Category: half marathon

Rockin N Rollin in Dublin

Rockin N Rollin in Dublin

Ok I know this is well overdue but with having the Ultra at Knockagh the week after Rock n Roll, I found myself immediately on my return from Dublin launching straight into the zone and spending the week afterwards, recovering from it all.

I had always had my sights set on the Half Marathon in Dublin as an opportunity for me to go out and leave nothing on the course. It had been over a year since I’d clocked a half personal best, putting it down to simply pushing up the miles for DCM and then Derry. But with the huge increase in miles over the past year, I began to wonder why I wasn’t getting any faster.

Ok it was obvious that my training held the answer to that. The lack of speed training in my then non existent plan meant that yes I was happy to plod along for 13, 17, 20 miles but although building endurance my speed never picked up and actually went the other way.

So with being crowned the Ulster Rock n Run Idol, this was my chance to shine. After Derry Marathon I got my act together and began intervals with the girls on Wednesday nights and it wasn’t long before not only I, but Jennifer started to clock better times. With Summer upon me also, it freed me up to take to the mountains on active recovery days and even the mental advantages of that where priceless as I wondered aimlessly up the Mournes for hours on end, sometimes on my own, sometimes dragging someone along.

At Ards Half, I was a mere 50seconds of my PB and I was treating the race as a welcome back to running after Derry Marathon a few weeks earlier. And then the bright idea of tackling Knockagh 50k Ultra presented itself, so no more excuses, it was game face with Rock n Roll now being an invaluable race as part of taper and endurance.

So the weekend went like this.

Friday

Note this became a weekend away with the girls. It was Brendas birthday and Michael being on the bench didn’t mind staying behind. So off we set to Dublin on the Friday evening. I had flirted with the idea of even a 5k PB on the Saturday at the 1st race. That all went out the window as we arrived into the RnR VIP party on Friday night.

Teaming together with the Dublin RnR Idol, Keith and his dashing significant other, Stephen, I would love to go into further details on what happened next but its a bit hazy so the general consensus was that maybe it was a good thing that Sinead won the competition as the two of us where certain to be liabilities in Vegas. When you feel the need to teach a barman how to pour a proper glass of wine, this is where we went wrong. It was gone past 2 before we crawled into bed and alarms set to get up for the 1st of 3 races that weekend.

 

Saturday

Not good. Not good at all. I will say this, the best thing I could have done was get up and go outside, even to run (using that term lightly). Serious case of being hungover, but thankfully I wasn’t the worst, isn’t that right Jennifer. Who cares about Personal Bests, Saturdays race was solely about Personal Worsts. Together we made it round the course in just short of 43 minutes and a valuable lesson was learnt! NEVER AGAIN- at least as an ensemble we looked class together as the mini team of little misses.

The welcome taste of Mega Meanies and Lucozade (the staple diet of the weekend with Eddie Rockets) got me going post race and we spent Saturday chilling and fuelling the appropriate way for the Half Marathon on the Sunday.

Sunday

In all honesty I was just glad to be alive on Sunday. The antics of Friday had me wondering if I was even going to be fit for 13.1 mile. So with the intentions, sponsored by the toll bridge on the way down, to just arrive alive.

It was an early start. I had to be at the start line for a photo call with other idols and people involved and we had opted to walk to the Point/O2/3Arena or whatever it is called now. All dreams of a PB had gone out the window and I was just going to take things as they came.

Bumping into some other local running celebrities, The Roddy Sisters, we made our way to the start and spirits where high. I forget how big some events can be. So used to smaller scale runs, it was lovely to be surrounded by a sea of runners. The serious athletes, the groups tackling this together, those in fancy dress and then your average joes like me out to pass a Sunday morning and earn some fabulous bling.

Everyone within the RnR team where fabulous. A great family of event organisers who knew exactly how to work of eachother. Photos taken and it was a matter now of waiting for everything to kick off.

With Jennifer returning home on Saturday evening to compete in Monaghan 10/5 miler, it left Caitriona, Brenda and myself to tackle the half. We had stolen Janet to keep us in craic and little did I know that she was to play a huge part in my race in the latter stages.  It was a perfect day for running, overcast but not cold. Though it was to heat up.

As corrals began to cross the line from 8.30. It was nearing 9 before we crossed the mats and we stayed together as a threesome for the first mile or so. Losing Caitriona quite early on, Brenda and I ran side by side round Christchurch and past the Guinness Factory. What still to this day gets me wondering is why everyone was waiting to get their pictures taken mid race, outside St. James’ Gate. I get that its iconic but swing by after the race and get your photo!

Shortly after 5k, Brenda told me to motor on and she’d catch up. As we hit 4 mile, I wasn’t to see Brenda again and found company with the lovely ladies of Star, Derry. I always worry when someone knows me and I don’t know them but knowing a few of their clan, I was glad it wasn’t because I had been banned from Derry after the marathon after party!

I also began to notice a lot of the course was like DCM backwards and got this strange fuzzy feeling inside. I fondly look back on my run at Dublin and it was lovely, yet petrifying to be back on those roads again.

