Tag: Ireland

Half Marathon…12 hours notice, sure why not!

OK, I’ve made some really rash decisions in my time. This week I was determined not to run other than my 10 mile on Sunday. We had both consciously decided after a mad few weekends in the running world, that it was time we had a weekend off and spent it relaxing.

In theory it was a good plan. The kids had a birthday party on Saturday afternoon so would pan out well overall. Ok I will admit that I had the fear of missing out because the club was running a bus to Carlingford Half but I’ve been feeling like I’ve been chasing my tail the past few weeks and I knew my limits, so I thought!

Tuesday saw Caitriona offer Michael a place in the half, although he hasn’t been dying to run much since Last One Standing, he reluctantly took the number, thanks to Gavin and said he’d think about it. So a plan was made, we’d drive down with the kids, he’d run and I’d entertain them, the Grant cheer squad as such. However things took a change on Friday afternoon.

Checking my phone at lunch time and one of the girls in the club wasn’t going to make it for the Half. I was tempted, I don’t like things going to waste. I’ve great memories of Carlingford 10k last year when I pb’d by 6 minutes in the 10k after an abysmal performance at Castlewellan the week before, also a last minute decision to run that the night before too. So it seemed like it was an omen.

I threw the idea past the all knowing powers that be in Dermot. Where he pointed out that my attitude of “I don’t know if I could be bothered” was the wrong one and highlighting for doing 3 mile more than my planned 10, I’d get a medal- very logical. So as I worked through to the end of the day, guilt consumed me, I’d not done much since my 16 miler on Sunday and group on Monday so I was behind alright. Apparently I’d thank him afterwards for the encouragement to run it.

I waited until after school to call Michael. His reply to “I fancy Carlingford” was short and sweet “That isn’t the plan Siobhan.” The problem – what would we do with the kids. So it wasn’t until after 7 that it became a viable option for me to run the race.

I must have been absolutely mad. Who runs a half marathon with just over 12 hours notice?  There was no way I would be able to push myself the way I did at DUNE. I also had the fear that I’d feel sick again, like DUNE. I hadn’t drank as much water as I normally would have in the days before a race, however I had the miles in the legs, that wasn’t an issue and I’m stubborn so I was going for a run and not a race.

I’ve come a long way in a year. I thought back to last year and the fact it was Michaels first half, also Tara, Thomas and Jackies. I was in awe at what they achieved that day, with 10k being my biggest distance. Yet here I was a year later, willy nilly going for 13 miles as if it was a walk around the lake. I have definitely lost the plot. Throwback to Carlingford is here

I think it came as a shock to some of the MAC crew to see me kitted out for the run after I’d made it clear I wasn’t running on several occasions in the past few weeks. But there I was with 17 other MAC about to get stuck in. I stood at the start and as the count down began it dawned on me, shit I’m about to run a half marathon. I think the girls didn’t know what to think other than laugh at my light blub moment.

So off we set and with the course slightly altered this year at the beginning it still merged onto the same rolling hills into the Louth countryside. It was a busy first few miles but by mile 3 the pack had settled down and I was comfortable within my own space. Mile 4 saw the heavens open and after the rain of days gone by, there was a chance that it wouldn’t stop. I had the best of craic with the Ormeau Runners contingent as they passed by me in a sea of bright green t-shirts. Always a pleasure to spend a few miles with one or ten of them and great to see Janet out pounding the roads after her LOS performance only 2 weeks ago.

By 5 mile I’d fallen in with Andrea from OR, she was having a tough race and was debating calling it a day. For her it was just a bad combination of the world being a complete ass and giving her a bad run and her head giving up. So for 3 mile we ran side by side and got through the half way mark safely and headed for the shoreline. With passing marshals, Andrea found herself coming round and determined to make it to the end. I was delighted to see this and as she found her rhythm again around mile 10 and we skipped through the best puddle ever, she took off and I watched her push to the finish.

But my happiness was short lived, I had smashed the first 10 mile in perfect time to come in where I wanted. And the lesson to be learned from my rash decision began to punish me. It started at my ankle and began creeping up my leg, cramp. It was a given that it was going to happen. There’s only so much a gel or 2 can do for you when there’s a lack of water in the body, so there is was mile 11, having to walk.

Looking at my watch I knew I was capable of coming in on the low 2.40s but my leg wouldn’t let me. The head wind of last years race was no where to be seen today and in near perfect conditions I couldn’t utilise them. Not one to give up, I chatted with those out on course who where plodding along. By mile 12 the end was in sight, but its a damn long mile when you are in agony. Reaching the last km I decided to make a stab at not looking like I was dead as I came round to the finish. Turning the corner for the last 300m was Jennifer, a vision in blue and the screams of Paula as they willed me home.

