Category: Running club

The Hugh take over 

The Hugh take over 

A few weeks back panic struck the group when Dermot announced he was going on holiday. This shocked me on 2 levels…1 – he was taking time off (about bloody time) and 2 – Mondays session would end up being missed. Not on my watch.

So breaking rank (do I even have one) I suggested that I’d be there at 7pm on the Monday in Dermots absence if anyone fancied a wee jont to keep their now embedded night out..I mean training session. I do think fear set in and Hugh stepped up to the mark and said he’d be there too. So the panic was averted and no one missed their Monday session and it was in the capable hands of Hugh and his side kicks (me and caitriona).

However the thought of a wee jont out tonight wasn’t one I embraced.  With yesterday’s antics at Dune Half and still not feeling too hot on I recalled laughing at Dermot trying to stretch after a week of high milage…he would have loved to have seen me trying to move tonight. What goes around come’s around. 

However since it was initially my idea to have a session in the first place I’d to man up with my sore legs and dodgy tummy. But without fail and a little encouragement, Caitriona hauled her ass out too after the race of her life yesterday to join in the ‘recovery run’ and support her lesser able running buddy.

Hugh knew we were both in bits and had a good laugh at our expense but was adamant that we were going to do 3 ‘easy’ miles. Thing is 3 miles is never easy!! And especially the day after a race. Though let’s face it this session wasn’t about us…it was about the ‘beginners’ using that term lightly now.

So after a great warm up where high knees was just too much effort for me, we set off Hugh leading and Caitriona and I holding the back as normal. 

I wasn’t sure if it was just tired legs but after half a mile I was dying. Luckily it wasn’t just us and after catching Hugh’s attention we dropped the pace back a tiny bit and it made all the difference. Turning for the return leg home. The group stayed well together and it became clear who the faster runners where and who had been keeping up the mid week training in the group. I was having to keep remind them to take it back a step to keep the group together. 

Due to traffic on the road I crossed with the first group who had a bit more left in them so we picked the pace up for the final 300m. Was nice to stretch out and enjoy a strong finish.  Followed by the second set to cross the road with Hugh and then the third set with Caitriona. Clocking 5 km or 3.13 mile if you want to pedantic.

Everyone made it through the run in one piece and are more than ready for next week’s final session. Plus it was also nice to run again on a Monday in favourable weather.

It’s amazing to see how far they’ve all come and I’ve come to terms with the fact most of them are quicker than me. Though I’ll be sad to see the sessions end but that means a new group of beginners and hopefully seeing this group join the progressive group to further develop their progress from being able to beat me to absolutely annilating me. 🙈

 *note I did not get a hug this week however Hugh reluctantly waved at me during the cool down stretch ..I’ll take that*


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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







What goes up must come down…eventually

What goes up must come down…eventually

I always wonder how I get myself into things. However on the realisation that Michael actually doesn’t train unless he has an event to work towards, Christmas 2016 seen him getting a one way ticket to his Ultra Running baptism of fire. 

The Last Man Standing Ultra run by local events company Atlas Running, consists of 4.2 mile on the hour, every hour for as many hours as it takes until there is only 1 person left. Sounds simple enough, right?

So cue the Recce day. 5 laps of the course, race conditions. And check out that elevation 🙈🙈🙈

Yip up and down like a loop whilst doing loops. A bipolar course if i ever seen one.

Of course thinking I didn’t want to miss out/flirting with the idea that I might actually do it after my performance at DCM16. I took myself along with the long suffering husband and what is the crew from MAC. 
I had treated this week like I had done my prep for my 20miler, well I could have rested up a bit more as I’m sure my legs where screaming for mercy after being up the Granite Trail aka lunges with a view, twice this week. However when the weather is as mild as it has been, I can’t sit inside.

Granite Trail on Thursday

So Team MAC took to the start line with over 20 other’s including last year’s winner. I had various ideas of strategy on how best to tackle the miles ahead. Other than just getting my ass round it alive, I was sure there was a technique to it.

Team MAC with honoury members Fiona Kenna and Lucy the dog

As we set off I felt very overwhelmed. I was surrounded by the elite of running madness, sorry I mean royalty. Seasoned Ultra Runners, the members of the 100 mile club and me. I’m sure they must have looked at me and wondered was I lost. But I am the personification of slow and steady and that essentially is what we needed to be. In control of pace and our own abilities to make the time frame. 

