a foot on the road. 

The first 10k breezed past I was even feeling optimistic that things would be great. Sticking to road was working and with only a mild breeze we were going well. We also passed Alan Johnson out for his evening run showing off as he crusied up the hill in Dundrum. He did say later that he said I looked lost not surrounded by the lake where he usually meets me running.

The new rightly named ‘sat nav’ Carr had suggested going off road into Murlough Nature Reserve and doing a few mile around the club’s home turf. Yeah BAD IDEA!

Up the cut we went, across the gravel and stones and onto the grass yeah not kind to the legs. The only advantage of the route was that we were in the middle of nowhere and the desperate need to pee set in…must have been the extra cuppa I had because we were running late. I had no other choice but to do the one thing I’ve managed to avoid all this time. I had to wild wee.

Yes another running milestone achieved. As I squatted down a random track and looking left I saw Dundrum and looking right was a gate I embraced the breeze that met my bare bum and that was it. 

Caitriona kindly waited on me and kept look out but let’s face it, company wasn’t something I expected to see at 8.30 on a Friday night round the periphery of Murlough.

As I gathered myself to set off I had visions of flying squirrels coming to attack me. Now don’t ask me why they popped into my head, But can you imagine if they did! You can’t get them in Ireland right?

Reaching 11 mile as we returned to the car we thought it would be best to drive the 1 mile to Newcastle to the street lights for the final leg. Setting off along the promenade now with gloves and an extra buff on me we had 7 miles in our head. 

Yet as we climbed up King street and tried to embrace the downhill after, my head was winning.

I was tired, I was hungry, it was dark and as we hit half marathon distance 3 minutes outside our normal training time I’d lost the battle. Its not like me to give up on a long run but seeing 3 hours on the clock and potentially another hour on the move. Something had to give. It was all time on the feet and being 2 mile from the car, we headed for home and happily called it a day at 15 mile.

There’s a lot of lessons to be learned from this week’s long run but there is 1 I will stick with me… never ever veer off road in the middle of a long run. A long run is hard enough as it is without throwing in different terrian. 

I do also think because my mid week training has been poor over easter that that will be impacting me a big bit. So all I have to do now is stop preaching and embrace the inner Nike…just do it

MAC Does Hill & Dale 2017

The Series race reports – to be added to weekly after each race

Hill and Dale, Race 10, The Meels

The Thursday evening tradition of Hill and Dale continues. This week it was race 10, the penultimate gallop for the MAC Mountain goats this series. It was just a little matter of 3.5 miles and 1800 feet of elevation between the start and the finish. With the route requiring an ascent of both Meelmore then Meelbeg from a starting position on the Trassey Road. I have always found it strange that ‘The Meels’ themselves offer their own quintessential Irish charm. In that Meelmore (Big Meel) is lower than Meelbeg (Little Meel) by no less than twenty five feet, discuss.

We welcomed bigger numbers back to the mountains this week with over 180 toeing the line. The impending heatwave promised by Barra Best had still not landed fully in the Mournes by then however we welcomed nine members to the race including Colm Devlin and Judith Robinson who are the only MACs to have completed all races so far. It was Stephen Cassidy who crossed the line to take the accolade for first MAC home. Coming in 88th place, he clocked a 45.09. He was soon followed by Declan McCormick fresh from his assault on the Mourne Way Marathon five days earlier. For someone who doesn’t know why he is continually turning up to each race, it is clear that not so deep down, he is beginning to really love the mountains.

There is a tale to tell of the next two across the line. After such camaraderie at Donard, Laura Lynch and Colm Devlin battled it out at the top of Meelmore. During the descent they both took different routes. As they flew down the side of the mountain it was the agile form of Laura who took first MAC lady home and just under 40 seconds advantage over Colm. I wonder has she let him forget it yet? Colm clocked an impressive 49.42.

Dave Fulcher, also fresh from his return to marathon life last weekend, tackled the Meels with gusto alongside the relentless figure of Judith Robinson who yet again tackled another route, giving everything she had. They finished in 52.52 and 53.20 respectfully.

Without a doubt, Liam Smyth does do the best mid-race pictures. As we were all treated to the reality of life mid-race during Hill & Dale courtesy of Liam, he finished in 55.37. We also welcomed back Andy Spence to the series and he held his own and took advantage of the fast finish to cross the line in 57 dead. A huge well done to Lorna, new to the series this year, she has come out time and time again and tackled new challenges and never once faltered in her performance taking proceedings home for Murlough in 59.51.

Afterwards, Colm took great pride in accompanying everyone back to Greenans for the post race refreshments. As people praised the spread as being “one of the best,” Colm reminded them that they were eating in Kilcoo and there was no better place!

This week we are all a bit emotional as we approach the last race of the series, Race 11- Drinnahilly, what will we do on a Thursday night now?  Moving to a Friday night this week and as always entry is a donation towards the two chosen charities this year, Mourne Mountain Rescue Team and Mourne Hertiage Trust. The series presentation will take place afterwards in O’Hares.

Hill & Dale Race 9 Loughshannagh

The weather wasn’t kind to the Mournes last week as the rain poured and filled the undergrowth of Loughshannagh for Thursday’s Hill & Dale. Notoriously the most challenging race of the series and it also being a NIMRA ‘short race’ added to the occasion.

 With numbers beginning to dwindle as some sense begins to return to the mountain running community now that they have completed the required amount of races for their spot prize. Others turned up just because they love a good mudbath up the mountains.

After Donard, the just over 4 mile route this year took and anticlockwise direction Carn as the first peak followed by a steep descent into the Mournes beach at Loughshannagh and onto Ott for a quick finish. 

There were only 2 MAC who were brave enough to take on the Challange along with the 156 others. With the MWM  featuring as a race to complete this weekend, many of our mountain goats sat this one out.

 Colm Devlin on course for a series full house donned his well crafted buff hat to take on the race. For the ladies Judith Robinson stepped up to the Challange together showing that there is nothing to fear from a wee jont out with Hill & Dales finest.

Colm put in a fantastic second half to cross the line in 1.10 minus the full face mask he is infamous for wearing at such mudslide events. Judith, equally mucked to the eyeballs put in a vallient effort to finish in 1.20. 

Hill & Dale Race 8 Millstone

So race 8 takes us back to Donard Park. 

If there was ever an advertisement for the bipolar nature of the weather in Northern Ireland, this years Hill and Dale series would be it. Last week the sun couldn’t shine any more, this week it was wet, miserable and in line with the rise of local sales of Jungle Formula, the midgies where out in force.

10 MAC took to the start line, some to make up the race numbers to 6, some to complete their score card and others because well…they just love a wee mountain.