I found my final last wind and put in a strong finish even though I wanted to die. On the corner stood some of the MAC crew who came back to cheer me home which was just fabulous. Crossing the line to the familiar 26 Extreme faces and a bonus Twix bar was fantastic. I met Andrea as she made her way back to her bus, looking relieved. Also got a much appreciated hug from Janet which was well needed after that.

So yeah, not the best run with time coming in at 2.52, and I have a million excuses. I have acknowledged them, however no point complaining or dwelling on it. Drawing the line now and eyes move to the next race in 2 weeks at Larne for my first long guide running experience.

I was delighted to see on returning home that Mr “you’ll thank me afterwards” won the 10k. Some staggeringly impressive PBs in the club from Hugh, Declan and Clare. Paula completed her 50th half marathon also and everyone put in strong runs. Guess Michael and I must have been the only ones up to all hours last night watching the election results whilst everyone had an early night as everyone else did great and we both had awful runs.

But 13 mile in the bag and a very nice medal for the collection!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I woke up a marathoner…

Today I woke up a marathoner…

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It was like the past 48 hours was all a dream…until I tried to get up to go to the toilet. Yeah definitely not a dream.

Beside the bed lay my Murlough jacket, the bright green finshers t-shirt and the coveted centenary medal. My first thought was “Oh my God, I actually done it, I ran a marathon.”

48hours earlier

The double and triple checking of lists and making sure everything was packed, was well underway. The sun wasn’t shining down on Castlewellan but there was an element of feeling warm with pride inside. We were about to embark on what was to be the biggest challenge of our lives.

We left the kids at Grannys and knew the next time I would see them, it would all be over. Brendan and Aine pulled up at the house and at that point, there was no turning back. We were bound for Dublin.
Arriving at the Expo you could feel the excitement and anticipation building, thousands of participants walking around the stands and eyeing up new running gear, the latest Garmin and an array of fancy pieces of bling from races to entice you to sign up. And no joke, I need to remortgage and sell my kids to enter all the races I want to, to earn all the medals I want! Clonakilty and the Quadathalon in Donegal rated high on the list along with the Rock n Roll and 3 medals for 2 races.

I had a wee go in the recovery boots and hung out getting some love from the Born 2 Run crew where I was honoured to meet and finally hug all of Team Kerr who not only where taking to the start line but receiving the mayors medal to award their success in raising awareness of inclusion and promotion of wheel chair assisted running. Making running a more accessible and inclusive sport for everyone, breaking down barriers which where once there.

I enjoyed reading the mentions on the wall and adding our own mark to the collection. We spoke with the pacers who lets face it must be magnificent runners to be selected to do so. Also great to see a few women in the pacing line up given that the number of women doing to the marathon has steadily dropped over the past few years.

After a hectic few hours, it was time to find the hotel and go for a prerace recce to find out where we needed to go in the morning. Dublin is one of those cities that once you get your bearings it is easy enough to get around on foot. We were close by staying near St. Stephens Green so just a stones throw from the Start and Finish Area. We were able to see the Start line being erected and walk around the finish. I could feel excitement building but I was also starving so ate in a wee Italian place and surprisingly had pasta!

An early night was on the cards and after setting everything out and pinning on race numbers I was soon out like a light and that was me, it hadn’t even gone 10. According to Michael one minute I was awake and the next I was fast asleep. I actually thought I would find sleeping tough but I guess the 15k steps that day helped.
The next 24hours where huge. Not only was it Michaels Birthday and not only was it our 7 year wedding anniversary, we where going to run our first marathon. Definitely not something I would ever imagine being on the hit list of ways to spend this weekend.

I woke up and didn’t feel nervous. Actually I was strangely calm and collected. I tooted about with a cuppa, checked in with the world online and got ready. I swear though I never imagined I’d need so much Vaseline. But I have realised that you can never have too much Vaseline as I found out when I got into the shower afterwards. Words of encouragement from friends online where lovely. Some fab motivational quotes and I knew they were all rooting for me to go out there and do it.

We headed to a nearby café to have breakfast and 2 perfectly poached eggs, some bacon and a round of toast was just perfect. We met Clare, Eddie and not so wee Eddie to hand over his race pack. It was lovely to touch base and walk down the road towards the bag drop together. Clare and I have walked some long roads together in the past but I know its never lead to a marathon. Some hugs and good lucks and we left Eddie to get a bite to eat and we headed to the bag drop.
I have to admit what a smooth operation in place. From entering into the bag drop area to the start line. Smooth filtering from side streets onto the main starting straight and it was flawless. Exemplarily organisation from the DCM team.