The recce participants

I was very lucky to be yet again at the back of the pack as I was accompanied by race organiser Adrian. Who was the perfect gentleman and paced me round. Explaining the best strategy for the lap. To be at the road by 11 minutes, the Bridge by 22, the House by 30 and the Caravan Park for 40. And if you want to walk it takes 12minutes to get the start. 

Lap 1 sucking all the information out of Adrian

First lap was bang on 52minutes. But I was already feeling it, a sign that I was nowhere near ready for the few laps ahead. Lap 2 kicked off and Michael decided to pace me through it.
We don’t often run together and there is a valid reason why- he drives me mad. I appreciate whoever runs with me has to have something special about them, especially if they are slowing down to meet my pace. We survived the 2nd lap together and headed off on the 3rd lap. And this is where he started to drive me mad.

In fairness my legs where starting to feel it bad, I was wondering if a 4th lap was even possible never mind a 5th. He encouraged me in his own annoying way to get me through the first 2 mile which where the toughest by far. Reaching the tarmac after the house I actually began to open up and relax. However this was becoming a common theme every lap. 

He left me with a mile to go on the downhill and I knew I’d make the cut off to start another lap. Doing some quick maths I knew this would bring me in around 13 mile. I was happy enough with that but knew I hadnt done any long run training and this was my limit. 

Winterfell Castle… made infamous by Game of Thrones.

Coming in with minutes to spare I had a stern word with myself.  I’d 2 more hours to go until everyone was finished and my legs, although tight, had some life left. So I set off on lap 4 knowing I’d burn out and have to walk missing the cut off. I enforced a new plan to my Ultra Running strategy. I was going to enjoy the unseasonably mild January day and the beautiful surroundings, take out the camera and photograph the memories of the day with a dynamic cool down. And that I did! I came in just over the 4.10 mark as let’s face it, I stopped to talk to a lady and her son out walking their dog, I sang with the birds and towards the end had caught up with the girl in front who happens to be called Janet and we walked the last mile in together. 17 miles completed.
Now that’s what I call a perfect end to a run. Learning about others running stories and obstacles, their future plans and laughing. 

The first of the lap 5 runners arrived in at 36mins and everyone followed shortly afterwards.  

The MAC crew all done themselves proud making the 21 miles looks easy. The recce has recruited maybe 2 more runners from the club as they felt it is a challenge they want to embrace. 

Me on the other hand. Not this year…some year definitely. But for now I’m happy to head up the MAC support crew to ensure there are friendly faces and all hands on deck to get the biggest entry of Murlough runners to an Ultra, through as many laps as possible.  

Myself and Fiona Kenna post run

In true team fashion and of course to satisfy the post run munchies. We stopped by McDonalds and massacred all food put in front to us…you can’t beat it.

Cracking Craic at the Cracker

Cracking Craic at the Cracker

So the final race of 2016 took place on the 27th. After a few days of overindulgence it was only right that I should be joining over 1100 others who were feeling the same way about the recklessness of the Christmas period and ready to “punish” themselves with an approx. 8.5 mile of the best Castlewellan could offer.

I count myself very lucky to live where I do. I’m surrounded by many a mountain, hill, greenery and endless forest trail paths. Local club Newcastle AC where playing host to the Christmas Cracker which basically took in EVERYTHING the surrounding area had to offer. With the event selling out well in advance of Christmas with record numbers of entries all headed to Castlewellan to take on the unconfirmed route. We were definitely going to be in for a treat and a host of surprises.

The best of both road running and cross country that Northern Ireland had to offer where registered for the event. The only catch with the Cracker is that it is a paired event so it doesn’t matter how fast you can personally finish, if you don’t cross with your partner, tough shit! So the key is to run with someone of the same pace or be prepared to drop your pace to match them. So the person you have probably spent all year running to beat, soon becomes the person you rely on to get you over the line.

Now of course, I’m hardly “the best” that Northern Ireland has to offer unless its for craic whilst running, I’m your woman. So although there were many out to put in a strong performance, for most it was a bit of post Christmas craic, where you left the club vest at home and dressed up for the occasion in fancy dress and embraced the day as just sharing the fun and challenges together.