Losing the Derry girls, I entered into Ballyfermot with 2 lovely ladies from Sloggers to Joggers. They were upbeat and just what I needed. Full of craic and support. At around 5 mile as we swept around the corner to the climb to the back of Phoenix Park, I met a first time half marathoner from England. At this point also it began to heat up, the clouds had started to lift and the sun peaked out. We ran together until 8 mile. Her determination to not stop to walk was fabulous. In all honesty she kept me going as I thought to myself, there’s no need for me to stop, I’m fit to keep going. At the 8 mile water stop as we arrived in Phoenix Park, I told her I’d catch her and took on some water and a gel.

Here is where my race picked up no end. Janet came beside me as I was getting stuck back in. Janet and I have spent many miles together and as a fellow guide runner, we always have plenty to talk about. Yes I know if I’m talking, I’m not running hard enough but I love the company and she is faster than me so its a challenge to keep alongside her and one I contently managed on the day. As we fell in with some ladies from Duleek who were brilliant to pace off, we hit 10 mile.

I dared to look at my watch and knew that I was well ahead of where I had hoped to be. However, I was no sooner thinking about saying something when I spotted the medical team on the hill. And there was some poor soul flat on the ground. I knew after the way I died the previous day that anything could happen to me over the next 3 mile. So I kept it to myself and enjoyed the tale of Janet and Tony at the Twin Peaks Half Marathon.

At mile 11 I spotted Sinead, Sinead and Eileen on the brow of the hill and as lake buddies who I have passed multiple times in the past week going the other way it was nice to mob them and share the love for the lake!

Mile 12 I caught sight of my friend from earlier in the race, still going. Janet and I had picked up Donna, one third of the infamous Roddy Sisters and plenty of abuse was being hurled of course all with laced with love and respect. I knew I had the personal best even if I crawled the last mile but I was feeling strong and I was buzzing. The end was near and as we turned onto the final straight I could feel the overwhelming emotions of achieving the long awaited Half PB. This was made even more special as with 100m to go there where the cheers from my southern running family, Drogheda and District AC, who I adopted at Derry. 2.36 saw me knock over 5.5 minutes off my time from Cookstown Half in July 2016.

I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t get through the finish funnel quick enough to phone Michael and tell him. I really missed not having him patiently waiting for me and unable to share the moment with him. I could barely talk and for once he was genuine and said well done, when I got home the next day, he was sure I could do better. Which I am not going to argue with.

Walking back to the DDAC contingent to cheer the girls home allowed me to share my excitement with everyone. It wasn’t long before we welcomed Brenda across the line and she was followed by Caitriona shortly after. We all arrived alive.

On completing the Half we had half an hour to get ourselves sorted for the fun run. 1.5 mile which we were treating as a cool down. Seems nearly everyone was doing the same but we crossed the line earning ourselves the 4th medal of the weekend.

A quick interview with the RnR crowd and we were free to bask in the glorious August Sunshine in our nations Capital.

Best way I can describe Rock n Roll is; It’s like Christmas for Runners. Plenty of bling, well thought out and organised route and surrounded by your running family. The craic was immense and no doubt I will be returning but think I will be avoiding the wine next time.

 

 

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I can’t imagine life without you

I can’t imagine life without you

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

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

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

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

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

So I took the plunge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Together for many more miles and many more smiles.

 

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

VOTE SIOBHAN GRANT

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

 

Ards Half- the return to racing ways

Ards Half- the return to racing ways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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 . 💗

I’m not “Dune” yet

A wise man once told me, you can prepare all you want for a race and your training can be perfect however you have no idea what will happen on the day so just run the best you can. Running a race is simply putting all your eggs in one basket and hoping you don’t drop or crack any of them. Sometimes you make it to the end of the race and sometimes not, however there is always another race on another day.

Dune Half Marathon was one of those races for me, where I knew I was fit for it, though all it took was the onset of a wishy washy stomach at 7 mile for me to falter and face 6 mile of trying not the throw up. However on the up side I experienced serious camaraderie and was able to accompany a fellow friend and club mate through the final miles of her first half marathon.

No joke but the air would have cut you in two, Slieve Donard had its little snow cap on and there we were getting into the car to take on the 13.1 mile between Newry and Dundalk. Classed as a Cross Boarder experience, where actually “no passport required yet” was the tag line, it was sure to be an experience. I wasn’t going out for time, nor did I really care, as long as I came in under the 3 hours I was going to be happy. I don’t train on road very often however my trainers do love not being soaked and mucked to the eye balls after a race.

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The T-shirt was epic, just like the race

I honestly spend more time trying to figure out what to wear for a race than I do to go out. Weather is always a big factor when it comes to a training run however at a race there usually isn’t the opportunity to strip off etc, so I braved the very cold temperatures in my capris, short sleeved top and my MAC vest for the cross boarder trip. It turned out there was a vast collection of choice of clothes that the runners opted for on the day, from the hardcore, I’m not afraid of the cold, vest and short shorts, to the more sensible, Layer up and hope for the best runners.