As Michael, myself and Brendan waited in the wave 3 holding area, I still didn’t find the fear I was expecting. I had no tears of impending accomplishment, my heart rate was normal and I was very gathered considering what lay ahead. It wasn’t until I heard Amhrán na bhFiann that I welled up. Here was me, Siobhan Grant, ready to take on Dublin Marathon with a send off of the national anthem. Proud of how far I had come to get to this point, proud to be representing the club and proud to be Irish I guess.
We began to hear the waves moving through and began to move towards the start ourselves. Surround by thousands of people, the atmosphere was ridiculously upbeat and jokes about what else would you do with your Sunday emerged. Turned out many went to Mass the night before (only in Ireland) and really I felt that I should have went too but with an RE degree I was hoping I had a golden line direct to God or at least Granda had sorted something out with the big man on my behalf. After all he has been up there for 5 years!

With the start line in our sights there was only one thing left to do and that was to run 26.2 mile. A quick good luck kiss from Michael and a hug from Brendan and I watched the two of them head off together. And that’s it, me, myself and I for 26.2 mile. I had no idea what was ahead, I had no idea who I would meet, if anyone. I had a fear that maybe no one wanted to talk and I’d have to play all the games I had made up in my head to get me round. I knew though, that I had to keep following the people in front as I had no idea of the map or how I’d get back.

I had several plans of how to get around the course, so if one didn’t work I’d switch to another. Though all plans where built upon 1 single foundation. I was going to smile the whole way around. I may not be the fastest runner but boy I know how to smile.

So this is how it roughly went

Mile 1; Ok I’ll go with the crowd, after all within a few minutes we will break up and settle down more…oh look there’s Clare and not so wee Eddie. Nice wee starter boost to keep me going. Remember the plan Siobhan and stick to it.

Mile 2; oh that’s a wee hill, still going quite strong and out the side of my eye I catch the NCR colours and there’s Tara. I veer across the pack for a hug and run on. Ah ha! what goes up, must come down and heres the downhill. I’m still going a tad too quick though not overly beyond where I want to be. I’ll use this hill though as feeling ok.

Mile 3: Tap on the back and its Eddie, going great and water bottle in hand which I was glad to see. Making his way through the pack effortlessly as he works his way from wave 4. I swear though some of the wave 4 who got in by the lottery, where scary fast. That’ll teach them to leave entering to the last minute. I did feel a bit sorry for them as the energy they used to weave through the pack I’m sure was something they didn’t have to spare over the distance.

Mile 4: This is going quite well and I’ve a few minutes to spare in comparison to the 5.30hr wrist band I have on (they didn’t do any longer times). I hear shouting as we turn a corner and there’s Thomas flying by, I catch up with him to wish him good luck and to keep er lit. Ok the thought goes through my head, I’m not sure if I have anyone else due to come by, nope that’s it. Really on my own now. It’ll be a long 22 mile. By this stage I had barely exchanged pleasantries with the runners around me and started to doubt DCM as “the friendliest” marathon.

Mile 5; Into Phoenix Park now and being passed by a Minion. A bloody Minion! I guess I may just get used to this as you wouldn’t run a marathon in dress up unless you knew you had it in you to begin with, so go on ya good thing. In well under the hour and I can hear Selena telling me off (in my head obviously) that I am going way too fast and to remember my pace. However with the water bottles being green with yellow tops they blend into the grass and from a distance look like primroses lining the Avenue.

Mile 6; Lets face it if I keep this pace I will burn out before half way. If I was doing a 10k I’d be happy with this performance but as I cross the 10k mark I give myself a virtual slap as there is no way I can do this 4 times over. I rein her in and vow to stalk my watch. But 20 mile to go, I  know I can do this distance, just looking at it as a 6 mile warm up.

Mile 7; Feeling a bit more confident that I’ve slowed back. Plenty of water on route and happy to carry a bottle along with me. Into Castleknock  *I think* where the crowds where beyond fabulous! Between the music and support there was no way you couldn’t smile. Definitely the winners of the best support across the whole course.

Mile 8; And back into Phoenix Park, felt like I was back in Castlewellan at the lake. I was now in my head entering into lap 4 of the lake and feeling good. The weather was unseasonable mild but made for a lovely run through the woods so to speak. Pace has began to steady at my training pace thankfully.

Mile 9; You would have thought you where in Tollymore- flat course my ass. It was easy to spot the flat road runners and the trail runners a mile off. I remembered all my hill training and smile as I tooted up. I had fallen in with 2 Dubs and the craic was mighty. Strangely it was the first people I had talked with the whole race. And was to play cat and mouse with them the whole way to the finish line.

Mile 10; Came in on plan but knew I was capable of better. I wasn’t at all annoyed, I just knew that I have done better, but a few minutes wouldn’t kill me. I did know one thing, I needed to pee. That was a long mile after I decided to stop at the next portaloo.

Mile 11; Marathon Portaloo…oh sweet mother of God. It was minging. I was heaving but I had to go, so deep breath and emptied the bladder as I hoped not to throw up. Definitely the worst experience of the day. boke boke boke. Note to self, figure out exactly how much water I can take on board before I need to pee.