The Cracker was the first race I booked after DCM to give me a focus. Needless to say, the natural pairing of me with Caitriona was inevitable and her inability to tell me my ideas are pure mad, landed us both on the entry list. I honestly think she ignored exactly what the race involved and got more excited about getting dressed up for the occasion. Bottom line is, if you are going to be near the end, you might as well look like you made an effort. So against my better judgement and my hatred for dressing up, I agreed to tutus, hats, socks and embraced looking like a complete fool all on the promise that afterwards we could go out for the night. Fair deal!

So as we woke on the morning of the 27th, the sky was blue, it was fresh and the fear of the unknown hovered in the air. Getting dressed I really did panic that we’d be the only ones who dressed up and people know me here! After some gentle prompting from Selena and Caitriona and then realising that Micheal was making a slight effort, unannounced to run as Santa, I didn’t feel like such an idiot.

As Santa and his two MAC elves, headed up the Town. The amount of odd looks from passing cars could have easily caused an accident. However once I got up the town it was clear that the passers by must have thought the population of Castlewellan had totally lost their minds! There were Snowmen, Elves, Vikings, Cowboys and Donald Trump and some Mexicans to name but a few. In amongst this were the vest and short runners which to the non runner at the end of December is madder than those dressed up!

As we registered at the local GAA club, we picked up our numbers and mugs which lets face it will make tea taste so much sweeter. Soon we met more and more from the club, it seemed that this was a big Murlough AC day out as many of the club had come out to take part in all categories, some mixed pairs, ladies, men and transgender (not an official category but should be added for next year).

After the obligatory group photo, we headed off to the start line and we where soon on our way moving through the town. I had prepared myself for a climb of Slievenaslat so when I heard rumbles of complaints about the climb to the top of Drumee, I laughed. It wasn’t even a hill as such so couldn’t wait to hear what they had to say once we went into the park.

Billed as having road, forest trails, mud and a surprise, it first caught the city folk off guard as we turned to run down a field only half a mile in. This wasn’t the last time I was amused by those who had travelled down to “run in some muck.” To those of us who are used to chasing sheep and shifting cattle, the softness of field underfoot was welcomed.

Turning back to head into town, we kept smiles on our faces and were greeted by many a spectator. I did enjoy the fact that we wouldn’t move for a white van that was trying to push his way past us as we headed towards the bottom roundabout. I get that it must have been so frustrating for them trying to get somewhere and then being greeted by police holding up traffic to accommodate a pile of runners. But tough shit really is my view on that and as we turned to head up the exit of the Forest Park I did turn to wave at him to acknowledge his lack of patience.

As memories of Causeway Coast 16 soon flooded my head as we cut up the dirt track to Crow Road, the field of runners, not for the first time in the race was to come together as one by one we tried not to fall or slip. Familiar faces were about for some reminiscing and a good laugh. Running past the holy grail that is the lake, we were greeted by the hill to the Castle which I can only assume is the Castle that inspired the town name.

From here we went up and down and up again through the trails of the back hills. At 3 mile, we were impressed to be on point for half marathon pace and given the amount of hills we had encountered, both Caitiriona and I where very pleased with ourselves. However the familiar route of the back hills soon entered into the unknown as we passed the boundary wall and went into the “arse end of nowhere” or as known to many as heading towards Leitrim and this is when the real fun began. Negotiating fields which have seem to become inhabited by the “works of art” that appear for the Soma Festival each year, added laugher and a few scares to those who aren’t used to oversized fake animals in random places, with no valid reason.

With at least 1000 in front who had cut up the ground prior to our arrival it was tricky to find safe ground underfoot. Not one to worry about the trainers, or level of mud, I pushed on through as I watched 2 snowmen panic like the sun was going to melt them as they sunk further into the mud as they didn’t move quick enough. However at our next obstacle, it was comical to watch as everyone held on with bated breath trying to get down a rather steep hill which had mud rivers going down it quicker than the runners. It was here we met Lorriane and Caroline, who we were to spend the remaining few miles with as we continued to meet, tackle and conquer the “surprises” that the route organisers had in store for us.
Reaching 6 mile, I knew it was going to make or break me. After a few tough months post marathon, I feared the unknown beyond what I had ran. I had walked several times in the past month beyond the distance but I wasn’t sure what I had whilst running. As we came onto the Drumbuck Road, we had seemingly swapped partners briefly as I spent a mile or two running with Caroline and chatting about our aims for the coming year. The sun had began to drop in the sky and as we entered into the park, the thought of the end being near as very appealing.