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We feel no cold, the shorter the shorts the better- Joe and Tony showing some leg

Setting off within a field of 800, Brenda, Caitriona and myself, flanked by the usual suspects of the naughty club including Eileen, Jennifer and Peter, set off from Newry quayside shortly after 10am. The first mile was a long drag, more so that fact that we knew at the end of it we faced a long steep climb of roughly 460 feet, to the dual carriageway. As you know I don’t mind a hill or two but this was one of little hope at the end of it, it just kept going. A few seconds relief in between though and whenever you have Eileen and Marion behind you “checking out your ass” willing you up the hill, there nothing like a wee wiggle to make you smile and remind you why you do this to yourself as a smile plasters itself across your face at the hardest part of the race.

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Been chased up the hill by Eileen and Marion as we pretend that we really love this hill

On climbing the hill, Brenda went out in front and after last weeks training run on tried legs I could have swore that she was out to leave me and Caitriona behind to eat her dust. However it wasn’t long before Caitriona made use of the extra leg extension and powered her way up the hill. As we enter onto the old road, the 3 of us had separated and where running alone.

I don’t mind running alone and lets face it, I wasn’t alone for long as I found 2 cracking girls from Derry to pass the next few miles with as I watched Caitriona put in some lonely miles and when I looked behind I could still see Brenda and knew she was still with us and doing well. As we made our way through miles 3 and 4, with the 2 best coordinated runners of the day, we were greeted by snow flurries and I wondered to myself why I had opted for short sleeves.

At mile 5 I hadn’t held back since leaving Newry, pace felt strong and I was settling into the miles nicely. It had been a long time since I was turning out 11 minute miles and for once I didn’t feel like I was going to die. Reaching the Carrickdale and the half way point I was in good form, mentally and physically clocking a 10k time to be proud of based on current form. As I took on the hill at Jonesborough I felt a little queezy and overlooked it as I was distracted by fellow MAC Norah out cheering us on.

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But I wasn’t distracted for too long. I had made up some distance on the hill between Caitriona and myself, however the queeziness got worse and the feeling like your tummy is a washing machine was embedded in my core. I had to slow down to nearly a walk and breathe through each bout of potential vomit. It wasn’t long before Brenda had caught up with me and I think if she hadn’t have done so, my race could have been over shortly after.

 

Through the next few mile we ran and chatted about all things running, the roads we were on, the drivers who tried to run us over and how I can run and direct traffic all in the one movement. It made such a difference to what could have been a potential DNF situation which would probably haunt me forever. As we tackled the section of hills after it wasn’t long that we were looking at the last 3 miles.

Looking down at my watch I wondered if Michael had broken his aim of a sub 2 hour half. I wondered had he ran with Brendan again and the bromance still lived on.  I also thought about how this time next week, I’d be finished my 8.4 mile trail race at Castleward and beginning duty at the Ultra race. I also knew that I’d definitely make the 3 hour cut off even if I had to walk.

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Spotted together on camera, Brendan and Michael chasing down Davey the 1.55 pacer

Brenda and I smiled our way through the final 3 mile as we watched Caitriona up ahead dig deep to 1…finally beat me and 2…smash her PB. We willed her on and cheered for her, both exceptionally excited and proud of her. The last 2 miles where tough but together we made it not as painful. We did decide in advance that we would cross the line together as without each other the race could have been a different story.

I didn’t realise that Dundalk was such a big place as the finish line was, what seemed, miles away. The mile markers along the course where spot on and as the watch buzzed for 13 mile the end was in sight and we cruised to the finish, together hand in hand. Brenda has just officially became a half marathoner and I was super proud of her as she came in bang on target at 2.45.

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The 10.5 mile point where the end was near but not near enough

Crossing the line to a host of familiar faces and hugs from many including Tony, Bootsy and Patricia Brown was a perfect end to the race. I looked around searching for Caitriona and Michael. I spotted them and ran to mob Caitriona. I honestly could feel myself welling up after the emotions I was feeling after making it to the finish in one piece and seeing Brenda so happy, I knew Caitriona had PB’d on such a tough course and her smile said it all. I turned to Michael hoping for more good news. I looked at him and tentatively asked…well? He said nothing and took out his phone to show me his Strava stats and there is was. Not only did he break the 2 hour mark, he smashed it with a 1.52. Who’d have thought! I was just so overwhelmed with excitement as I stood there. The fact my race didn’t go to plan didn’t matter, what mattered was Michael pulled out a spectacular run and went beyond his own expectations, Brenda nailed her first half and Caitriona had exceeded her own expectations and ran the race of her life.

I have to admit I was annoyed at myself and beat myself up briefly, though I have learned that the past can not be changed and I need to look forward and take the positives from the day. I didn’t freeze to death, I still finished, the t-shirt and medal is awesome and it wasn’t even my slowest half either… Lisburn still is! So as I reflect on the race I have much to celebrate. I put in some strong miles even during the later part of the race when I was under the weather and I have said it once and I’ll say it again, I am lucky to be apart of such a great club where I have made some fantastic friends and running has brought even more amazing people into my life from right across the country and I got to spend my Sunday with them.

Better luck next race and I can always give it another blast next year. Lets be having you Dune 2018- hopefully a passport isn’t required then!

