Tag: runner

I didn’t sign up to guide oversized Hippos

I didn’t sign up to guide oversized Hippos

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

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

“I can’t see out it”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VOTE HERE

 

Back where I belong 

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

The Lake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The judges loved your story”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VOTING IS HERE!!!

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

 

 

Guide Running – 13.1 mile of guaranteed company

Guide Running – 13.1 mile of guaranteed company

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

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

Half Marathon- done a few of those.

Guide running – I’d certificate in that.

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

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

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

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

Making my way through the Guide running course 

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

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

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

Team MAC at Larne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wet, wetter and wettest 

Wet, wetter and wettest 

As I sat gazing out the window of the classroom at the rain flying sideways across the playground, the mobile rattled and I was sure my daydream would soon morph into a reality that I was going to wake up in Kansas.

The prospect of running in that weather a few hours later wasn’t the most appealing thought especially as I envisaged the waves flying up over the promenade  and soaking us right through.

As I waited for what I thought would be the invitable message to say this week’s session was called off, I recalled some of the most epic runs of the past year. What did they all have in common…it bucketed out of the heavens.

So when I was basically told to pull my big girl pants up and get out there (paraphrasing obviously) I was really looking forward to a bashing in the wind and rain. 

Again the car park was awash with runners tentatively hoping Dermot would call the session off. I’m sure some just turned up to be seen to be making an effort to come. Though their plan was soon to be scuppered. We were going running.
As the wind cut across the shore and took the rain with it, in twos we tried to keep optimistic as afterall you can only get wet once, step by step up the main street. Seemingly what was to be a recovery run for me after yesterday’s 13 mile was, by half a mile in, not seeming like the brightest idea. 

Pushing on everyone kept going and as we got to the mile mark to turn, it put Caitriona and myself at the front. This always carries it’s own challenges on a normal day but as we hit the promenade we were the first pillar of restistance to a God awful headwind which was accompanied by cold, soaking wet rain.  

And with that I had this overwhelming feeling of relaxation come over me. Here I was with 17 other wing nuts,  running in weather fit for Noah and his Ark. Getting a full scale blasting from the wind and rain and I was loving it. My legs were beginning to feel good after a shakey start and although rain drops where plentiful running down my face, I felt so happy. 

In all honesty I didn’t want the run to end. 

As per weatherman Mathers predictions, as we reached the end, the rain clouds cleared and a still night set upon us. OK an hour later than hoped or prayed for but what everyone had achieved was beyond any type of committment required of any runner. 

They have definitely surpassed the title of “crazy runner” but this group is going places. There is nothing that will put them off getting out there. A great attribute to have where within an hour in Ireland you can experience all seasons. 

As for me, I’m feeling refreshed and content. Also surprised that I’ve ran the day after a long run, not like me. Onwards and upwards. 

Brenda hits the first big milestone on the road to London

Brenda hits the first big milestone on the road to London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motoring on rightly

Motoring on rightly

It was just one of those minging evenings.

Cold -check

Windy- check

Wet- soaking

It had all the signs of a group run being called off and I knew Dermot had considered it earlier in the afternoon. Secretly I was waiting for the message. I’d had such a pain of a day and an unendless list of things to do, I could have done with skipping the session. 

However I missed my long run yesterday and let’s face it if I skipped session what type of example is that setting to those who made the effort. 

So week 4 and the first real test of the commitment to the programme. As 7pm came and one by one everyone stepped out of their cars it became apparent who the hard core crew where and there was more than just a handful.

Soon we were warming up and getting set for what lay ahead. 

I had made the decision after last week that tonight I wasn’t about time. I was going to avoid the clock watching and just run. It was the best decision I’ve made all week. I was relaxed and I was just going with the flow.

Even when we reached the half way point and got to turn, leading the group I was confident in my pace and that it wasn’t beyond the pace of the group. Normally I’d be stuck to my watch, watching every second of the pace and trying to maintain it. But just trusting my feet and going forward was liberating and enjoyable.

We easily managed 2.8 without stopping at below 12.30min/miles. A respectable pace and one that I am sure many of the group can exceed already in training runs. Not that the aim of the group is time, hopefully they don’t become as attached to the machine on their arm and just run without the self doubt and reliance on a watch making the run. 

So new week ahead and a positive start to the weeks training. In just a few weeks the group has grown in confidence and belief that what they thought was impossible is every much within their abilities. I’m excited what the final few weeks hold for the group. But right now I hope they’ve all warmed up and dried off. 

Also for the record…didn’t get a hug this week…gutted.

Sure what else would you be doing on a Friday night?

Sure what else would you be doing on a Friday night?

Exactly. ..I can think of 20 million other things I could have been doing with bath, jammies and a wee drink in front of the TV top of my list of potential options.

Caitriona and Siobhan on another whirlwind adventure

But no… another ‘great idea’ unveiled itself and low and behold there was Caitriona and I out in our brightest of bright, lining up with not only the other mad hatters of the MAC Machine but 500 others to take on the 26 Extreme, Mourne Way 10k, Night Edition race.

The mad eejits of Murlough AC with smiles through fear of the unknown 

It was reassuring to know as we lined up for our packs that everyone was thinking the same thing. Why? Why? Why? Did we really think this would be a good idea 2 months ago? But all forms of hi vis and head lamps where aplenty and it was again an unseasonably mild January evening. 