There was one more little surprise left for us and although the finish line was in sight, we had to run the whole way around the god damn horse show field which wasn’t without a few wee inclines. I was however feeling strong, comfortable and content within myself and my wee legs. I had become quite attached to my green tutu and was smiling away. Having to gather the now “team” together, Caitriona and I, alongside new found running friends Lorraine and Caroline, pushed towards the finish line to come across it together to mark what was a tough, challenging and extremely fantastic run.

There is nothing I can fault about the whole event from start to finish, apart from missing out on soup as they had run out as it seems spectators and joe bloggs off the street had heard there was complementary soup and although I’m sure both the club and Newcastle AC had planned to cater for more than entered, they had under estimated the hunger and excitement that a bowl of soup could generate.

It was the best well attended prizegiving I have ever been at, though on scanning the room it was probably because a pint or 3 where available and everyone deserved a wee tipple for their hard work. I was delighted to see Michael Power and his sons take home the main category win for dressing up. I’m still laughing as I see more and more pictures of them appear.
Caitriona and I took home a bottle of wine each also for the effort made to dress up along with some other of the club members, you could say that although MAC didn’t win any of the running categories, we definitely owned the fancy dress, showing that yet again that Murlough AC fully embraces everything that there is on offer from running right down to being the best turned out club in Down. *my own opinion of course*

A quick shower and pizza and soon we were back out to toast how badass we were for completing and surviving the Cracker. I don’t think it was really necessary to be the last ones to leave the bar or not get home to after 2.30am, but I was celebrating, celebrating the realisation that I can still run, that I may have found my mojo again and that I was amongst those who have been by my side the whole way through what is without a doubt the most amazing year of achievements that I have ever had.

 Photo credit to Mal Mc Cann, Paul Fegan,  Colm McMullan and Liam Smyth

And some dodgy drunk snap chat pictures

It’s Only Cold If You Are Standing Still

Sweet Mary Mother of God and little Baby Jesus. It is baltic! But I’m all about positive thoughts…at least it isn’t raining also.

Last week set the scene for Wintervals. With over 50 members of the club taking themselves out for a 3 mile Time Trial over the past 7 days and cementing their resolve to improve over the coming weeks, morale is high within the MAC camp. 

We all now have our benchmarks *wohoo second last* and know that coming out to Wintervals week in and week out will hopefully have a good impact on everyone’s performance. 

However the hardest step for anyone is…the one out the door. Tonight that step was taken by 45 of the MAC Massive, showing no fear of the tough session that lay ahead. 

Split into two groups after our dynamic warm up, we set of for the session.  My first stop was the Bath Lane steps. I had never heard of them before so as I stood at the bottom of them, I wondered where the elevator was. 75 concrete steps that went up a bit and then got steeper and went up even more. 

Like seriously who even thinks this is a good idea. Under the wing of Coach Hugh I tried not to show that I was dying of fear inside and eventually (from the back of the pack where the fun is as always) I got going.

First half of the steps weren’t too bad but oh my they got a lot steeper and legs turned to jelly. It was awful. I was still trying to figure out was it the steps making my legs feel funny or the fact I haven’t had a rest day in nearly a week. 

But as with all intervals it’s short term pain for long term gain as although at the time it felt like forever, it was soon over and at least 350 step in our legs. 

Departing Bath Lane we headed for the Harbour to take on the “Zig Zag.” We passed the other group on route and was reassuring to see they where in fine form and not looking too bad. 

What lay ahead was another hill session. Coach Selena promised us that after we were done there where buns and protein milk at the end. So as some runners run because they like to eat, many of us where ready to earn the fluffy fairy cake goodness. 

So 5 sets of reps lay between us and the buns. The quicker we done these, the quicker we got the buns, simples. The flow of the running was spot on. Not standing about too long and perfectly managed so I passed Anne on her way down everytime. I don’t know if I could have coped with not seeing her on the 5th rep! 