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Some of team MAC as we smile through the fear of the unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brenda hits the first big milestone on the road to London

Brenda hits the first big milestone on the road to London

I have been hoping to get out with Brenda on her training runs the past few weeks but one thing or another hindered the occasion. So as the weekend drew closer and talk of the long run began, it was looking likely that all 3 of us where going to make the run. 

Caitriona and myself had joined the Ultra training contingent on Friday evening in the pouring rain at Tollymore for 5.5 miles at easy pace where we ran the flats and walk the hills a per the required pace for Last One Standing. 
As rain came from every angle we were soon aware that our training run was turning into a wildlife expedition as either side of us where deer grazing and wondering I’m a sure who these buck eejits with head lamps where annoying them on a Friday evening.

A particularly hilly route with some shocking climbs lay ahead but what goes up must come down and there was a very welcome downhill around mile 4 to stretch it out.

On Saturday morning Brenda, who had taken a hitus from running this week laced up the trainers for the Antrim Gardens 10k. She put in a strong performance, out doing every time she has clocked since Christmas. 
So as Sunday came the 3 of us met and headed for the only place I felt Brenda needed to put the miles in- the lake. 

The foundation of all long runs and complete and utter mental torture to the best of runners.  With intentions to do 12 the girls where warned that if we made the 12 I would be pushing onto 13.1 regardless. So that would equate to 5 laps of the the glorious 2.4 mile route and a wee bit more. 

The weather was perfect. Although cold at 1 degree and very crisp, the sun shone down and the air was still, making it perfect conditions to just keep running. 

It is a daunting prospect of 5 laps of anything be that a football pitch or the lake though what I have found is that it is always a lot better and easier when you have someone with you. And today we had plenty of laughs and giggles as we watched the time tick by.

The first 6 miles flew in and between us we didn’t have the usual 3 miles of procrastination and Drill Sargent Caitriona tried to push us on for steady 30minute laps. However as she took off up the back hill she seemed to be graced with the presence of what we can assume was a single, hot male. 

As we watched her head turn to have a better look and speed up to try and keep up briefly did make the laps enjoyable. So if you where one of those fellas in shorts at the lake today and are available please do let me know so I can pass you onto Caitriona.

Brenda had to endure mini interviews the whole way round as we assessed her experience of Lake laps and how she was feeling as the miles built up. 

As we hit the 10 mile mark, Brenda entered into unchartered territory. Not only that but she was running on legs that put in a strong 6 miles the day before. I knew this last lap would involve her having to dig really deep and find everything she had to get through the last few miles.  Although pace dropped slightly she was always in good spirits and not willing or wanting to openingly stop.

The last mile was soon upon us and as always I found a bit left in the legs. Having been told I’m a terrible leader as I pace it too fast, I went out in front to drag them over the last mile. I heard Michaels words fall out of my mouth “the quicker you go the sooner you finish” and glancing at my watch I knew a nice wee cosy sub 3 hour half was achievable. As we turned to finish the last half mile I’d miscalculated the distance and finished on a hill. 

But the thought of the end is near was driving me up it and that last 0.1 mile seen the clock stop with 2 minutes to spare. The last mile was my fastest mile the whole run.

Turning to see the girls behind was a joy. Not only had Brenda ran so well to push through the boundaries, Caitriona had put in a strong run, the best I’ve seen her run in a long time. Which just made me so proud of what we had all achieved as a team. 

So next week sees the first half marathon since August. I fear what lies ahead. I don’t think I’ve got any faster but I am very aware that I can nail the miles. Dune half will be a return to racing and at a distance I enjoy doing. 

Sadly I’d no medal for Brenda today to mark her achievement but I have no doubt that she will earn that medal next week and continue on her road to London stronger and finish the race with the thought “I’ve to do that twice to get to the finish in April.” 

MAC on Tour

MAC on Tour

I suppose when you think about it, most of my “days out” this year have been to go to races. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I’m still getting out. So when Michael McKenna threw the idea of a bus run to the Causeway Coast out there a few months back, I wasn’t long ensuring I’d be on it.

After what has been an iffy few weeks in marathon training, I’d been warned how dangerous this route was and to be careful, well essentially I was told not to do it. But really how bad could it be? 

Hmm. …

So bus picked us up at 8am and that began the 2 hour trip to the scenic North Coast. 26 Extreme, who organise this race have the tagline “we don’t do easy” and it is this foundation that they pride themselves on. So with worries from competitors about high winds and bad weather they were basically told to pull up their big girl pants and horse her on.

With a glass of bubbles on the bus at 9.30 as second breakfast, we arrived in Portbalintrae. The sky looked moody and as team MAC dandered to the start line minus super runner McKenna doing a few mile before the race, the fear of what lay ahead began to sink in. 

Numbers collected and got ourselves sorted, we where soon on the bus to the start line. The thoughts of the previous race information highlighting what to do ie do what the Marshall says or you’ll get seriously injured or die. Played through my mind. Did they really have to be so dramatic..as the race progressed it became very apparent that they weren’t telling lies.
 