With glow sticks in hand which I have to say was very exciting indeed as we relived the night’s out in the 90s. We headed to the buses that where to transport us to the start line by Santa’s Cottage.

I was secretly hoping that Ian and the guys at 26 Extreme could have talked ‘santa’ into lighting up his cottage for us however not this year…maybe next time.

Spirits where high and as the MAC crew comendered the back of the bus like school kids on a field trip everyone was in good spirits. (I don’t know why none of us took a picture of that)

Driving up the pitch dark road, the grandeur of some of the houses in and around Kilbroney became very apparent. Also the question of their lack of blinds to leave something to the imagination for those passing, did come up. 

As you looked down the bus there was many a creative way to wear the glow sticks. From the normal round your wrist and around shoe laces to being braided into your hair and as Kate described it…ponytails that looked like a game of Kerplunk. 

As we filtered off buses and to the start line, the many torches lit up the night and all the hi vis clothing along with it including Caitrionas sight for sore eyes jacket. It also was very clear to spot those who had done Dublin Marathon  with their head torches courtesy of the goodie bag. I was very grateful for mine that’s for sure.

Caitriona lighting up the night

Lining up we bumped into many familiar faces and it was the face of Newry City Runner, Jennifer Mc Ateer that was to stick by Caitriona and myself to help turn this race into an experience full of craic and laughs whilst we spent 10k righting the world’s wrongs.
I knew to enjoy the first 1km as it was going to pretty much be the only tarmac we would be running on. However I’d too many layers on and the jacket ended up round the waist pretty quickly. As we entered into Leitrim Lodge the rough terrain was the start of 2 miles of challanging terrain under foot.  

However putting aside the terrain, what could be experienced by the eyes was majestic. Ahead and behind was just lines of lights and his vis. I wasn’t too familiar with the route as I marshalled last year at the MWM so putting faith in Jennifers ample experience of what lay ahead was reassuring.

Photo courtsey of Macscape Photography

There are so many things I loved along the way. The fact it was just us runners. No cars,  not many people about, just us plodding along. The sight of the people in front lighting the way. The team work of everyone ensuring that lumps, bumps and stumps where highlighted down the line. The night time views of the lights below. And of course the infamous 26 Extreme cake at the half way point. Which to be fair just transported me back to mile 9 of Causeway Coast in Sept when it was like the lamb of God. Good times.

The pictures just dont do it justice

Pace was steady minus the second mile where we had to be that bit more careful. However it was Friday night and let’s face it we had all had a tough week at work so treated it like as an opportunity to destress, laugh and take a few pictures. 

It was definitely a course of what goes up, does come down. And boy did it come down very quickly.  I had totally lost my bearings but following the lights ahead I had no fear that I was going to be lost indefinitely at any stage.

Finally I hit a familiar track from the ladies mini marathon/b2r Kilbroney 10k and loved the fact that I knew it was all downhill from there. 

As the sound of 96 classic by JX- There’s Nothing I Won’t Do, blasted out in the distance, we knew the finish line was near. As we turned the corner to the finish I was soon mobbed by Jennifer on the line quite literally.  Caitriona did add that it was a hilarious scene as we both scrambled for the finish line. Times showed we finished exactly the same time. Much to our amusement. 

Happy post race smiles 

What started off as a ‘what the hell were we thinking’ sort if evening, ended as a ‘when can we do it again’ night.

Flawless the whole way, from pack collection to buses, the route was well marked and marshalled leading to an upbeat and smooth operating finish line. Well done 26 Extreme, logistical nightmare turned into the perfect dream by your team. 
On another note though…Caitrionas jacket that she picked up in Primark was a hit. Literally a sight for sore eyes every time I turned around to talk to her. However she did say she’s glad the jacket stopped me from turning round as my torch was too bright. So moral of the story when night running is just keep looking straight ahead unless you’re watching out for the blue lady in Tollymore, the headless horseman in Castlewellan or Michael Mc Kenna in general.

Always beware when Kenny is about!

When you know the “beginners” are already faster than you.

Endurance.

 The only skill I have on my side. As the 3rd session of The Running Coaches does Newcastle came to a close.

Work on endurance first and then focus on speed and distance, Dermot says. Hmm I thought to myself, OK they may all be faster than me but I know I’d be the last one running if it was who the last one to give up was. 

Tonight the group was pushed to hit the 5k mark, they actually went beyond that mark. It’s so clear how strong the group is and they were more than capable than running the distance with the short breaks in between. Definite talent and hopefully faces that I’ll see in the future more often.

However when I looked down and looked at the time I actually felt really shit. OK I was buzzing for the group. It was a fantastic achievement for them and I was really proud of them all. Yet inside I got a wake up call. 3.2 mile in 40minutes. Running, walking and talking and I was able to get that time with the group messing about. But why so sad…well my Kilbroney Park Run was just over a minute faster than this and I did sort of try at that.

Like seriously.  It’s embarrassing. OK my time trial on similar terrain is 33 minutes and I should essentially be focused on that but although I can seemingly run forever I still should be better.

So although tonight was a magnificent achievement for the group it’s opened my eyes to my own running. I’m feeling a bit sad in myself yet hopefully that maybe this epiphany will be the start of me doing something about it.

So back to the plan and sticking by it. The runners in the group are sticking by their weekly plans and improving …only right that I do that too.