Mile 12; At this point I decided to play my ABC game. I was meant to be on letter L at this stage so a mile of what begins with the letter L, I knew I would hopefully be seeing some friendly faces by this point as Cheer Squad MAC was due on route and boy was I delighted as I spotted the banner high at the brow of the hill. It was 3 much needed hugs and support from Pat, Caitriona and Clare, who had been there a long time waiting on me as all the super speed MAC had passed long before me. But as I neared the half way point Caitriona was able to assure me I was on track and that I was going well. Stupid App tracking my every move.

Mile 13; Half way there. There was a sense of achievement and relief from the field, many, including myself, taking selfies and the sun shone down on the bright green makers. Encouragement from everyone saying we need to go and do the same again spread across the pack. I began employing more coping mechanisms. I was beginning to feel lonely so I checked in on the progress of everyone else on my tracker. Michael McKenna and Hugh where powering through and entering the last stage of the race. Michelle and Nicola right on point and a smile crossed my face as I wondered if Nicola had burst out crying on Joe yet. Eddie, Sean Looby and Sean Armstrong where putting in great times and there was Brendan and Michael at exactly the same point. The Bromance has made it to 18 mile together and I knew then that they would see each other through to the end of the race safely. I knew they wouldn’t leave each other in their final stretch. With everyone on point, I knew I didn’t have to check in again.

Mile 14; We passed by Crumlin Childrens Hospital. I was content in knowing everyone was doing well and that spurred me on. No need to sweep anyone up from the club but at this point I began to see more and more bodies at the side of the road. Between people stretching and those receiving medical attention I counted myself lucky that I was having a good day and sticking to pace and not busting myself (like I ever would anyway) nothing wrong with comfortable.

Mile 15; I met Sarah, we had passed each other  a few times but it wasn’t until now that we realised that we where going to spend a huge proportion of the next 11 mile together. We watched a man in bare feet running by and between us laughed at the thought of him slipping in dog poo.

Mile 16; I hit here just outside the 4 hour mark. I knew once I broke 16 I was going to be ok. I don’t know why, but I knew I could always find 10 mile. I had hoped to hit nearer 18 mile in 4 hours to allow for a cushion of 15min miles all the way home but I knew it wasn’t to be and that was ok. A few gels popped in the belt for later and delighted to see Michael McKenna hadn’t cleared the station and lined his own pockets leaving a few for the mere mortals like myself.

Mile 17; Still plodding along with Sarah and I hear my name being called. It was Young Young. Kieran shouted from the side lines and I was never so excited to see someone. I wasn’t expecting him, but the MAC mountain goat had pulled out all the stops to make it to Dublin and be in the 1 place where I was fading. It was the worlds best hug, ok I mobbed him but I couldn’t do anything else. I smiled from ear to ear and with that boost I powered on for the next two mile.

Mile 18; by now I had resorted to conversing with the supporters on route, with DJ booths about, I was powered by music. I was out on my first run and first marathon without my headphones. So although I have been reducing my dependency on them, it was liberating to know I was running fuelled by the crowd. Though I felt like I was on some special liquid diet with the gels and my stomach was beginning to become wishy washy and I feared that I might throw up. Though it was here that I received a shock revelation. A man running passed me “Rocky Road to Dublin, its your fault I’m doing this” seems the blog had gave someone an idea that Dublin was a good idea and he signed up. Travelling from across the water. He must have recognised the club vest and then my smiley happy face.

Mile 19; Saved by a water station which had a few bananas. Solid food is what I needed and that banana was like a steak. So plain, not sugar laced and mopped up the gel filled belly. I was soon sweeping around the corner and heard the music of the Born 2 Run team. A huge hug from Gerard to power me up and then I was joined by Jane and Carol as they accompanied me for another half mile. Providing jelly beans, a run down on how everyone else with the club was going and positive encouragement. Again full marks for the club support.

Mile 20; Met a few wee hills and was waiting in anticipation for Heart Break Hill at the next mile. I celebrated with Sarah that I had broken the milestone of furthest run ever and now I knew I’d have to find anything I had left to finish that last 10k. By now I had resorted to “uh haha” to pass the mile as I needed some sort of distraction. So I done what Dermot had asked of me, I kept on smiling and I focused on my breathing.
Mile 21; The mile that I wish never happened. Well this and mile 22. I was powerwalking quicker than I was running. I wasn’t ashamed but I just couldn’t find momentum in my running so I channelled my inner Collette and I power walked like there was no tomorrow. I don’t think I hit the wall as I was still in the game in my head but for that half hour- lap 9 of the lake was getting the better of me. I actually ran Heartbreak hill as I was powered by Faithless “insomnia” which is a staple on my playlist and the DJ belted it out.

Mile 22; I’ll be honest I have no idea what happened in this mile I was just so focused on keeping going and getting to 23 mile so I’d only 5k left. Anyone can do 5k right?