 With the majority of Team Mac opting for the half marathon we braved the cliff edge for a group photo. We were soon on the road, well questionable gravel uphill before turning onto a grass path. I knew I had to be careful and from the off I stuck with Caitriona. We were in this together and after promising her I wouldn’t run off and leave her, or take her at the finish line all was going well for the first 2 mile.

Mac half marathon machines to quote Joe McMahon

A few hold ups at the stiles allowed for race picture taking but nothing too dangerous or challanging in the beginning. Settling in we both turned to eachother saying well if we keep this pace up we’d be flying. Hmm mm

I laughed off a comment from an Ultra runner that we’d need our swimming gear around the corner. He wasn’t too far wrong. The tide was in and we had to go into the water. I’ve heard many people say they where up to their knees in the water, for short asses like me I was up to my knickers! 
Leaving the water to run a mile on the beach where I was treated to a sandblasting/exfoliation treatment from the wind and the sand was far from enjoyable. As we reached the rocks the heavens opened and let’s face it, it was the really wet big rain. At 3 mile in, I was hoping that this was the worst of the course. How wrong was I. Even after the rocks, I could have easily killed myself as I was about to run into a chain I didn’t see and Caitriona thankfully steered me clear.

The ground had been cut up by all the previous runners and because it was so soft and wet it wasn’t long before I was on my ass. It happened in slow motion, I had flash backs from falling up Bernagh in the snow back in March as I hit the ground. Thankfully my extra “padding” had taken the brunt of the fall and I was able to carry on, with a bruised ego and mucky shorts.

The rain continued to fall and at the first feed stop the haribo where swimming in water. All this water meant I had to pee so following the race instructions I avoided wild weeing and used the toilet instead. 

Plodding on we began to feel like we where getting somewhere. However the next 6 miles where to be the most brutal experience of my life. Between steps,stiles, more steps, slipping, steps, sliding, steps and guess what more steps. I managed to stay primarily on my feet falling only 1 more time and bashing my shoulder. And as for the stiles, short legs Siobhan could barely get her leg over some of them and would have been better crawling under them. 

Mid race selfie

The views where stunning after the rain cleared up and although I was holding onto the fence for dear life as we progressed, I began to enjoy it as the thought of how much worse could this get, kept you going.  

Just past Ballintoy Harbour

Conversation was plentiful, not only between Caitriona and myself but with the other participants. We were in amongst the marathoners, the 10k and the Ultra runners. Everyone feeling exactly the same, even if we where all drown rats covered in muck. 

Caitriona’s Geography left a lot to be desired and as we came above the Giants Causeway her reaction was priceless.

 “Is that it?” Yip just a lump of oddly shaped rock. I’m sure if we were at sea level she’d realise the columns are quite big and for a geologist, quite fascinating. And also that is not Scotland over there!

The feed station at just after 9 mile had the world’s best cake. We had been going 3 hours at this point and I’m sure anything would have tasted good, but the cake was immense. 

The cake must have had magical powers. As from there we were able to actually run at pace and I felt like I was finally breaking in. The end was near and it was just a matter of making it in 1 piece. With 1 tricky decent at 11 mile, we were soon on the railway track.

I didn’t care anymore and ran straight through the puddles. Caitriona wasn’t impressed by my excessive dancing in the puddles as I was splashing her whilst I prance like an eejit. So my singing and dancing at Lisburn Half drove her away and then my puddle dancing at Causeway may result in me not having someone to run with ever again . 

As we came across the board walk pitching the GR8 club race to fellow runners as a ‘Smaller version of Causeway Coast.’ We could see what looked like the support crew on the hill. 

One last hill and as I got to the top, I was delighted to take Caitriona by the hand and cross the line with her. True to my word,we done it together, right to the bitter end.

Final hill to the finish

With a quick trip to the bus to make it to Portrush for dinner, I tried my best to wash the muck off me with baby wipes and change my clothes. A beautiful dinner and a well deserved drink was had whist everyone tried to come to terms with what we had just put ourselves through. 

The bus journey home was to be fun. We had a “few” drinks to make the journey home that bit more easier on the sore bodies, purely medicinal. There was plenty of ice for not only drink but for an ice bath..thanks Brendan! 

We got off in Newcastle and headed to the Donard Bar for a few sociables whilst not in transit. Craic was mighty and was a perfect end to the day.

A big shout out to the team of supporters who came along and kept us full of positive thoughts and were there to support us during the race and also at the bar. 

However I know I’d have never made it through this race injury free without Caitriona. She worried more about where my feet where going than hers. She kept me sane and in craic throughout the race. We technically verbally wrote this blog at 8 mile. She chased me up every hill shouting to “drive drive drive” but best of all I was delighted to see that she beat me, it’s been a long time coming and for the results to have her name before mine was a poetic finish to the race. 2 seconds is 2 seconds. 

My poor trainers this morning

In the aftermath of the race, for about 10 minutes, I was never doing this race again. However today, with my broken body, sore shoulder and fresh hope that the sun might shine on the North Coast someday, I’m looking forward to next year’s “Away” race. It can’t get any worse than yesterday…can it?