In the shadows of Slieve Donard lies Millstone. Towering over the Granite Trial and home to nesting Buzzards. There where a few health and safety concerns after sightings and attacks from the resident Buzzards. However opting not to reroute this year the runners motored on up and back down again to what I can say was the best finish of the series so far. Just when you think people have nothing more to give, they pull out spectacular finishes, none more so than the immense finish by Newcastle ACs John O’Higgins.

As bodies were like ants crawling across the ridge and looking like they were tumbling down the side of the mountain, it was Mourne Runners William McKee that took the race win. 

For MAC, OC Young was first home as he stormed across the line in 41st place in 47.15. He was followed by Eddie Murnin who has now openingly admitted to enjoying the mountains and clocked a great time of 51.50.

A fantastic finish by Stephen Cassidy saw him take 91st place and tick another race off the list for this series in 53.05. Declan McCormick who managed to turn up with his vest on the right way round and his number in the right place continued his ‘I’ve no idea why I am doing this’  campaign and finished in 57.13. 

Colm Devlin continues to rack up a full house of races this series and gained himself an ‘airborne’ photo as he finished with style in 58.25.

Dave Fulcher also continues to put in strong performances mid week as well as at a plethora of local events at the weekend finishing in 1.02.

We also welcomed back Michael Neeson to the series as he gets back on track. Smiling the whole way to the finish, maybe a smile of loving life or one of relief or a mixture of both, he clocked 1.04 and another 1 down.

Nicola Mathers was first lady home for MAC. Although she looked like she had had a mud bath by the time she finished, it was actually a whole extended family of midgies that covered her and not dirt. She crossed the line in 1.05. 

Fionnuala Simmons is living for Drinahilly so she can hang up her mudclaws (for another year) and wear her hard earned H&D gilet with pride. In order to do so she took on Millstone and made great time on the descent as it seemed like the ground came up to meet her feet. She completed the course in 1.06. Judith Robinson, again took to the line after a busy weekend of running. She encouraged and came home 10 seconds behind Fionnuala to finish proceedings for MAC.

Next week there is no telling what the weather has in store but either way the crew from Newcastle AC will be at Loughshannagh at 6.30 checking your kit and offering a fresh mountain challange for all the mountain goats.

Hill & Dale Race 7 Slieve Moughanmore

This week we returned to the heart of the Mournes for Moughanmore, a Hill and Dale stalwart that has taken a few years off. An out and back affair with runners passing over Pigeon and then onto the summit of Moughanmore and back again. With some legs weary after the Donard Race 5 days earlier, other legs where raring to go. Unlike the bipolar weather conditions endured the previous Saturday where all kit was essential to cope with the changing conditions, the addition of Factor 50 was added for this race as temperatures soared into the mid 20 and we had guaranteed blue skies and sunshine for the whole event. 
Measuring 3.25 mile and 1560 feet of a climb, 205 runners toed the line and in amongst them were 11 MAC members. Leading the charge home in 42nd place was Kieran Young, finding his groove again back in the mountains clocking 40.26. He was the first of five runners in the club to make the top 100 in the event, the clubs biggest top 100 finish this series. Hugh pushed hard and took 67th place, sporting his new sunglasses bought specifically for running. Looking like a smaller version of the Terminator, he crossed the line in 42.57.
Sean Armstrong stayed hot on Hugh’s heels over the first climb much to the shock of the Coach when the photos emerged after the event. Sean took an admirable 81st place in a fantastic time of 44.59. He was soon followed by Stephen Cassidy who returned to the series and took 85th place in 45.35. Declan Mc Cormick, after braving Donard and upgrading to the full marathon at Mourne Way, must have been feeling invincible as he cruised home in 90th place in 46.20.
Colm Devlin proved his worth by even turning up to the race after a hot, humid and tough race the night before at the Bann 10k. After facing the sweltering conditions the previous night, he did it all again with a few bigger hills thrown in for good measure finishing in 48.48. Gerard Rowe and Dave Fulcher were next home in 50.33 and 53.57 both finding the heat adding to the challenges of the course. 
Judith Robinson was the first MAC lady home. Back on her home mountain turf, Judith dug deep to come home in 57.22. It was a series return for Liam Smyth, it was great to have him back in the mix and he completed the course in 58.51. Lorna Fitzpatrick completed the MAC proceedings for the day in 1.02 keeping her focus and drive with a quick return leg.
Next week we return to Newcastle for the Millstone. With warning signs out about Buzzards around the Granite Trail area, runners may be prepared to tackle more than a few 100 feet in elevation!

Hill & Dale Race 6, Donard

Marking the half way point in the H&D series was the infamous, Donard Race. This year due to it being an IMRA trials event, participants had to take on a different route, avoiding the Black Stairs and heading to the summit over the Saddle. The public walking route offers tricky challenges of its own, with the granite steps to the saddle posing hazardous to the average walker, never mind the seasoned mountain runner passing two fold as one goes up and one comes down, at speed.
It was a race of four seasons. It started out a glorious race as 258 runners toed the line on Main Street Newcastle. The streets where lined by family, friends, club mates and tourists who where amazed that these runners where about to run up “that big mountain, up there.” In amongst the mix where 12 of MACs finest Mountain Goats, of course lead by Kieran Young who had a score to settle with Donard after his last trip up.

With the summit clearly visible in the distance, it was looking like yet again it was going to be a scorcher of a day. However as runners began the main accent up past the Ice House, the clouds started to set in. It wasn’t long before the blue skies where replaced by heavy grey clouds which brought with it hail that you would expect on a stormy January afternoon, not the last week in May. This made for an even trickier decent than normal as footwear choice could have made the normal ground feel like ice beneath them. It didn’t deter an on form Zak Hanna from taking a home win as he cruised home to victory under the hour in 59.24, closely followed by William McKee in 1.01.

Leading his troops home was Kieran Young who was first home for MAC. Proud of all the Donard first timers and the fact his positive and slightly unhinged influence may have been the cause of many of them embarking on the Hill & Dale series this year, Kieran crossed the line in 1.20, putting to bed any hard feelings he had after his last race up Donard a few months back.

Eddie Murnin continues to amaze everyone as he made himself look like he has been running mountains for years instead of a few weeks. Even the hail that stung when it hit you didn’t deter him from crossing the line in 1.24. Another mountain newbie, Declan McCormick, who still wonders why he is lining up every week, pulled out a blinder of a decent in 37minutes to finish in 1.32. Proving that he has nailed his downhill technique or that he closed his eyes and hoped for the best as he made his way through the rocky terrain of the forest.