As we finished up and had “session lessons” well embedded in our heads (which where now always looking up and not down) we set off for home.

It was nice to have Caitriona calling the shots as she embraced being able to run again. 

Alongside Miceal we tooted back down the promenade for our cool down. From warm up corner, we continued to test our ability to balance and figure out our right from our left as we enjoyed a cool down lead by Hugh. 

As the other runners who took the long road home began their cool down we got stuck into the homemade buns and protein milk. Please don’t tell Dan the Avonmore man that I was drinking Dale Farm! 

Best end of session treat ever though that means expectations are high for next week and all following weeks. I’d even happily do another rep up those steps just to “earn” another bun.

So another end to another Wintervals session. Nothing could beat the joys of the thaw in the shower afterwards as I regained the feeling in my fingers. 

I may harden up as it’s going to get colder as the weeks progress on. However I am already looking forward to next Tuesday and the return of ” The Train.”

Hug this session was supplied by Joe! Much appreciated!

You don’t have to always run

You don’t have to always run

Winding down from the marathon definitely has benefits you thought you’d never appreciate.

On one hand you seem to miss the challenges of the long run and being out doing monotonous laps of the lake, breaking milage milestones week in week out. However now post marathon you can enjoy a weekend morning knowing you don’t have to dedicate around 4 hours to training and have that bacon sandwich.

What I found out on Saturday ..I don’t have to always run to get out there and part take in events.  Today’s race saw team MAC descend upon Annalong. A fundraising event for the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team.

Run4Rescue had an option for all athletes. Felt like you wanted a challenge there was the 10 mile race up to Dinnywater and back. Wanting to push your limits and get some solid miles there was the 10k. And of course for those who wanted to stretch the legs, on the injury bench or like me, just couldn’t be arsed running there was the 4 mile walk.

Of course MAC had someone in every race which strangely for a running club, the majority of the club representatives in the 4 mile walk category.
We set off around an absolutely fabulous route around Annalong and kept a relatively brisk pace along the shore and past the most quaint wee houses I’ve ever seen. 

It was fresh but with clear blue skies and the sun shining it was the perfect Saturday morning in November.  

John lead the way with 5 of the MAC ladies falling into line, Norah, Ann, Anne, Caitriona and myself. It was so lovely to walk along and chat about life in general. By around 3 mile the 10mile leader and winner was coming along. 

I remember the first time I was ever passed by William McKee. Born2Runs Kilborney 10k last January. My initial thought as he passed me while I was on my first lap and he was finishing was “who let him out with hardly any clothes on.” This was a thought that I had numerous times over the rest of the Winter Series when I saw him. And Saturday was no exception! Short shorts and his Mourne Runners vest. 

I have come to realise when you go as fast as him you don’t feel the cold I suppose. 

Anyway as the leaders came past us we cheered them on and reaching the top of that hill we waited to see the rest of the runners onto the flat, cheering on the Mad MACs Hugh and Judith who tackled the unforgiving 10 mile route.

Getting to the finish of our walk we arrived in time to cheer on the 10kers on their 2nd of 3 laps and see the 10 mile runners finish. 

After all the MAC crossed the line, we headed in for what can only be described as a phenomenal spread with soup, tea, cakes and sandwiches. Definitely a way to replace the calories burnt out on course. Making noted for next year to run at least the 10k as I need to burn more than a 4 mile dander worth of calories for those brownies!

And the bonus was…we got medals! So no need to run to earn the bling in this case. Could the day get any better!

Tea + running = life

Tea + running = life

Now we all know that in Dermots sessions we always learn a lot. How to have good form, how to drive those arms, how to challenge our own limits both physical and mental.

However tonight I learnt that coach Dermot is a tea-o-holic. The man was like a child at Christmas when Selena arrived down on the promenade after some passing comment about tea with a takeaway cup of tea for Dermot. Teachers pet. Turns out that Dermot loves a wee cuppa and for once I actually have something in common with a real athlete. My answer to everything. ..tea (and a good hug)

 So session was getting off to a good start. But before the whole tea epiphany I was going to do the friendly act when I seen Selenas label sticking out of her trousers and was going to tuck it in. On closer inspection they were actually inside out. The Shame! And now EVERYBODY knows. I believe her claims she was in a rush (you should have heard the voice message I got) but come on..somewhere between Killough and Newcastle you would think that you’d figure out they’re inside out. Anyway made me laugh.