Would Be Wiser Eating Grass

Would Be Wiser Eating Grass

It could be said that some runners would have been wiser eating grass than running on Saturday morning. With rain coming from every direction and Silent Valley resembling a bad day in Mordor, the hardcore runners took to the start line of Born 2 Runs, Dambusters Half Marathon whilst the fair weather runners rolled over in their beds.

Let’s face it, I made a point of running through every storm that the alphabet threw at me this year. Even running like a mad woman through the burst banks of the lake and the floods running down the mountains. So I’m not one to fear the wind and rain but I do detest beginning a run in the rain. 

You see the issue with this race was simple. It was in the middle of the Mourne Mountains. The part of the land that has a weather climate all to itself.  So if it’s sunny and lovely at sea level you can bet your ass it’s lashing rain and gale force winds up the mountain. 

As Michael drove up the Slievenaman Road towards Silent Valley the clouds began to decend upon us. It felt like a trip to a race during the winter series not in the middle of August. Yet after collecting our registration packs the mist lifted and hopes grew that it might actually dry up. 

Dambusters is not your average half marathon.  Some would say that it would count towards more like 15/16 miles in your legs than 13. It offers elevation of over 1000ft over multi terrain in what is essentially the heart of the Mournes. 

The elevation map

We boarded buses to the start line that was 3 mile outside of the park. I was full of mixed emotions. I have proven that I can run 13 mile, I don’t mind a few good hills, I love the mountains abeit walking them but I was doing this on a day that holds some strong memories for me and I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up emotionally.

I did have Michael to one side of me and Caitriona to the other. I was sporting some fantastic bling on my shoes also that Caitriona had got made for me for inspiration for Dublin. She couldn’t have nailed it any better. 

Caitriona was gearing up for her second half marathon which she was gently convinced to do as I owed her money and thought I’d put it to good use and sign her up. I thought after Lisburn she learnt her lesson to not listen to me but seems not and she was along for the ride again.

As the runners embraced the steady climb up the Carrigenagh Road, the rain began to pour. It was a small field of 200 runners so it didn’t take long for Caitriona and I to own the back of the pack. You see the thing about doing any distance is to run your own race. Being able to ignore those in front of you speeding off, ignoring the cars, medical team or police behind you crawling along slowly and have the self believe in your legs to make the distance is what you need to succeed. And boy do Caitriona and I know how to do that and do it well. 

After a mile we gradually split from eachother. I was determined to make it to Silent Valley without stopping to walk. I knew there was at least 300ft of a gradual climb to there so took it slow and made it within my time frame. Yet I spotted a familiar body in the distance. It would have been too much of a coincidence for two people to be wearing exactly the same gear, it was Micheal.

I have serious respect for anyone to drop out of a race. They’ve paid the money, geared themselves up for the race and took to the line. He wasn’t the first body I’d seen drop out, even in this race. Someone barely made 1 mile. But to know it’s just not worth putting your body through everything and accepting a DNF, I’ve the upmost respect. 

When I reached him I knew he’d already debated carrying on with me and decided even that would be a bad idea and he called it quits and saved his knee from any further injury. To say I was gutted was an understatement with DCM 10 weeks away, I hope it’s something that doesn’t hinder training for him or I’ll have to listen to him the WHOLE way round. The plan was suppose to be; do the marathon to get away from eachother!

Anyway, I carried on and reached the reservoir where I was greeted by fellow MAC Clare on marshalling duties, cue photo above. It was clear that the 10k was about to kick off so I needed to get up the path to the dam as far as I could before being flanked by the 10kers. As I progressed, the leaders of the HM passed me and support was aplenty either way from me to them and them to me. Strangely a few of the faces where familiar ones from Cookstown and also some of the MAC crew showing off that they’d already been up and down the hill I still had to face. They weren’t really showing off..I was just jealous they’d a big hill under their belt already.

I spotted the tree. A lonely tree that sits on a corner like the middle of a roundabout. I knew around the corner I was going to be faced with “that hill” the hill I had familiarised myself with a few weeks ago. I kept the head up and set my sights on the foot of Ben Crom Dam. The water was gushing out of it with all its might and as refreshed faces made their way back down the hill after surviving the climb and enjoying the water station at the top…I wanted to be like them. So digging in, I got to the top and reached what was essentially the half way point of the race.

The next 3 mile was pebble dashed by all types of rain. Rain from the left, rain from the right. Rain that came at you and rain that jumped up off the ground. The surrounding and usually dynamic landscape was immersed in mist and the rain rolled down the valley. 

The hope of a tailwind never appeared and at 9 mile I looked to my right to see people running across the mountain. That couldn’t be right! I knew the end was trail but a mountain? I reached into my hydration belt and pulled out the gel.  My normal powerbar sweets where not going to cut it at this point. As I turned and broke away from the 10k, a much needed hug from Clare at that point helped me pull my emotions together to tackle the end. 

I ran across the front of the Reservoir I spotted Brendan on the final stretch of his 10th half marathon and he was making great time. It was like his high five had special powers and I entered the forest with gusto.  