Turning up to the race in her Flip Flops, to ensure an automatic win in the MAC “Tourist spotting” game was our leading MAC lady, Laura Lynch, she did thankfully opt for a change of tyres for the actual race. Going from strength to strength, Laura kept her focus and with promise of her beautiful cupcakes at the end she powered home to continue her rein as first MAC lady home in 1.38. Joining Laura at the finish was Colm Devlin, who on reaching the summit together claimed “we are at the top together, we will finish together” And together they stayed to the bitter end. Laura was grateful for the experienced company and the craic was mighty even if the descent ahead was daunting. A true example of MAC teamwork at its finest

Again the race of pairs continued as race veteran Dave Fulcher coached first timer Fionnuala Simmons down the mountain for them to cross in 1.47. Next home was Nicola Mathers although not new to the series, it was the first time she was tackling the Donard race. Standing at the foot of Donard after the race she said “I will never look at that mountain the same again” knowing she had conquered it in 1.51.

Judith Robinson, armed with her glasses this race, enjoyed the climb to the summit which towers 850m above sea level. Seeing clearly on accent was not the story for the way down as the glasses where popped on the head and experience took her down the mountain in 1.54. Sean Looby, always fond of a great race picture smiled for every camera on the way up. His return to the series post marathon was marked with a 1.58 finish. Coming in under the two hour mark, Sean did say that the marathon was an easier challenge which highlighted the 6.5 mile tricky route and bi-polar weather conditions that runners had to endure on the day.

Making a return to the series and competitive running, Andy Spence crossed in the line in 2.09. It was the now regular H&D pairing of Colette McBride and “The Butcher” that swept around the final corner of O’Hares car park to finish in 2.16. It never ceases to amaze me that Colette enjoys every step of every race, putting faith in her own abilities and never being daunted by the challenge ahead. An inspiration and bench mark for other runners not just in Murlough but further afield that taking the plunge into the unknown at H&D isn’t actually as scary as it looks, after all the mountain can only go up so far and what goes up, has to definitely come back down again.

In five days time, its time to pull on the Mudclaws again as we head back to the heart of the Mournes for Moughanmore. If legs have recovered remember to bring your number and a full kit inspection will be in place, if you are to learn anything from Donard, it is that in the mountain, you need to prepared for everything changing in a matter of minutes.

Hill & Dale Race 5, Rocky

Thanks to Paul Fegan for the photo.

We’ve had Slieve Martin and Slieve Binnian, so to the rookie Hill and Daler, “Rocky” didn’t seem like too bad an idea, having conquered just one peak, a race, in the previous weeks. However it’s actually the Rocky Horseshoe by name and encompasses four peaks which show off the Mournes from the opposite side from last week.

As the cooler weather began to set in on Thursday evening, the 225 runners where given a break from the midgets for a change and conditions where perfect with little wind and great visibility. This race also offered spectators the opportunity to see runners at almost every part of the course and the clear evening allowed for you to see runners making their way along Altnataggart, Pearse Castle, Tournamrock and finally the summit of Rocky and down.

The course allowed for a fast start and finish, that’s if you had anything left after the previous 3 mile and it was clear the competition between McKee and Hanna was fierce as they merged onto the track to climb Altnataggart, shoulder to shoulder. It was a treat for those watching on as they were treated to runners hurtling themselves down the side of Rocky back onto the track, having to make a quick decision to find the best line down. McKee gave everything he had to ensure victory was his after the smart winning tactics from Hanna last week was evidently still raw in his mind.

MAC came out in force yet again and it was Eddie Murnin who was the first MAC to be spotted coming down Rocky with Hugh Oram hot on his tail. At 43.45 and 43.51 respectfully, the two men quite literally emptied the tank and made up places on the final 200m. It is also to be noted that Hugh, who hasn’t tackled Rocky in seven years, was able to boast about a 3 minute pb and proves the Coach is just like a fine wine, as his performances improve as the years go by.

Next to come hurtling down the mountain in 46.28 was the ever agile Stephen Cassidy, as he had every foot placement on point throughout the final descent to secure a top 100 place. He was closely followed by Sean Armstrong in 46. 44 who picked an excellent line down Rocky to arrive alive and smiling at the finish. It seemed that the MAC runners came in pairs on Thursday, Declan Mc Cormick and Colm Devlin followed next in 48.20 and 48.40. The pair were being hunted down by the ever impressive Laura Lynch as she held onto her crown as first MAC lady home in 49.01.

Gerard Rowe, like a mountain pro, clocked a 53.47 and just behind him, Nicola Mathers, who was assured by the fact that she had survived this race in previous years, tackled the descent with ease to come home in 55.49. Judith Robinson took on some of her favourite peaks in this race and clocked a 57.25.

Just over the hour, we welcomed Lorna Fitzpatrick and Sarah McKay safely across the line. Continuing to tackle the unknown and improving race on race, the hills are definitely building in the legs of these ladies and the Hill and Dale force is definitely strong within these two.

As high vis became evident on the mountain, in amongst them was Colette McBride bringing the race proceedings to an end for the evening. Colette, surrounded by the legendary Butcher and The Prophet himself, offered her thanks for the support, encouragement and of course craic had with the men as she made her way across the 4 peaks. She was quick to point out that without them, she would probably still be up there. A testament to the organisation and marshalling of the series and also a warning to both men, Colette is ready to take on Donard next week.

With the midway point in the series nearly upon us, we take this Thursday off to prepare for the highlight of the series as runners take on Slieve Donard on Saturday at 2pm. This year with Donard being a IMRA trial for the European and World Mountain Running Championships and as a first round of the Irish Mountain Running Championships, we expect a considerable field of elite athletes toeing the line in hope to be selected to represent their country alongside our own MAC Mountain Goats who will be out in force to tackle the biggest mountain in NI.

 

 

 

Hill & Dale Race 4, Binnian to the Top

All roads lead to Slieve Binnian on Thursday night for the infamous Binnian To The Top, Hill and Dale Race. Race 4 of the series seen over 250 runners take to the start line at Willies Field. A route which took you up a gradual climb along a gravel path to the foot of the mountain with a hundred metres of respite before you climbed over the Quarry and headed up along the wall, was not to finish at the Stile which was in sight on the accent. As the lungs burned and you had seriously questioned your sanity, the route took runners over the stile and left up to between the first Tor, finishing with spectacular views over the middle of the Mournes. 

Now don’t be fooled by the pictures, with the evening sun setting over Rostrevor, the climb up Binnian was all in the shade with a wind that would cut you in two. Runners scrambled for position at the start knowing it would be tough or taking your own life into your hands to try to pass runners on the climb. It was Newcastle ACs, Zak Hanna who made the break just before the stile as William McKee and him fought to the bitter end for first position.

On arriving across the finish line you were greeted with the very reason many people do the Binnian Race – the view. As beyond the finish line the wind that had whistled across the final accent was non-existent and basking in the evening sun, runners who had given everything took in the views of the valley and the middle Mournes.

It was the familiar face of our officer in command, Kieran Young that was first across the line in 32ndplace in 28.10, over a minute quicker than last year. He may have his sights set on Engeria 24 in July, but he is still MACs top Mountain Goat.