Mile 23; Right 3 mile to go, just a wee 5k. yeah after doing 37k before it not as easy as I have imagined it. Also Heartbreak hill wasn’t as heart breaking as the slip road off the dual carriageway! Here I met the man with the Effil Tower (what a nut job) Rather him than me. But between us all, we knew the end was near and that we were going do it.

Mile 24; I’m looking for the RDS, I am looking for 2 strong miles. The sub 6 hours is possible if I pull out 2 10k race pace miles. However the reality is I am so buzzing that I was going to do it that I forgot about time and want to just finish strong in the home straight. I fall in with 2 Belfast lads and they keep me paced and focused.

Mile 25; the RDS, right now, come on Siobhan you can do this, its just a mile.  Though I’m a lot more noticeable than I thought. One of the supports shouts “Murlough I recognise you, you finish strong, don’t stop now” I didn’t realise my finish was famous, so to speak. I see the 800m metre mark and pick up pace, I hear my name and there’s Pat and Caitriona, flag still flying. I just shouted to them “I’m about to finish a marathon, check me out” I was in disbelief.

Mile 26; I missed the 400m marker and I could see the line, the street lined with supporters, and runners as happy as can be. I see a marshall try to usher an imposter off the course and it was a bit distracting as it was right in front of me, but I focused my eyes on the finish line and went for a modest finish in the hope of a good finish line photo (not like me to be vein). I look up and see the time and just smile to myself and cross the line.I just completed a marathon! 26.2 mile. Mental!

I came across the line and walked towards the medal collection. I got a great hug off the medal man and held the bling in my hand. It was so much more than I had imagined. I was holding the medal I trained for, for 6 months. I, me, little old me, was in Dublin, had ran around it and earned it. There was no blood, but a lot of sweat and a hell of a lot of smiling. No tears. I collected my t-shirt and there at the exit, at the front was Michael and Brendan waiting for me. Such elation, I literally danced towards them. Oh my god it was just so unreal.

They had stuck together every step of the way and even waited for me together. As I heading into the baggage collection I had to stop and admire the medal. The Grant selfie happened and I motored on to collect my bag. As in my bag was the coveted Vodka and Diet Coke. I passed many of the participants I had ran with in the area and exchanged congratulations and hugs.
Though I spotted the legend who is Bootsy, about to get stuck into a can of beer and for once I was prepared to be part of some sort of gang and joined him for a drink in baggage. Probably a sign of what’s to come at Derry in June. Start as you mean to go on and all that.

Michael commented on how fresh I looked and how it took nearly an hour for him to come around afterwards whereas I was walking and talking as normal. But lets face it, I wanted to get to the pub and share the moment with everyone. We were met by Pat and Caitriona at the exit to the baggage and got proper hugs. I cant thank the two of them enough for giving up their day to travel to and around Dublin to support us all. Again I highlight how special it is to be apart of not just a club, but a part of Murlough AC.
I switched my phone on to see millions of messages and snapchats of support, even as everyone else in the club had finished, they continued to track me. As I walked into O’Donaghues I spotted Nicola and as we made eye contact you could see her eyes fill. After pulling out a fantastic PB she was visably moved by the occasion and I guess to see me, meant the Dublin 10 made it across the line alive. Surrounded by the MAC and neighbouring Newcastle AC crew, I stood proud with my medal and tshirt. The same medal and tshirt as those who came in under 3 hours, athletes who I stalk on race results to see how unreal they can put out times.

I couldn’t stop smiling. After a few drinks we headed back to get washed and fed. The usual post long run shower brought your attention to areas that needed more Vaseline. As small areas showed signs of chaffing but not on the same level as after Lisburn. So as I said earlier, you can never have too much Vaseline.

A quick change and we headed out for dinner. I should have been starving  but my eyes where bigger than my belly. But we headed to Eddie Rockets and massacred buffalo wings, a burger and chip. Polished off with an immense strawberry milkshake. The thought though of going out after soon passed and by 9 oclock we where back at the hotel and in bed.

So I woke this morning a marathoner. In disbelief, pinching myself to ensure it wasn’t a dream. Am I proud, extremely. I stood at the GPO this morning with my medal, I thought about the struggle of 100 years ago and the events that unfolded over the years. I fought my own battle, ok it didn’t result in huge political upheaval, or impact on the countries history, but I came through one of the toughest things you can put your body and mind  through in one piece and smiling, that’s got to stand for something. I thought about my Granda at length on the way round, which I do from time to time, and how he would have been so proud of me and would have loved the medal.