To be honest I felt like a fairy lost in the glen. I was very alone but comfortably so. You could hear rain drops fall from the trees and your feet crunching on the path. I was nearly ready to put a complaint on my list when I saw the water station packing up and you know how I feel about that, luckily they where able to muster together a glass for me and remind them that I wasn’t last so to hang on.

The next mile passed by and I kept saying to myself I’ve only a lap of the lake to go so motor on. However mile 11 happened, a mountain happened at mile 11. In the approach to the climb, I was met by organiser Jane bracing horrendous rain, which by now I didn’t even notice anymore, she coached me along the straight to the foot of the hill and I took on that hill like my life depended on it. One thing about this climb was…what went up, definitely was going to coming back down. Through a track that was essentially 1 big puddle I knew if I just kept steady I’d come in well below my 3hr aim. 

Down the mountain I came and onto the flat again. I could see the finish line downhill and waved at what was clearly Michael and some other MAC folk waiting for me. That’s one thing I can say about the club. They know to hang about for you to finish and cheer you home.

The last km was fIlled with pure relief. I seen the 13 mile sign and then the finish line. I knew I had the sprint finish in me and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I glanced at my watch to see a 2hr 44. 2 minutes faster than Lisburn and only 2 minutes slower than Cookstown on what was a desperate and challanging course. I was delighted.

Not far behind me, Caitriona graced the front of the Dam and came across the line with a smile plastered right across her face with a half pb!  What an achievement.

What was even more of an achievement was that we didn’t come last either…ok we where 3rd and 2nd last respectively but that still isn’t last…give me a cheer!! Wohoo!

Soaked right through to our knickers, we celebrated with Brendan on a series full house. We took our sodden feet to the car and headed for the hot tub and showers at the Burrendale. 

My feet where wrinkly, the blister on my hand had the top layer of skin peel off and my sock line separated the clean skin from the dirty skin. But I felt so badass. Definitely running in the rain makes a race twice as great to finish.

So for now, I’ll sit and admire the medal…a very nice one with the mountains and the Dam on it and remember everything that was thrown at me during that race. Ok I did cry twice during the race but I was working through the thoughts in my head that plagued me from 4 years previous. I remembered that the same determination and belief that I acted on that day got me through a challanging part of my life, is in fact the same determination and belief that got me through that race- seems it’s something that I’m sure is embedded in me now. 

There is no challange too big, not a complete life upheaval, not a half marathon in questionable conditions and landscapes or a full marathon.

10 weeks to go…

Murlough AC. ..MAC the smiliest club in the country

Thank you to Mervyn Mc Keown for the fantastic action shot mid race. Looking for the race pictures is my favourite post race ritual www.mysportsphoto.uk

And to Clare Murnin for enduring all that rain and providing the mugshots of all the Mac team in the collage above


Just get me past 3 mile

Just get me past 3 mile

I had an epiphany yesterday whilst running Cookstown Half Marathon, if I can get past 3 mile I am home in a boat.

Lets briefly rewind.

I signed up to Cookstown Half Marathon after doing Lisburn Half, which if you look back at the race report here you can recap on my unhappiness. Although I had had a cracker of a first half marathon physically and mentally, there were various different parts of the organisation and execution of Lisburn that failed to meet the standards required in my book for equality and inclusion. So on signing up to CHM I did contact Eamonn, the main man in charge, to let him know how Lisburn could have improved and what mistakes not to make, but he was already very aware and reassured me that I would not feel like I did at Lisburn.

CMH from the outset marketed itself on inclusion. To me that meant that not only did the race welcome those with varying disabilities, such as assisted running teams and blind runners and guides, but to all runners, those who are elite runners to the forever back runners, like myself.

Of course I signed up to the race alongside Michael without even knowing anything about the route or Cookstown for that matter. Well the next day I came across the elevation chart and thought to myself…what was I thinking? It looked like hill after hill after hill. Luckily I like a good hill or 20!

Being fresh from surgery and recovery well under way 2 weeks afterwards, I had 3 weeks to get myself together. I headed out for a long run on the 8th July and those 10miles where the longest I ran until the day. I did have 3 10k races in the middle including Shore 10k, Sea 2 Sky and the Womens Mini Marathon which where not short of a few hills themselves, training with the club and also time spent wisely at the gym. So nerves where high when race day rolled around after a failed 10miler the previous week had knocked my confidence.

Team MAC, (L-R)Brendan, Wendy, me, Michael

The sun shone down on us at the start line. Finding our destination, getting parked and picking up our registration packs was no problem. With our race packs we picked up our lovely yellow technical t-shirts, free energy gel and a fab reusable bag. A woman can never have too many bags and all that!

As the runners came together at the start line I came across the same familiar faces from other races in the past few months. I love this about running, I spotted the lady I had spent most of the mini marathon chasing , the other members of neighbouring clubs who you always see and of course sharing the pre race nerves with new people also.

I won’t lie, I checked the watch just before we started and my bmp was clocking 174. I was in heart attack zone before I even started! I think the next for me was passing out on the spot. Shortly, we where off and flanked by all the runners I made my way out of the arena to face the 13.1 mile ahead.