However, three days, post sub 4 marathon at Belfast, it was Eddie Murnin who was the next MAC home. With the attitude of “I’m going to give it a go” Eddie scaled the side of Binnian with relative ease and came across the line in 30.40 and 75th place.

It was the award winning off road runner of the year who was next to pop up on the summit of Binnian. Sean Armstrong took 86th place in 31.19 and was soon followed by Hugh Oram in 32.05. Declan McCormick narrowly missed out on a top 100 place however to finish in 33.40 for a man new to the series was admirable.

Colm Devlin didn’t just stop at the finish line in 34.10, straight after the race he was seen on top of the Tor looking down at the runners still to come and fully embracing the 360 degree views. Gerard Rowe and Stephen Cassaidy came in next as the sun began to set. Laura Lynch powered up the final accent to maintain her winning streak as first MAC lady home in 35.47.

She was followed by both Michael Neeson and Michael Power in 37.10 and 37.45 respectfully. I am sure team support was aplenty between Nicola Mathers  and Judith Robinson as they climbed the final few granite rocks to finish 11 seconds apart in 39.59 and 40.10.

The now Hill and Dale regulars who are training hard for the Mourne Way Marathon, Sarah McKay and Colette McBride, reached the summit unscathed. Both ladies have proven that mountain races are a battle of the mind and if you believe you can, you will. With fantastic times of 45.43 and 47.56, they are ones to watch as their confidence grows.

Lorna Fitzpatrick, who threw herself in the deep end last week at Slieve Martin come out again this week and closed proceedings for the evening with a huge smile, probably of relief, in 48.51. Also a huge welcome to the two honoury MAC members Fiona Kenna from Star of the Sea and Padraig o Connor Balbriggan Road Runners who braved Binnian under the leadership of our OC.

The MAC Mountain Goat contingent continues to grow and it was heard on the descent that “Those Murlough are everywhere.” Well what else would you be doing with your Thursday night? Next week Race 5 takes us to other end of the Mournes to Leitrim Lodge for Rocky. Remember as always, don’t forget your number and to have all essential kit with you.

Hill & Dale Race 3, Slieve Martin

You know when you are surrounded by special people. These are a whole new level of special people. Those who think a Thursday night is best spent running up and down mountains, defying death pretty much. I’m still to get the reason why people love to do this but I tell you this, I love watching it.

This week we headed for the first open mountain race of the 2017 series. A calm evening which didn’t feel as warm as an April evening should, mad people, I mean athlete’s, gathered at the foot of Slieve Martin in Kilbroney Forest Park. Amongst those ready to embrace it where the MAC mountain goats without their fearless leader.

249 runners took to the start line and as usual on time they set off at 7.30 for what I heard be described as a brutal race incorporating 4.25 mile, over 1700 ft and the first taste of open mountain.

The first half mile told the story. As the field of runners lead by Willie McKee took on the first climb the air of ‘why am I doing this’ filled the forest. They had started and they where going to finish. As the field left the forest and on to the final climb to the top of mountain it was Hugh who was leading the troops.

The descent was to be tricky and the fear of putting one foot wrong, did become a reality for a few. Yet for those in the club new to the series, they embraced it and cursed it all at the same time. In the absence of our officer in command who is saving himself for his favourite mountain next week, Coach Hugh was first MAC across the line in 93rd place in 46.53. He was followed by the smiling Sean Armstrong who on the last stretch of the race was loving life back in the mountains in 47.50.

In quick succession we welcomed Colm Devlin, Gerard Rowe and the first MAC lady home, Laura Lynch all in the 51st minute. Newcomer to the series this week, Declan McCormick was next to cross the line in 52.28 who was totally perplexed by the fancy dancey vest pins supplied on the day.

Michael Neeson made it 3 in a row with a 52.30 with Dave Fulcher and Michael Power taking it home for the boys in 54.10 and 54.55 respectively.

Judith Robinson embraced the descent after a tough climb and clocked an impressive 55.30. Nicola Mathers, who was disappointed that she didn’t get to take all her kit with her on the run but nonetheless delighted to finally have the coveted MAC jacket in the right size, colour and trim, crossed the line in 57.09.

A story could be told about Fionnuala Simon’s race that’s for sure. Missing a turn off, her and 2 other runners veered off track and without a reliable human sat nav like the club’s own Caitriona Carr who masterminded her way round 3 different cheer points at London last week, found themselves at the other end of Kilbroney. However even with that slight scenic detour she clocked a 1.03 and is delighted to see she continues her series run of 3/3.

Sarah McKay continues to impress as she crossed the line in 1.06 on her first open mountain experience. Lorna Fitzpatrick was embracing her first Hill and Dale experience and really did choose the hardest race as her first. It didn’t deter her though and she pushed through to finish in 1.07.

Collette McBride was sure to keep on going and had earned that post race cocktail sausage coming home in 1.13 to bring the evening to a close.

So next week it is not a case of what goes up, must come down. Race 4 will see runners take in the only way is up Binnian Race. Of course you will have to come back down but you are not required to run as it doesn’t count.
Hill & Dale Race 2, Tollymore

On Thursday, focus returned to the second race of the Hill and Dale series in our own backyard of Tollymore Forest Park. It doesn’t matter how many times you run around Tollymore, there is always a hill that you have chosen to forget existed until you are half way up it and cursing your great idea to follow this route.

The 4.5 mile course known as the Monument Route, differed slightly from last year but requests prior to the race from the coach himself to have the clubs new defib on hand was worrying regarding what shape some of the runners where going to cross the line.

For MAC there were many to brave the challenge of the second race, seen more as a warm up before hitting the open mountain next week at Slieve Martin. We welcomed back 11 of last week’s ‘victims’ and added in Collette Mc Bride, Michael Grant and Michel Power to the mix.

As the race set off which can only be compared to a stampeded of wildebeests. The thud upon the ground vibrated right around Tollymore as 278 runners jostled for position.

As runners went beyond the Boundary Wall they welcomed knowing that after 2.6 mile it was all downhill from there minus that hill at the end that many have erased from their memories from previous years.

It was the familiar outline of Kieran Young who was the first to approach the final hill for MAC in 39.48. Delighted to know that after this, the next 10 weeks he enters into his comfort zone where I am sure he will retain the glory of beating the now yellow and red clad Kenny.

Not far behind was Hugh Oram in 40.16, who chased his rivals up the hill displaying flawless hill technique to make a few places up on the final push.

Eddie Murnin took the race easy with his impending marathon but still came in strong in 40.50. With all three men coming in the top 100.

Sean Armstrong continues to quietly work his way up the standings in 42.34, with Colm Devlin not far behind in amongst one of his favourite training grounds in 44.05.

Michael Neeson return this week continuing to question his sanity on why he got himself mixed up in the series. However with an impressive 45.42, there is nowhere else he should be.

Dave Fulcher and  Michael Power took the race in their stride finishing in 48.29 and 49.08 respectfully.