The sad thing about tonight was that I’m not having a great week. Taper has taken a hold of me and dragged me down. Last week’s voice losing episode, turned into a sinus infection and to ensure no more nasty bugs annoy me the next 3 weeks, I’ve 7 days worth of 500mg of Amoxicillian , 3 times a day.

I missed my 16 mile run last weekend, so only the whole 2.2 mile from the GR8 home straight. I managed a good session at the gym on Tuesday, died a death afterwards which made me go to the gp and just surviving now. I’ve 13 mile on the plan for Saturday but I’m playing it by ear and see how things go. I’d love to go and do a slow and steady 13 but I’m also aware it’s only day 5 of antibiotics and my body is absolutely useless right now.

Anyway I digress…session tonight was more of a observational experience for me.

We knew it wasn’t going to be fun. However I think the MAC crew have hardened up to the challenge of the sessions and are mentally stronger and not giving up as easily to the fear. 

 Showing no fear

400m followed by 200m blast intervals on the agenda with a focus on recovery. It looked tough going. The 20 hi vis clad MAC crew running up and down the promenade was a fabulous sight. I’m sure to passers by they either thought what are those buck eejits at or look at how they are supporting each other. 

I could hear words of encouragement as the runners approached the final stretch where the group had merged as one. I’m sure those words helped spur a few members on when they thought the line was still far away. 

Hats off to Paul though. At first I wondered if he was just mixing it up and going at a slower pace for his own benefit but it quickly became apparent that he was pacing others in the group to match the time they wanted to achieve. By pacing them and giving them the encouragement by their side demonstrated the qualities, attributes and heart of a great teacher. 

Dermot drank his tea, offered hints and tips and was able to see improvement from the newer members of the group almost instantaneously. It just shows that it takes someone to highlight the right way and that’s the habit broken. 

It was hard being on the side lines at training although you can see the pain and hear the panting of everyone as well as be grateful it isn’t you, I was sad as I was dying to get out there and join in. Think it was taking its toll on Selena too who took herself further up the promenade to the half way point to encourage them and remind everyone of form.

My positive head is saying; yeah luckily I’ve had to go on antibiotics now, not ideal but could have been marathon week. It’s not like I’m on the actual injury bench, I’m hovering inbetween on the ill bench…if that even exists. So this should pass quite quickly.

But all hope is not lost. I had company build on the sidelines throughout with Caitriona not able to cope without me and joining me. Seriously hoping whatever is up with her sorts itself out. Shes actually injured and not just grumpy as I’m not running. Then had Eileen who is as stubborn as me and tried to run whilst sick. Eileen take note on the above…I’m on antibiotics it doesn’t work out well!  

Bringing it home for another session

As the session drew to a close and cool down was well underway I had an opportunity I couldn’t miss. Being near the promenade we where surrounded by Pampas Grass. Finding a stray bit of grass I couldnt resist sneaking up on Kate and scaring the absoulte bajaysus out of her by tickling her leg. Absolutely hilarious and I apologise also for disrupting an effective cool down. It turns out that Kate now feels that I  was attempting an underhanded hint at Swinging.  As apparently according to Google (random fact of the day) pampas grass is the symbol of Swingers. Don’t worry Kate, I think you’re safe from me but now I’m worried as it is you who knew such meaning behind it lol

But you know what, for now I’ll stick the kettle on and have a cuppa because tea + running = life. 

The GR8 …the race through the eyes of a Marshal

The GR8 …the race through the eyes of a Marshal

It is that time of year. 

The annual club run. 8 mile of everything a race can throw at you, road, gravel, sand, boardwalk and grass, finished off by a nice stretch on road to the finish line. At least the weather was nice to us this year.
With near 1000 participants taking to the start line it proves that everyone loves a challenge or at least a good view as the route is encased in the beauty of the mournes from every angle.

The GR8 for me this year was a race I would be a Marshal at. I know with Dublin so close that if I where to take to the route, I’d be unlucky enough to get injured. I might as well wrap myself up in cotton wool the next 3 weeks. 
I have to admit I was very excited to find out I was on the beach. Right in the heart of the action. My positivity at times can be overbearing but definitely perfect for that part of the race where after 2 miles on the beach, you need some annoying positivity.
My day started nice an early. Plenty of sandwiches made and biscuits bought. Off to Dundrum Hall to get registration underway. It is such a team effort. As each MAC member arrived whether running or not, they came adorned with goodies for the runners. 