I was annoyed briefly that I didn’t make the sub 6 hours, but I know exactly what I need to change both in training and during the race. And its only 2 minutes, if I didn’t stop to pee I would have come in on point, with wet pants. But I loved nearly every minute of it. I never once faltered in my head or doubted that I wasn’t going to do it, I was just going to do it in my own time. Could I have dug deeper, of course I could have. But as the toll says on the road to Dublin, “Arrive Alive.” That was my main priority.
It gives me a bench mark. Will I come back, damn right I will. Am I scared to never run a marathon again, certainly not! I’ll not be turning them out every week but I may tackle one or two a year. A marathon is 90% mind and 10% physical fitness for sure. I have a plan now for the next 4 months after I recover from the marathon. But I will be quite content to run 10ks and halfs for a while.

But adding a disclaimer here as I know I might be a bit influential. Do not sign up to a marathon just because I made it seem fun. I didn’t find out about myself over the 26.2 mile, it was the training that built the relentlessness and I was born pure stubborn. I knew standing at the line that I had it, just didn’t have a sub 4 hour or anything like that. I knew mentally I had it, I just hoped and prayed that I my legs would have it too.

Tomorrow and everyday afterwards I will wake up a marathoner. A fantastic title that I can boast about forever. A quarter of a days work, for a lifetime of pride and achievement.

So next challenge has already been accepted. Derry Marathon in June. I am unbelievably honoured that Tony Barclay has asked me to be his guide for the event and lets face it I do think he is bonkers to think I’d get him around alive. So not one to pass up an opportunity, I will work on my guiding skills, after Running Blind turned out to be pretty iffy on the not letting someone get hit by branches front, I foresee a few 10ks and halfs spent with Tony in the coming months.
However for now, I am going to recover, I’ve been promised the week off from the gym and I’ll find a mile or 2 for a recovery run.

But I want you all to take away 1 thing from this round up. Believe in yourself and all that you are. Always know there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle, its just a matter of locating it and utilising it. And as I always told the kids in school…

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Tired and Emotional

I’m Tired and Emotional

There’s nobody out there who knows your body better than yourself, so they say. But I think a few people seen this coming before I felt it.

I’ve found the concept of marathon training this week very difficult both physically and mentally. After my super human performace across 5 days last week. I’ve barely gathered myself to make 10k steps a day never mind get the short run and some cross training done.

I burnt out and my legs gave up. So off to physio to see if the pain in my right thigh was a structural issue or just a protest. Thankfully it is just on protest and with sensible training I shouldn’t have too much of a problem.

So define sensible…

Sunday: I literally done nothing

Monday: I walked a bit and done some cleaning

Tuesday: Physio so skipped club run

Wednesday: I went to the gym to see Shane and we worked the upper body only. My legs where only needed for getting to and from the car.

My leg is still sore and I fear for Dermots session tomorrow night. I’ve 17 mile on the plan for Saturday and that is my priority. I’ve already began hydrating to within an inch of my life and have routes mapped.

However today I hit my first big emotional wall. I was teary when I was in Dublin at the weekend but today Michael and I drove the potential route for my big runs of 20/22 mile. Then the magnitude of what I was going to do, hit me. It’s a bloody long way.

I then found myself being consumed by my fails and deeper darker secrets which I’ve overcome to get to this point. Yes it has reminded me that I have overcome some serious hurdles, that I am relentless in my pursuit to succeed and that I’m stronger than anyone could even imagine.  Life has not been easy for me and I am still trying to figure out who I really am after years of hiding and supression, living a life of lies to save someone else’s ass, whilst sacraficing my own happiness and identity. However putting all the gains aside, the doom does easily drag you down regardless of how positively you look at it.

On a physical note. I am over 8 stone lighter than I was 3 years ago. The dedication to see that through and to continue to chip away at it shows I can be focused. 

I need to remember that I only started running 11 months ago. And at that I had no intention to even run 10k never mind a full marathon. I’ve defied my harshest critics to pull 3 half marathons and 2 longer runs out of the bag at this point.  So who am I not to be proud, who am I to doubt myself? 

I am who I am, however this week learning that even though the plan in theory looks good, it’s a work in progress and I need to assess each day and if I’m not feeling it, I need to change the plan to suit what is best for me. I am special, I am also human and I need to know when to rest and also when to cry.

26.2 mile is a VERY long way. There’s no denying that. I will cross that line and it won’t be easy to get there. It will be a fantastic achievement that will be be engraved on my headstone. .here lies Siobhan Grant…Marathon Runner and brutally honest badass. 
Now to get a grip. Pull my big girl pants on and blow all those bad thoughts out of my head and recategorise them into their relevant departments in the deep dark unknown parts of my brain. 

The Road to Rose

So I’ve been a bit side tracked the past few weeks.

In early March after a Friday Funday, where we nearly got stranded on Newcastle Beach as the tide came in, Lauren announced she was going to be a part of the Down Rose this year.

For those of you who aren’t aware of the Rose of Tralee, it’s basically a festival which goes on down in County Kerry every year where over 60 different centres send a young lady to represent their county/centre.. So we have 32 here in Ireland then the others are all over the world.