It was the determined running of Laura Lynch that brought it home for the MAC ladies in 46.41 retaining her title as first MAC lady. She was followed by Fionnuala Simons in 51.09 and Judith Robinson in 51.49 who kept within a comfortable distance of each other throughout the race. The girls made perfect markers for Michael Grant as he embraced H&D for the first time claiming that the climb isn’t the problem, it’s the downhill, crossing the line in 52.45.

Also returning after their maiden voyage last week was Sarah Mc Kay who although fully aware now of what lay ahead was a lot more relaxed and smiled through the exhaustion as she came up the last hill in 58.08.

It was the relieved face of Collette Mc Bride who after last year’s final assault on the series finished proceedings for MAC on the night in 1.01.

Next week we head for the open mountain at Slieve Martin in Rostrevor. Runners please remember to bring along your numbers and mandatory kit – its not optional, its essential.

 

Hill and Dale Race 1, Castlewellan

13.04.17 MAC Group Photo

Thursday saw the return of the ever growing and popular Hill & Dale series.  A race series masterminded by neighbouring club Newcastle A.C. who not only know how to entice some of our members to their dark side but also know how to put together a gruelling and unconventional route for runners of the adventurous kind, maximising the stunning backdrops of the forests and mountains of South Down. 

As anticipation for the event mounted amongst the MAC virtual clubroom, it seemed that there were to be many new faces to take their maiden voyage round a Hill and Dale course in addition to our hard core and ever faithful mountain runners. 

With Race 1 being within the grounds of Castlewellan Forest Park it was showcased as one of the ‘easier’ routes of the series. When we say easier, that translates to 5.2 mile encompassing 3 hills that amounted to over 1000ft. Definitely not for the faint hearted but Team MAC fielded 14 members including 4 H&D first timers in Eddie Murnin, Michael Neeson, Fionnuala Simmons and Sarah Mc Kay.

It was the continuing formidable form of Hugh Oram that was the first MAC across the line in 42.31. Needless to say Hugh embraced those hills and added to his 2017 collection of personal bests and a top 75 finish for the Coach.  

It was the H&D newbie, Eddie Murnin who powered his way up the Castle hill next in 44.10. Proving that he is just great at everything, it seems, a proactive post race recruitment drive from fellow team mates was rife trying to commandeer him for mad mountain expeditions, in realising his mountain goat potential. 

Kieran Young, still carrying an injury from last weekend’s Donard race, gritted his teeth and showed why he is regarded as our Hill and Dale Officer In Command getting across the line in 45.05.

Next, we welcomed our Hill and Dale veterans across the line with Sean Armstrong, Colm Devlin, Sean Looby and Gerard Rowe pulling off fantastic performances to show that they have no fear at all even when they know what lies in front of them isn’t the easiest of miles.

Laura Lynch stood out throughout the race at all points and with that, was the first of the MAC ladies home. Digging deep on the hills and gaining ground at every opportunity to finish in 51.39, Laura’s return to impressive form continues to produce yet another stunning performance off the back of a 10k personal best in Hilltown.

New comer Michael Neeson showed great promise after the pre race nerves settled, to come home in a 51.51 and was followed by Dave Fulcher in 53.14.

However the rarely heard phrase around any trail race of ‘I really enjoyed that’ was said by one Nicola “I don’t know if I’m fit to run until I do” Mathers only 4 days post Paris Marathon. It seemed she was fit to run after all as she pulled on her freshly washed vest and put in an unwavering and what she obviously thought was an enjoyable race to come home in 53.16.

Fionnuala Simmons showing great promise on the hills on her first attempt at Hill and Dale with a strong finish up the final hill in 53.35. Judith Robinson was relentless on the climb to Slievenaslat making up several places on the assent. Testament to the potential she has for the future open mountain races in the series, definitely one to watch.

It was the sheer determination of Sarah McKay that captured the essence of the Hill and Dale series. New to the series, Sarah has had her sights set on doing a H&D race for a few months now. Not unnerved by the quick pace set from the off, Sarah stuck to her own plan and pace, putting faith in her training. She finished the race to rapturous applause from the Team as she took on the final hill in what was a journey that was more a battle in the head than in the legs and resulted in a commendable 1.02 finish. A great show from MAC both in the field and supporting.

Tomorrow (Thursday) we will be at Tollymore Forest Park for Race 2 of the series. All race details can be found on the Newcastle A.C. website. 

 

Me?  A Rock n Roll Idol…Here begins another story

Me? A Rock n Roll Idol…Here begins another story

“The judges loved your story”

Story? I don’t have a story as such but one thing is for sure, I tell a good story.

I received a message from fellow club member Michelle Mc Cann back in February. Michelle and running pal Nicola are the Rock n Roll queens of the club. They love a bit of bling and love the Rock n Roll series. On seeing that Rock n Roll Dublin had released their Rock n Roll Idol competition for 2017 , Michelle thought of me and sent me the link to enter.

I played with the concept of entering for a few days. I didn’t feel I had a story as such to tell. Everyone has a running journey story and I didn’t think mine stood out as something spectacular. Though that got me thinking of the question on the form about why I run. I’ve spoken at length about it over the past 2 years, what I love about running is being part of other peoples journeys. Especially being able to help and support beginners as well as affording everyone the opportunity to run. This can be summed up under the title of “inclusion.”

Running is not just for the athlete, even defining what an athlete is indefinitely is not possible. Everybody has the opportunity to be apart of the running community. There is no criteria that you have to fit to be classed as a runner. You just have to believe that you are.

Like anyone new to running I had my reservations about why I was even doing it but as I entered race after race I found my place in running. It wasn’t far from the back, but it is at the back that I found myself surrounded by so many people who felt just like I did. They had the determination to turn up and cross the line that day and take part. The stories I hear about peoples journeys, what made them run and supporting them through their own race walls is where I found joy in running. I began to make friends with those from all over the province, it was the same faces at every race that you spent the miles with and picked up a few more new faces along the road. Even when you got to the finish line there were new people staying to cheer you home and none more so than the members from Murlough AC who I had joined after signing up to Dublin Marathon.

It was during Cookstown Half Marathon that my running objectives changed. I was running alongside Tony Barclay who was a visually impaired runner.  He was being guided by the lovely Karen and I was beginning to hit my own running wall in the race. He literally took my hand and ran with me for a few miles setting me out in front to pace him to the end where I pb’d over the 13.1 mile.

From there I made a resolution that I had to run with him as his guide. Little did I know that just before tackling my first Marathon I’d have agreed to do another with him only after he signed a waiver that even after 26.2 mile with me he may also be profoundly deaf, we were good to go!

So began my whirlwind adventure into guide running. I had earlier in the year signed up to the Athletics Ni LIRF coaching course to become a Running Leader and having done so made me eligible to take part in their Guide Running course alongside Disability NI. I also got myself First Aid trained as I was going to be prepared for all eventualities.

