Archive for the ‘2015’ Category

What with trying to cram as many miles as possible in before Prague everything has been very slow of late. Lots of long, slow, low intensity runs which truth be told isn’t that much of a change for me. The only time I ever really run 5k/5 mile/10k pace is if I’m running a 5k/5 mile 10k which obviously isn’t a very well rounded approach to training or running, and is something I know needs to be amended. With that in mind, and the fact that I could really do with going out and just running hard, I signed up last week to do the Terenure 5 mile.

Both the 5 mile races I’ve run in the past have been quite frustrating affairs. Last year I ran Emo on Good Friday, expecting to go well considering I was in (for me at least) really good shape just coming up to Hamburg marathon. On a scorching hot day I went off way too quick and from 5k onwards it was just horrendous, leading to a very limp finish and me being really unhappy with it (not taking into account I was in the middle of a very big training week, had ran a 10k PB in the K-Club on the preceding Saturday and followed that up with a 20 mile long run on Sunday). I ran Raheny 5 in January of this year, wasn’t in great shape, hadn’t great prep, managed to shave nine seconds off my Emo time but really wasn’t happy with it because a late pitstop/emergency wee/break because it was getting too hard saw me miss out on sub 35 by 24 seconds.

Terenure I thought should be an ideal place to finally crack the elusive 35 minute mark but also just a chance to run hard, maybe blow off some cobwebs after Prague as despite that being a ‘training run’ my legs have felt just a little bit feeble since then. So with that I was up nice and early on Saturday morning, official photographer back on board after she missed Prague for ‘personal reasons’, and heading for Terenure with enough time to drop my car at my brother’s, stroll down to Terenure College for number pick up and get a nice long warm up in. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone out for a run and only felt good once I’m 5/6k into it, yet despite that I still generally don’t warm up near enough for races, so today I was actually going to do it properly for once.

Warm Up

Pre-race stretch

Which I did. 4k nice and easy around Bushy Park, some strides, stretches, I was finally feeling awake and my legs felt ok so it was time to head down towards the start line. Unusually for such a short race there are pacers so I positioned myself with the 35 minute pacers in sight with the idea of using them as a rough guide but running my own pace. I really didn’t want to make the mistake of going off too hard and then be blowing out of my bottom after a couple of miles. Considering the numbers in the race (just under 1200) the start was actually reasonably civilised. Raheny I know has more runners, and also has the added difficulty of starting in a very residential area, but the start of that race felt like chaos with people coming from all angles, up and down off footpaths, dodging parked cars. Here it was just a siren sounding and then off we went, down a nice straight road for a few hundred metres before hanging a left on to Templeogue Road, which felt at least like it was ever so slightly downhill, not to mention perfectly smooth so I decided I’d up the pace a little bit and sit in behind the 35 minute pacers.


We turned left then at Rathdown Motors, the road returning to normal Irish conditions underfoot, wind in our faces and all of a sudden it didn’t feel quite so easy. Not long after that it was another left turn, on to Fortfield Road, and I remember thinking “not sure how much longer I can hang on at this pace, really starting to feel it in the legs now” so I looked at my watch and saw a distance covered of 2.64km. A third of the race! That’s all I’d done and already I was thinking about just hanging on. Balls. My head dropped a bit at that moment and I had a look around to see if there was anyone right behind me as I thought for a second about stepping off the course, then about slowing down. I didn’t think I’d be able to maintain my pace at all and started cursing myself “well of course you can’t run at this pace, you never train at this pace, what did you expect, this is stupid, I bloody hate this etc etc etc”.

Despite my little whinge session and a slight slowing the 35 minute pacers were still just in front of me, my legs hadn’t fallen off and I was still alive so I tried to close the distance to them without using too much of what little energy I had. I edged gradually closer and before I knew it we were back on Templeogue Road and starting the second lap. My 5k split popped up on my watch shortly after showing 21:20, which would actually have been a 5k PB for me if it had been a standalone race. I was momentarily buoyed by this before the worry re-emerged “If you’re going at 5k PB pace then you’re going too fast for a 5 mile. You’ve made a balls of this. You’re going to completely blow up in the last 3k. No way you’ll sustain that”. Thankfully we were on the quickest section of the course, the running was a little bit easier and I could trick myself into thinking I still had plenty in the bank, especially as I had caught right up to the 35 minute pacers just as we came up to Rathdown Motors again. Convincing yourself that you can carry on hurting for another fifteen minutes is a lot easier when the hurt has dissipated due to ideal conditions.

Turning that hard left corner really stalled what momentum I had though, which in turn massively dented my confidence. Its true that its easier to run quicker when you have a target just ahead to aim at, but it’s also somewhat of a soul destroying experience when that target just keeps inching further and further away. By this stage I was having the full on little devil on one shoulder saying “let them go, just ease off, slow down, do it some other day” and the little angel on the other shoulder saying “come on, keep it going, it’s less than ten minutes to go, bit of pain for eight minutes, you can do that, you’ll be sickened if you don’t break 35”. Shortly after that I looked at my watch again to see 6.6km gone, really hoping to see a bigger number than that, which caused another momentary down turn. I honestly felt like stopping at that point, really just wanted it all to be over, but made a little deal with myself to forget about the watch, fix my eyes on the heels of the 35 minute pacers just up the road and try to keep them in sight. If I did that then there was a good chance I could just about squeak under.