The winner embodies all that is pure and beautiful about Ireland. Everyone in Ireland has watched it at least once, it is pretty much part of religion to sit down and watch it in August with your granny.

However as a prestigious competition there are careful selection processes in place to determine who represents each centre. For the Down Rose Centre …that was 6 weeks of fantastic outtings and opportunities to try new things, make new friends and have the best of craic.

I’ll admit I was envious of seeing and hearing about where the Roses where now but it was a nice type of envy as I heard about the friendships and the laughter, wondering to myself the whole time…I knew I should have entered this when I was 21.

I was lucky enough to get to go along to a fabulous event at Jack Murphys Jewellers on Thursday after our breakfast hike up the mountain. I got to meet most of the girls and try on items of jewellery that would pay off my mortgage (yes I’m that old and sensible). I came to the conclusion that I shouldn’t have married for love…money would have been better. (Only joking Iove is better. ..but love with money is a bonus)

I was blown away by an abundance of beauty and more so the cracking personalities that the 2016 Down Roses had. Each one of them special and unique yet equally full of the joys of life.

Behind the well posed pictures where a group of now friends for life, just out to have a good time and broaden their horizons.

I seen first hand why every young girl should be part of this process and was welcomed with opened arms to join them for some food after wards.

When I say food…I mean fast food, yes they were all human with good appetites. All dressed in the best of frocks we went from a high class jewellers to Friar Tucks and everyone sat down to chips and chicken. It was awesome.

As they chatted about the selection night, plans for gifts for the organiser and important items to pack, I actually felt like I needed to be packing a bag and joining them. I laughed and I also cried inside. All of these girls had their own reasons for doing this and it amazed me how fabulous and selfless they each where. Here were girls barely in their 2os making a huge impact on society daily beyond the normal daily grind.

Fast forward to Sunday. 

I had been getting updates from Lauren throughout the morning and needed to calm my own nerves. I felt so nervous for her and everyone else involved. I know standing  on stage or in front of a room of hundreds of people is something I can do and it doesn’t phase me. However I am 10 years older than most these girls and some where going to be singing and dancing, playing instruments and well Lauren was lifting weights ( classy chick).

I took myself out for a run and thinking about what lay ahead that night I pushed myself to complete my first 10miler. If they could get on stage and do that outside their comfort zone.  I could hit double figures. 

I lay about all afternoon…I felt useless. I could have been helping give them pep talks or being in room entertainment.  It was just awful knowing that between having their hair dragged out of them and make up on. They where having to answer questions and endure interrogation from a panel of judges.

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As I arrived into an sparsely filled room (to be on time, is to be late) the stage area that was to host 17 nervous ladies was luminous. After working in the Slieve for years as a teenager at various events and weddings the room had a completely different feel about it. It was personal now. The Roses would all take to the stage over the next few hours and for one of them the dream would continue on to Tralee.

I have taught many a young person in my time, every single girl who took to that stage was a credit to themselves and their families.  It’s a daunting prospect and they all nailed it. I honestly could have stayed there all night listening to them. Such powerful talents where on display and I am sure Gemma the organiser felt like I do on results day. All her hard work and inspiration clearly had rubbed off on the girls and they delivered.

I didn’t envy the job of the judges. I am sure before anyone took to the stage they were daunted by the task ahead after meeting them all earlier in the day and realising that there was no clear winner.

I was never so glad to know Lauren was 4th on. At least I didn’t have long to wait and as each girl before her came up on stage, I got more nervous.

As she took to the stage she relaxed into the atmosphere. Connor Phillips, the compere for the evening, straight out attacked my hard work in my very homemade banner.  I am not the world’s most artistic critter. ..actually I’m woeful but I put hours of work into it and was more so delighted that it would be more of a souvenir than anything else. The banner made it to the stage and I was totally mortified, yet strangely proud that everyone was forced to admire my hard work even if it looked like 30 kids had made it.

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After the poster hype Lauren was fabulous. She didn’t show any nerves, was clear and precise in her answers and I was so proud of her (I don’t think I can stress just how much so).

Just when the room thought she couldn’t shine anymore she came out to do her talent. I think the whole room was in shock at the little 5ft2 Lauren stepping up to do Deadlifting. 

Working her way up through the weights she was confident in her own ability and made it look effortless. At 110kg (twice her body weight) she had everyone in the room on their feet. I am sure she could have comfortably PB’d on the night had she went up to beyond her 140kg pb as the atmosphere was electric and I am sure the adrenaline was taking over. Though she had no need to, she had put on a fantastic show and everyone was in awe…exactly what doing a talent is all about.

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In the end only 1 could win. I’m sure if many of the other girls where in a different county, they’d have won. The title of Down Rose went to the very deserving Fainche who will do a fantastic job representing the County, I’ve no doubt about that.