In my house, training for a marathon is a well oiled machine, juggling two training schedules and two mad kids wasn’t easy, with both Michael and I passing each other at the door and fighting over 5.30am runs round the lake. Yet the exhaustion was always worth it when I eventually got round to share my long run thoughts on the blog. Many people where emotionally wrapped up in my training and I knew going round Dublin on October 30th that there were more than a few friends tracking me!

Dublin came and went, a momentous occasion and I danced across the line in 6hours 2minutes, pretty much bang on where I knew I would be after all it is finish lines not finish times. As my blog went live 48hours after DCM, I had a resounding response to what my Granda would have called “an epistle” which was my mile by mile break down of my thoughts and the people I met on course. Everyone that day had their own story and reasons for being there. It was refreshing, motivating and lovely to share the experience with them.

I have been privileged to lend a hand with The Running Coaches Beginners and Intermediate groups which kicked off local to me in January. I have been able to learn invaluable skills in coaching and be there at the very beginning of peoples running journey convincing them that they can to 6 weeks later watching them complete what they thought was unthinkable. That feeling is indescribable and now many of them can kick my ass pace wise which is strangely, pretty great to see.

Derry Marathon is just over a month away, I am looking forward to picking up where Tony and I left off at Larne Half back in March. I cant wait to share the miles with him, in fairness he is just as mad as me so its all good, there will be an abundance of smiles and laughter out  on route. The main thing being, there will be some stories to come from it and afterwards my attention is refocused to DCM part 2. As what else would you want to be doing on your anniversary weekend other than running round the nations capital, miles away from each other for a medal, t-shirt and a bottle of water?

So I am sitting here still trying to get my head around this whole Rock’n’Roll Idol competition. For me I am looking at this as a great opportunity, if anything, to raise awareness of inclusion within running. Vegas wouldn’t be half bad either if I was lucky enough to win I must admit. There are plenty of reasons out there why people won’t run however there are options people can avail of. There are plenty of people willing to guide VI runners over all distances and there are many events organisers who are fully inclusive like East Antrim Marathon Series, Born 2 Run and Dublin City Marathon who go the extra mile to support Assisted Wheelchair teams such as Team Kerr to allow them to compete.

For me, it is about removing obstacles and creating opportunities for everyone to enjoy, embrace and love running just like I do. And if its the fact that I tell a good story that will raise awareness, I have plenty more stories to tell.

VOTING IS HERE!!!

http://www.tiny-url.co/rockidol

 

 

Will I…won’t I? 50 days to Derry

Will I…won’t I? 50 days to Derry

I’ve had a rough few weeks flirting with the dreaded bench. 

I knew I hadn’t been right since Carlingford half but put it down to shin splints and did what I could to keep on running that equates as an unhealthy obsession and dependence on deep heat, foam rolling, anti-inflamatories and complete ignorance towards being injured. 

It wasn’t until I went to physio to begin my big mile love and care for my legs that I realised that it wasn’t just an ongoing bout of shin splints. The look on Grainnes face when she came across the lump was of shocked followed by ‘how long has this been like this.’

I managed my 20.6 mile at Knockagh grand with taking it easy and a good pain killer strategy. Though knew I was going to have to take time off after. 

So began 10 days on the injury bench and zero running after the Monday night session with The Running Coaches beginners and progressives and 7 miles of cursing Dermot up and down whilst in agnony. The fact that for once I really meant even word I procrastinated about the whole way round was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Needless to say the 3 physio appointments and complete rest in those 10 days have had a profound effect on what ever yon lump in my leg is, it just hasn’t totally disappeared yet. 
Of course 10 days not running was playing havoc with marathon training and my mind. Although I’d trained for a spring marathon (that I wasn’t running) and had all the miles I needed in the legs I feared being back at square 1 so the need to long run was my priority with Derry getting closer by the day.  So I decided to take the risk and get out there.

My first port of call was the bike. So agreeing to join Caitriona for her 16 miler I was going to just be a mobile water station. So getting my miles one way or another. However the night before, I realised that the front tyre wasn’t for staying blown up and took it as a sign that I was meant to run after all.

Let’s face it this decision was going to produce 1 of 2 results. 1 being that of pure devastation that I wasn’t much better and couldn’t run or 2 I was still moving and able to function if only for a few mile and I could build up again.

Thankfully as we set off at ridiculously early o’clock on Saturday morning, the result was the latter. The first mile was a cautious one. On a predominately flat route along the Dundrum Road, I found my rhythm and talking a lot more than normal to move focus off my body I was soon content that I’d make the first 6 mile. In moments of silence..yes they do occur, Caitriona prompted  me to keep talking and shift my focus until it was elsewhere. 

It was a beautiful morning as the sun came up over Dundrum Bay. There were few cars on the road which you would expect at 7am on Easter Saturday morning and it was just us and the path.

In order to alleviate as much pressure as possible I wore my DCM shorts for the first time since then and compression socks. Even I had to laugh at the state of myself. I am not built for such an ensemble. But luckily running isn’t a fashion parade and if it worked I didn’t care. 

Caitriona had masterminded a new route for us moving from the confines of the park and into public view. Parking at the 12 Arches and heading out towards Mount Panter, back through Dundrum taking the old roads back to the car. Measuring 6.2 perfect. This worked well for fuelling and water stops so for the next 10 mile we headed for Newcastle.

With intentions to do a tour of the town and back to base, The thought of moving through streets and houses on such a sunny morning filled me with dread. We had got to just short of 8 as we approached Newcastle and decided that if we turned back, we’d refuel at 10 and do another loop of the same route. With the wind minimal and knowing the scenic route ahead it was a no brainer and on hitting 8 mile we turned back towards Murlough. 

At this stage the world had woken up and enroute to club run and Longstone 10k there were many fellow MAC members spotting us and tooting as they passed.

At 12 mile I was was going to throw Caitriona into the Bay. As she tentatively suggested that she didn’t have 16 in her at 12 mile there was no way in hell I had come this far to turn back. So as I ran out in front to let her focus on me and keep her going we got to the 3 mile to go point and turned for the trip back. With a comfortable sub 3 half which is my aim for every long training run.

I’ll admit I was beginning to faulter myself but the knowing the end was near and the elation that I hadn’t felt pain since the initial mile or 2 was keeping me going and keeping me positive. As we arrived back at the car park I had literally one lap to do to get the 16 mile mark. I also discovered that there was a mini round about at the bottom of the car park that I didn’t know about. 

Leg still attached and the usual post long run niggles I was relieved and delighted that we had made it. In the shadows of the Mourns Mountains we headed for Taras to meet the club ones who had all been out doing their own runs this morning including the London crew on their last long taper run before the big day. 