MAC hard at work

I think full marks go to Selena for the 60 Hot Cross Buns that where served up as a pre race treat to keep everyone’s bellys warm. 

I love the pre race excitement as there are so many different people in the room, with such a mix of emotions but there are mainly three types. 

The returning runner; those who know exactly what lies ahead

The friend; where their mates have recommended the race and thought “sure why not”

And the first timer; no idea what lies ahead, picking up passing thoughts and views from others in the hall and wonder why the hell they signed up to it.

As registration came to a close, we jumped in the car headed for our checkpoints.

Selena and Moira had the fun of the water stop whilst Micéal and myself heading down the board walk to our stations on the beach. 

Team water station

Doing the route backwards I knew that at this point which would be 6 miles, would be tough for the runners. The boardwalk was springy but with the wind being quiet mild, it was the lack of breeze to cool them down after coming off the beach that would be a killer and they’d be glad to get to the water station. 

As I reached my very well signposted station I waved goodbye to Micéal as he trudged up the beach to his station.

I was all alone. 

I assumed the race would be soon underway so in my quest to pass some time, I found a stick and as any respectable adult would do. I began writing in the sand. Productive art work obviously.

Just incase someone missed me

I finally got a sensible Snapchat from Micéal to say the first runner was on route. Let’s be honest, David O’Flaherty could have been mistaken for a lone runner, as there was no one near him. No stranger to the route, he knew where he was going and flew past, confident in his ability to make this race his own. 

Shortly in the far distance, the most fantastic sight greeted me. A sea of brightly coloured runners consumed the shore line. It was something a camera couldn’t catch. I knew right then that I was apart of something special. Our club had done this. Our club had enticed all these people to take part in this challenging route and pulled it together. These where the people who had to eat all the sandwiches at the hall after! Glad we made extra.

As the runners started to filter up through the stones and sand towards the beach exit,  I wondered what would I like to hear from someone at that point. 

So I complied a list and these where some of my favourites. 

“Keep er lit” (obvious one)

“I am the end of the beach”

“Don’t let the beach win”

“Show the beach who is boss”

“Looking strong” 

“The water stop is half mile that way”

“No I’m not getting tarmac for next year”

Gosh the pain in some people’s eyes. That 2 mile on the beach had sucked everything out of their legs and let’s be honest, my positivity didn’t always go down well. It was great though to see some of my encouragement got people digging that bit deeper at a tough part of the race. 

Also fantastic to cheer the MAC crew on as they came through along with the club pacers who worked very hard to keep the pace for their allocated time. Always a joy to see the runners I know from previous races, some who had obviously forgotten about how Causeway Coast made them feel and came back for some more sand!

Of course you can always count on the MAC runners who where out for the craic. Time for laughs, hugs and selfies was the only way the race was going to go. 

Micéal and I began the trek back to the car park after we thought everyone had been but luckily enough the man on the quad came back and let us know 1 more was still coming. Micéal went back and I went on with bags to the car. That moment I was filled with intent and only 1 mission. I have ranted so much in the past about back runners and not getting the same treatment as other racers. I knew the club would wait for the last person and I wasn’t going to let them finish the race alone.

So as I got to the car,  I literally stripped in the car park as I’d my winter Base Layer on underneath and it wasn’t going to be kind to me over 2 miles, great for the beach though!

I was honoured to accompany Rosy on the last 2 mile to the finish.  There was no other way I could imagine that would be a better way to end the day. 

We chatted on route home about the race, the joys of being a back runner,  running your own race and about how life had thrown us some bad hands but we were still to be beaten. 100% success rate.

I admire her strength, her resolve and her pure grit and determination to get those 8 mile done. If the world gave half of what she did today finishing that race, it would be a much better place to be. 

As I imagined, every Marshall was still out and cheered Rosy on right to the end where she ended the race the same way she began it…a runner. 