The lovely 1k downhill start was overshadowed by the fact on the way back we had to make our way up that hill to the finish line. By the 1 mile mark we had embarked on the first of many, many hills. I have never known a main street to seem so long and hilly. I had the dreaded thoughts of wondering where I was going to find the miles, why was I even doing this and my usual “who’s bright idea was this” obviously another one of my great notions. The good thing was that the town was busy, plenty of support, a water stop with jelly beans (never too early in a race for jelly beans) and that kept me going. By 3 mile though my head turned on me. People talk about the wall in long races, for me it was the wall being bulldozed down. Exactly the same stage as last weeks mini marathon, I relaxed into the race and began to enjoy myself. Knowing you’ve only 10 mile to go is a lot nicer than thinking gosh I’ve 13 to go.

Tackling the first hill with a smile

At this point we had went into the countryside and the pressure of people watching was long gone. I had seen the race route before hand and knew there would be an overlap of the runners passing the front runners. By the time I reached the start of this the leaders had already been through, me at 5 mile, them at 7! Yet it was the most fantastic thing that could have happened in the race. I always thought the really fast people where so focused on their race that they wouldn’t even acknowledge someone else on the road. Well I was wrong. In normal Siobhan fashion I did shout encouragement and smile at them. However the positive support and encouragement that they gave me was overwhelming. There’s me, the most unnatural runner in the world, plodding along and the “super athletes” cheering me on. I swear it was such a boost.

I did hope to see some of my Murlough team mates at this point but as I turned off onto the road to loop around I seen the 1.45 pacer and knew I’d miss them. As I reached the half way mark I’d well and truly found myself and my pace. I knew I was homeward bound and my race plan was on point time wise.

What I think I loved about this race was that I was always within reach of someone. Lisburn was so lonely with ample empty roads with no support and no runners near me, yet I pretty much spent the second half of the race playing cat and mouse with Tony Barclay and his guide Karen. They made the toughest point of the race go by smoothly for me. A total gentleman and great runner who literally held my hand as we went through the 8 mile mark. “Never leave a man behind” he told me and encouraged me to pace him in front to keep momentum. As I entered into the final 3 mile I glanced down. I knew Michael would be near finished and again still hitting 10mile at the 2hour mark as planned. The “I can walk 5k in 45 mins” kicked in and knew I had to pick up the pace in the next 2 mile to deal with that final hill.

The legend that is Tony Barclay and his guide runner Karen

On the homeward bound stretch the heavens opened, it was like it had waited for me. I love running in the rain and did feel as if it meant to be, just in time to allow all the elite through bone dry and to cool down the runners still out there. Another water stop, positive support from the marshalls and the PSNI, beeps from runners in their cars and shouts from passers by. It was a fantastic atmosphere.

Still smiling at 11.5mile 

The hill in mile 12 lay ahead of me. I remembered everything that Dermot Mathers had said at coaching on Thursday and kept the head up and focused on the top aiming to pass the girls in front of me, which I done. As I reached the final hill I dug deep (not with my feet but with the arms, thanks Dermot) and the hill breezed by allowing me the final straight sprint to the end. I seen the finish line and the timer and couldn’t believe it. Coming over the line I stopped my watch and there it was a 4 minute PB over Lisburn. I have no idea where it came from but it was there.

If the watch says it…It must be true

Michael and Brendan where there at the end waiting for me with a much needed hug and finally getting a glimpse of “that” medal. I swear if the girl had put it round my neck at that point, I’m sure I would have hit the floor. It was more of a plaque than a medal. But I’m not complaining, I earned it!

With plenty of sandwiches, water, bananas, complimentary protein milk, I cant fault the end, even all the railings where still up and unlike my last experience I finished the race feeling no less important than those who came first. Treated equally and feeling fully included right to the moment I was going home.

The post race glow

So to Eamonn and the team at CHM, what a job well done. No wonder your numbers have grown 3 fold in 1 year, next year I am sure you will need to order more medals as there is not one thing I can fault about the whole day. You even had the rain come on for me! I hope that you have raised a lot of much needed money for Tiny Life and once all the post race madness has ended that you all sit back and enjoy a nice gla0ss or two of whatever takes you fancy.

 Also if you are available on the 13th August, Tony is hosting “Running Blind 5k/10k” at Stormont. A fabulous race where you run half and your partner runs half blindfolded being guided by eachother. All for a fantastic cause.  Find Out More

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you should see in your race photos

Don’t you just love race photos…not!
I had my first half marathon on Wednesday night. It took me 2hrs46. I was near the back of the pack but didn’t care, I knew I could do it in my own good time.
Photos have emerged from the night and at first I cringed. I had done 12.5 mile, 12.5 very very lonely miles at this point and all I could focus on was how my legs looked like tree stumps.
I looked at it again today with a different view…those wee tree stumps are filled with determination, they are relentless, they carried my 14stone body 13.1 mile, they are full of power and strength. They kept going to the end and held me up in the queue in mcdonalds afterwards as I waited for a strawberry milkshake which was better than the tea and toast after labour.
They might not look pretty and I’m stuck with them however they did a mighty fine job on Wednesday night and I salute them!

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