With a chilled glass of water, a pot of tea and a slice of this calorific goodness it was the perfect post run reward. 

So today I woke up and worried that there might be consquences. However no immediate pain and nothing more than what I already had in the background. So it seems it was a sign that that tyre on the bike wouldn’t blow up… I was meant to run. 

Long may it last 

Getting taken up the Knockagh

Getting taken up the Knockagh

Well I seriously need to catch myself on. 

Brenda…when’s your 20 miler for London, Just saw a 20 mile race. Fancy it?

Yeah because I’m fit for 20 miles and obviously ‘the plan’ is for 20 the weekend of the 1st April. How about…thats all lies! 

But the seeds had been planted and well it involved a big and long ass hill so if I walked that and ran the rest I’d be alright…right? Michael had signed up to it and I will never forget being so gutted not having a medal after my 20 miler for dcm that I wouldn’t let Brenda feel the same. So at that we were headed for the Knockagh with the East Antrim Marathon Series.

The medal was something else. In fairness a good bit of bling can convince me to take part in any race. But with it being April Fools day and all that it paid homage to B.A with ‘i pity the fool’ and the medal wasn’t far wrong. With a choice of as many laps (1,2 or 3) as you felt fit for on the day of 10.3 miles which included a long drag of 900ft to the Knockagh Monument which I was soon educated in regarding it’s significance of it as a war memorial, thanks Eileen! It was a race fit for those who wanted to push beyond 10k, those on long runs for marathons and the ultra runner alike as well as eejits like myself with no focus or plan.

The 5.30am alarm went off and I had my normal, I don’t even like running moment which lasts until I see the finish line at the end. Also it was a big day…the last race for my DCM trainers that have served me well but not much life left and breaking in new trainers is well underway. 

It wasn’t an overly long drive to Greenisland and let’s face it we’d have been covering a lot of miles on the road anyway if we hadn’t have signed up to this event with either Omagh or Subway half…lets face it we’d have gone to Omagh so not as far just an early start.

We collected Brenda enroute and enjoyed Michael’s poor sense of direction round Belfast. As we came up the M5 there it was…the monument. Sitting at the top of something that replicated Cavehill. I have never really ventured beyond that end of Belfast except to go to Ballycastle or Portrush. So all new territory and totally unfamiliar with surrounding routes and attractions.

Whilst doing Larne, Tony had tried to educate me on being taken up the Knockagh. It sounded daunting but one things is always sure in cases like this…what goes up, has to come down and that is what I held on to the whole time.

Arriving at the registration there where familiar faces, those I’d ran with before and those who I had recognised from other events such as Last One Standing and the previous 6hour challenge that Michael done. Yet the mood across the field was definitely one of ‘what have we let ourselves in for?’ Add ‘again’ for many others on their reruen trip to Knockagh.

Race brief done and we were set off down the road. With no idea what lay ahead other than the mileage we planned to hit.

To fit in with the VLM training plan for Brenda we had to do 2 laps which would equate to 20.6 mile. This would be only the 3rd time I would have ventured beyond 30k and I know I didn’t have the miles in the legs that I wanted for the distance.

It wasn’t long before the group of runners spread out and as Brenda and myself motored along, there were two runners running quite close to us. I did step aside and asked if they wanted past but it turned out they were using us as pacers. 

Alison and Mairead from Ballymena Runners where to spend the whole 20.6 mile with us. Mairead training for VLM like Brenda and Alison the wayward friend who like me was along for the craic. A perfect match. 

We were also joined by Janet, who I first met at the Last One Standing recce, Caroline who I picked up at the Christmas Cracker for a few miles of laughter and honoured to have the Dame herself with us also, showcasing that anything is possible whilst severely hungover.  

So as we turned the corner to be faced with the hill that went on forever there was no doubt that together we were going to survive. I do love the moaning and procrastination on any run and as the hill kept going the laughs where a plenty and as long as we were moving forward that was us winning. 

Sharing tales of our big races, the fears for the upcoming ones and life in general we were soon greeted by the always smiley face of Adrian at the bottom of that infamous Monument Road which after a nice gentle incline looked like Everest. 

As runners came down the way and filled us with reassurance that ‘you’re nearly there’ we tackled the last of the climb for that lap  and there towering over us was the Knockagh Monument. I now understood the significance of it and of course why Tony had that evil laugh when I said I was doing the race. 

Yet with the weather gods on side the views where great and breathtaking. A perfect opportunity for some pictures as let’s face it… Who goes through all the elevation and doesn’t take a picture of the view. Even at the top of Slieve Donard encased by rain and clouds I take a picture and I could well be at sea level for all Joe Bloggs knows. 

So the promise of a big down hill was ahead of us however it wasn’t all immediate. As we pushed on another half a mile we soon found ourselves faced with one hell of a decline. As a guy on a bike flew past us I wondered how he was going to even stop at that speed. 

Watching from behind I watched Brenda enjoy the downhill shouting from behind to relax her shoulders. I thought back to January and the day Brendas name came out of the hat for the club place at VLM. What a whirlwind of a few months for her. Having only gone as far as 10k, in the past 2 months she’s tackled her first half and endured every horrible drop of rain that could fall on long runs. I’ve enjoyed training along side her and grateful for her support as I took ill mid race at Dune and she got me to the end in one piece. Here she was on her 20miler…20 miles! I was so proud of her and loved hanging back watching her enjoy the run. 

I spent a good part of that hill trying to convince Caroline and Eileen to do a second lap ‘for the craic’ but it wasn’t to be. I finished the first lap with Eileen as we swapped our own antidotes on life and realising we weren’t too different other than a few years difference. As I crossed the line for lap 1 Brenda was waiting on me and a quick drink and some positive thinking and we were off again for another 10.

Soon joined by the Ballymena girls and Janet the 5 of us went past the same squashed rat, the nappy at the side of the road and a random collection of bones again.

And there was that fecking hill again. However we were soon to be graced with the presence of the first Ultra runner coming round on his 3rd lap. Such encouragement from him as he pushed up the hill effortlessly. Not far behind him was another on his third lap. Spirits where high amongst those on the Ultra lap. A reflection on the EAMS event and the calliber of runners that it attracts. Able to laugh, enjoy and also offer constant encouragement regardless of how far you where running.  

And still, standing at the bottom of the last hill was Adrian and his 4 legged accomplice Disco handing out jelly babies and chocolate to ensure we got up that final stretch. This time round it didn’t seem so bad. As let’s face it we knew what came next and it was the homeward bound road. Yet with 4 more mile still to go at 16 mile I was buzzing and in the words of Lauren…loving life. Here I was on top of the world or East Antrim really with a great bunch of girls, having a great laugh, in awe that my body was able to cover this mileage and about to start the decent to one big ass medal. Life couldn’t have got any better at that moment. Lucky and blessed.