Rosy to the left and Selena to the right

So as the rest of the club go out to toast what was a pretty flawless day, I’m sitting at home, writing. Debating my 16 mile for tomorrow, with a pint of Avonmore. Life of a Marshall is really rock n roll.

A huge well done to everyone who came out today and took on what was a challanging 8 mile. I hope you are all looking forward to coming back next year and owning that beach! Don’t let it beat you!

Fun with Dermot???

Fun with Dermot???

Fun and Dermot. Not 2 words I would ever have put in the same sentence when it came to a training session.

For the record it’s not that I don’t think Dermot can be fun. I’m sure he’s the best of craic on a normal day to day basis and let’s face it, he isn’t all that bad…just when it comes to running. I suppose he’s being paid to be a coach and not to be part of the gang,  so has to have some element of fear. Even though I’m convinced he wants to be part of the gang.

Anyway fun…

We all took that with a pinch of salt. The usual suspects turned up to continue the sessions this week. It’s like it’s become so engraved in our weekly activities that we can’t cope to be without Dermot or each other. 

Be safe, be seen  high vis time

This week we where fabulously dressed in our high vis gear and taking to the promenade in Newcastle. There was no missing us, except Kate who came all in black and was more of a shadow than a shining star. 

I have to admit the back drop to the session was perfect.  The crescent moon sat to the left of the top of Slieve Donald whilst dusk set upon us. The wind which made me reroute on Tuesday was replaced by a clam and mild evening. Just perfect. 

We set off in our speed appropriate groups to do 500m reps of “Train.” Of course since our group have become so well used to each other we took that quite literally and at every lamp post and change of leader we honked. When someone fell behind we shouted that we lost a carriage ensuring our train stayed together as a team.
It got tough at times but by the 4th set we had found our pace and knew when the group would need to rein it in to keep us together. We didn’t care that we were being overtaken by the other groups. We started together and we finished together. Even so quite literally on the 8th rep we crossed the finish hand in hand. Sometimes I wonder does Dermot not just think to himself “I’m surrounded by buck eejits”

One thing I will take from the session other than it not being a good idea to hurdle the speed ramps, is to keep the chin up and focus on the stars. 

This has 2 meanings for me really. 

1; I should know by now to keep my head up at all times anyway as Dermot mentions it every week, it will sink in eventually, I promise.

2; keep my head up. With the marathon fast approaching I have to keep my head up and remember that I have trained for this, I can do this and believe in my training. I should be proud of what I’ve achieved so far in my running..even if I’ve went from 0 to 26.2 in a year which was pure madness. I’ve persevered and need to keep my head held high regardless.

A favourite saying of mine that I always told my form group in school

So was it fun, it was. I fairly enjoyed it and although we were all out of breath we were still smiling and working together as a club. The comaradery within the club continue’s to strengthen and that mutual respect amongst the runners is very visable.

For now though, I’m going to enjoy the fact it was a good session and a fun one as I’m sure Death by Dermot will be back next week with a vengeance with his usual sadist flare laced with blood, sweat and a few tears.

Death by Dermot – Week 2

Death by Dermot – Week 2

Thursday came around quickly this week. Which meant only 1 thing. 

Coaching session with Dermot.

I still wasn’t feeling great and debating physically doing the session however I’m not one to shy away from a challange and wanted to prove to myself I could do whatever he threw at me.

I love how Dermot is over seeing the training and development of our own in house coaches, so was very proud of Hugh taking us for a warm up and cool down.

Teaching in front of people you know is so much harder than when you are in front of randomers so I appreciate that he had to overcome that before even starting to talk. 

The one thing I can say about Murlough AC is that there will always be laughs to be had and everyone supporting eachother. 

So the session involved  a concept called Pyrimids. So 200m in 1 minute, recovery, 400m in 2 minutes, recovery, 600m recovery and then a hill set.

God I was dying. I was trying to remember everything we’d learnt but as tiredness kicked in I could feel my form failing and my legs slowing up.

I think the pivotal moment of the session is when Dermot asked us in group 1 to turn around and look at everyone else. Everyone looked and felt the same as I done. Even those who took half the time to complete the 600m. We were all working hard outside our comfort zones. It was then I didn’t feel as self conscienous and slow anymore. 

So from there I dug deep. Putting in 2 good hill sets and feeling good. 

So another Death by Dermot session and I’ve yet again survived.