I feel very privilege to have been able to be apart of the Down Rose journey and I will encourage anyone who isn’t as old as me, not married and living near a Rose Centre anywhere in the world, to get involved. 

For now though I have my memories and count myself exceptionally lucky to have a friend that rocks as much as Lauren! #alwaysnextyear #dontgiveuponadream

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Lost without moving

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View from the bottom of the Trassey Track

Nothing beats the early morning sunshine.
Ireland was blessed this week with a few days of Spring and with it came daily clear views of the mountains. I’ve had very little luck this year with the joys of getting a cracker view from any of my mountain walks…mist and clouds seem to follow me. However getting up at 5.30am and hitting the mountains as the sun came up yesterday was the best decision I’ve had all year.

Of course wee Lauren got talked into it…well let’s face it , I suggested it and she didn’t hesitate to agree to come along. So the yellow bug picked me up shortly after 6 and we headed for the Trassey.

We couldn’t believe our luck. Pure blue skies and no sign of even a low lying hill mist. Today was our day. FINALLY!

Off we set with our hearts set on settling a score with Slieve Bernagh. A few weeks back we had done the same mountain however it was miserable and I’d fallen and badly hurt myself.  So today we were going to recapture the love for Bernagh.

There wasn’t a sinner about and as the birds sang and the low spring sun came up over Hares Gap, you couldn’t help but just settle into the landscape.

The thing about Bernagh is…There is no clear cut path to the top like there is with more popular mountains like Donard or Commedgh so it’s a keep walking and hope you make it, with some hands and knees scaling up the side of the mountain.

We were soon thinking we were onto the right path and then ending up being

surrounded by bog. Although the sun was shining, it hadn’t been for a few weeks and this became very evident as we tried to head up the mountain. Slowly we gained elevation and with that came a whole new perspective on the Mournes.

We where in the actual heart of the Mournes.  With Donard to our right, Binnan in front of us and views right as far as Rostervor to our left. 

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Nearly at the top we found a non boggy, non heather covered tuff of grass and sat down to enjoy breakfast with a view.

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The sun beamed down, the air was still and the view breathtaking.  I could have easily sat there all day and watch the world pass  by.

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You can easily get lost in it without moving and not a word was said between us. The feeling was obviously mutual. I’ve spent many an hour up the mountains but it was the first time I felt in a completely different world and a new sense of respect for the world around me. Here we were literally only 6 miles from home, surrounded by an absolutely stunning area of outstanding beauty. Without any other person, no cars, no noise and none of lives distractions. Just us and a huge pile of granite.

If I never ever go up the mountains again I won’t feel cheated or that I’ve missed out on anything. I’ve had that experience and count myself lucky that I was able to do it.

Our way back down off the mountain had us realise that there is no easy way to tackle, the now appropriately named, boggy Bernagh. We talked about the next adventures up the mountains and of course the impending Down Rose Selection on Sunday. There was the usual stumbles and falls alongside the craic but thankfully no injuries. 

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It took 3 and a half hours before we came across human life form again. The feeling that at 10am we’d already been up and down the mountain and people where only starting out, gave me a huge sense of achievement.

So that’s a big ✔off my list and looking forward to when I can head up again.

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Already Overcoming Challanges

Already Overcoming Challanges

Where I live is any trail runners paradise. At the foot of the Mourne Mountains, with unending tracks and routes through numerous forests.

CS Lewis claimed the Mournes where his inspiration for Narnia and even multi award winning Game of Thrones use the surrounding area as their base for shooting their show.  I do realise how lucky I am, I open my curtains every morning and take in the breathtaking view. However I have one place that I can never enjoy running around.

Castlewellan Forest Park has an unendless amount of routes and track to follow however it is most famous for its Lake. The Lake has been that place I was unwillingly dragged around as a kid, schools forced you to do sponsored walks around it and half the country visits it on sunny days. It’s not that it’s not pretty, I’ve had some awe inspiring moments around the lake, it’s just not as exciting as the other wee paths that lead off it up the hills that I usually detour off to avoid doing an actual lap of the lake.

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Which brings me to today…

Run 2/127

The training plan had stated another slow run, 7.2km. So where to run so I don’t over do it. Ah the lake is 3.6k…twice that is 7.2k. ….The lake, the one place that just doesn’t make running enjoyable.

So I had a brisk 700m walk to the lake (yes I literally live at the back of the park) and set my garmin. I thought so many times about veering off track into the hills but kept on course. The first lap took me 32 mins.  The only thing that kept me going through the second lap which was 2 miute quicker, was the fact I was meeting people from my previous lap and was feeling epic…hearing their thoughts of how impressed that I’d already passed them once. Even got a few comments to push on! I still ran like I was constipated as I was trying to stay slow and steady but I made it nonetheless again a minute quicker than plan had outlined.

So today was the first of many mental battles I have to overcome.

I conquered the lake…not once, but twice. A small victory but a victory nonetheless