We made our way to the last downhill and Brenda and I chatted as we let our legs take us down the hill. Brenda got the Siobhan take on cadence breathing mixed with some accompanying lyrics. Alison and Mairead where just ahead as we turned onto the final 1.5 mile. 

It wasn’t long before their hand waving to tell us to hurry up was spotted and we put the final mile in together. 

20.6 miles completed and official start of tapering for Brenda and Mairead. As for Alison and myself, miles where miles and what enjoyable miles they were. 

Seeing Michael at the end confirmed he had stopped after 2 laps and didn’t tackle the 3rd. Which let’s face it was of no advantage to his vague and not well planned training schedule. Post race refreshments where spot on too. Everything you need after a race…coke, salt and vinegar crisps and a snickers. Perfect!

So being taken up the Knockagh twice was an experience. One that I am sure I’ll do again. However I’ll be checking in with the crew to see if they’re doing it. As let’s face it…its the company that makes the race a good one. The medal helps  😉 
 

A huge congratulations to fellow MAC Jackie Moore on making it round 3 laps to earn her first Ultra Marathon. Well proud and great running from a great athlete. Team MAC are very proud of you.

Guide Running – 13.1 mile of guaranteed company

Guide Running – 13.1 mile of guaranteed company

So today was finally the day I took my duties seriously as a guide runner and held onto that black strap and headed off through Larne Town Centre with Tony for 13.1 mile.

I’ll be honest I wasn’t too nervous about any of it. 

Half Marathon- done a few of those.

Guide running – I’d certificate in that.

Putting up with company the whole way round – a perfect combination for a long run.

I met Tony away back in July at Cookstown Half whilst I was finding the race tough. He literally held my hand and got me through mile 7 and 8, sending me on ahead to ‘pace’ him to the end. I got a 4 minute pb that day and I’m sure it was all down to his belief and support.  From there a friendship blossomed. I took on the 10k at Running Blind highlighting that I was a terrible guide as Michael ended up in a few trees. 

Then just before Dublin Tony asked if I fancied doing Derry with him. I’d yet to even make it round 26.2 mile but I was blown away that out of all the people in the world he could have asked, he asked me. So always up for a challange  I agreed and so began my venture into guide running.

I completed the Athletics NI guide running course in addition to my Lirf course and just in case got me my first aid certificate. Can never be too prepared says me.

Making my way through the Guide running course 

Looking at the race schedule I knew we would be pushed for events to practice running together and Larne Half came up. Perfect, however with the event selling out Larne AC where super accommodating and the two of us had the green flag to run together. 

With the weather indicating a complete wash out we travelled tentatively to Larne as clear skies and lack of rain followed us. With Michael having to stay at home with the kids it was me and the girls destined for 13.1 mile together. 

I have to admit I love how within the last year between Caitriona, Brenda and myself that we’ve racked up some serious milage and didn’t even flinch at the thought of another half marathon even if we are forever the other end of the ‘MAC sandwich’ when it comes to results 

Team MAC at Larne

The girls had pre race gitters whereas I was in search of a blind man. As the hall filled at Larne Leisure centre I began to wonder where Tony had gone. He knew I was here as we were thankfully early but where was he! I kept circling the place just in case I’d missed him.  Thankfully I got a call and he was outside with all his County Antrim Harriers team mates. This was it…game on!
As the race got underway we waited for the majority of runners to pass before joining the madness. Caitriona and Brenda passed and we followed in behind.

The first 2 mile of the course was lined with spectators. The atmosphere was buzzing as around us there were those taking on their first half marathons, crossing the line to taking the first steps into a new distance.  As for me it dawned on me as we passed the start line that ‘crap I’ve to run a half marathon and guide run.’ 

It’s not like I didn’t notice I was attached to Tony, but with the reality of having to run and then be sure I was taking in and sharing everything happening around me was overwhelming.

I spent the first mile at Tony’s pace just to see how things panned out after the first mile. Surrounded by the familiar faces of those from other races and exchanging the usual pleasantries.  It seemed that Tony was running royalty in his own right. Everyone knew him and as we cruised through Larne town centre and he encouraged spectators to join us. This wasn’t the last time he’d invite people to join us.

Picking up randomers, the Craic from Derry in the form of Peter

As we made our way out to coast the sun shone down on us. Possibly a terrible weather trick before the flood of rain arrived but it showcased how beautiful the route was. At 3 mile I looked down at my watch. By now the Pack fallen into it set order and we were comfortably motoring along. Comfortably…I had just blew my time trail time out of the water. I could believe it. Although we had slowed down  bit it wasn’t sore or too much effort. I then got the head up and headed for the 10k point. 

As we began to pass the runners on their return leg it was clear we where headed for a strong time. When I saw 1.09 10k on the clock I knew I’d over 9 minutes advantage over my first half marathon time and relaxed into the second half of the race.

By now Tony and I had worked out each other. 2 kindred spirits out for the craic and a few mile. It was lovely to find out more about him and share many times of laughter and many times of sadness. I run for the journey and what I learn along the way. So between cheering on others and getting there ourselves, it was a mighty race. 

The weather continued to hold and it began to heat up.  At 10 mile the blister that Tony first detected at 7 Mile was becoming an issue. With procrastination and history of running shoes it was decided that a run walk to the end was the only way we’d get there. Let’s be honest it’s the best way to get there.

Crossing the line to the familiar faces of runners right across the board we clocked a decent 2.48. And when you look at it, that was 5 minute quicker than my venture out at Carlingford 2 weeks previous so was delighted. 

I am really looking forward to Derry Marathon now. It’s going to be the best quarter of a day of my life and lucky me that I get to share it with Tony.

Guide running is like running with a mate and being stuck with them the whole way. I didn’t suffer in anyway from additional post race pains and it was a great 13.1 mile. 

Team MAC had outdone themselves again and with a rake of pbs to boot everyone had a great race.  

Although only a small contingent of the club ran Larne, it was lovely to cross the line to all but 1 of them for post race support. It’s that which makes being part of a club- worth it.  

Hugging Tony goodbye for the second time in 2 days after he accompanying Michael the day before at Craic I knew I’d see him the next day as he went for his 3 in 3 at the EAMS event. I reflected on the way home about my running journey so far and what opportunities that it have afforded me.

Always a great believer in inclusion myself I never knew running would allow me to explore that further and be able to be useful to someone. Over the 3 race days I shared the events with not only Tony and Peter his VI friend but also Team Kerr who have been at the forefront of inclusion in running in NI with son Aaron through an assisted wheel chair. Just showing that running is an option for many and that there are people willing to support and event organisers who will do what they can to make their events fully inclusive to all.

A huge thank you to Tony for last weekend at Larne.  Here’s to the best 26.2 mile of our lives in June.  

Couldn’t be any luckier to have met this man on a dodgy country road in Cookstown in July . 💗