I felt like I was slowing down horrendously at this point. My legs were leaden, my stride felt really short but not particularly quick, the only saving grace was that I seemed to be going quicker than most of the people around me at that point. I was hoping and praying for it to end as soon as possible, kept thinking I must be almost there, I could hear the PA so must be almost home, and then I saw a sign saying 400m to go. 400m! 400 bloody metres. For God’s sake, who keeps dragging this thing out? Surely it should be over now? Oh for feck’s sake. It seemed like an awful long way to go but at least it meant that the end was nigh so I girded my loins, contorted my already twisted features even more and poured out everything I had left.

Finishing straight, with my own phalanx of female bodyguards

I’d heard the PA say a while back 34 minutes on the clock but I knew I had a little in the bank as I was quite a few seconds after the gun crossing the line but now she was saying 35 minutes. At last I could see the finish line so one last staggering surge and I was there, coughing, spluttering but across the line, the contents of my stomach just about staying where they were but more importantly a time on my watch that started with 34!

A couple of seconds later when I could actually focus and see it said 34:50 I was absolutely overjoyed. The pain and misery of the last few minutes instantly melted away and was instantly replaced by relief and satisfaction. So this is how you’re meant to do it, this is how it feels to be rewarded for your efforts. Prague was an enjoyable experience, and was satisfactory in that I achieved what I set out to, and it was important for me to go out with a plan in mind and stick to it, but there was always the whole ‘just a training run’ thing at the back of my mind. Today was different in that I was actually going out to test myself, and it’s a pretty nice feeling coming out the other side knowing you’ve passed.



While I’m here, I have to say a few words about the race organisation. That was probably the most well run and efficient race I’ve taken part in. Number and t-shirt collection took literally a minute, no faffing round at the start line waiting for people, nobody going off course, straight through at the end for post race refreshments (including really tasty coconut water), all centred around the beautiful grounds of Terenure College and all for just €20. That’s why I love races organised by running clubs. No nonsense goody bags or unnecessary expense. Really great work by Sportsworld Running Club (and they had the cones in, banners and barricades and all the roads back to normal by the time I was walking back to my brother’s).


I could start this by saying that Prague Marathon came along at a somewhat awkward time, what with me only finally, belatedly back in training after many, many weeks off after Donadea but the fact of the matter is that the Prague Marathon has had its slot on the calendar booked for a long time now. In fact I’ve been registered for Prague for a long time now, knew it was coming, had flights booked but just kind of chose to ignore it. My fellow Prague entrant Skippy had done similarily, the two of us choosing to ignore the elephant in the room and skirting around the topic for months. Eventually, a few weeks ago we could ignore it no longer so I booked some accommodation, looked at the calendar and tried to formulate some sort of plan.

I’d been averaging about 30-40k a week from the middle of March having only run a couple of times between Donadea in the middle of February and then. I wasn’t going to get in any kind of marathon shape in four weeks but there was a chance I could get a reasonable base under my belt before Portumna 50k on the 13th of June if I get my finger out and had that as a target. Prague right in the middle of that block would be a bit of an inconvenience if I tried to ‘race’ it but if I just used it as a long training run, at my target 50k pace, trained up to it and got right back into it afterwards, then maybe it could actually work out well for me. So I drastically upped my mileage for a couple of weeks, jumping up to 82 and then 95km, with each week having a medium long run as well as a long run of over 30k, before doing a mini taper back down just before Prague. Now obviously no marathon plan or coaching manual would advise jumping from 35 to 80 km in a week but (a) I kept the intensity very low and made sure I recovered well to try to mitigate against injury and (b) I felt I needed the big weeks, and particularly the long runs, to psychologically get me ready for Prague. The 35k run on the Saturday of the 95k week in particular was a huge confidence boost.

Of course, despite my protestations to the contrary, I still clocked in an abysmal taper, eg do almost nothing, which is a part of the whole marathon thing I’ve still to get right after quite a few attempts.

I arrived in Prague then with something of a base, a couple of really good weeks under my belt and a definite plan in mind – 42.2km @ 5:50/km with nice, even pacing, even 5k splits throughout and no blowing up. I’ve had similar plans in mind before (Clonakilty 2012, Killarney 2014, Dublin 2014) but always made a balls of them, generally by going off too fast in the early part of the race and/or in the few days leading up to the race suddenly getting a dose of misplaced confidence and deciding to drastically upgrade my goals. This time it was all about sticking to a realistic plan.

I managed to make it through Friday night with nothing more unhealthy than a couple of bottle of beer and some crisps imbibed, which was a small victory in itself when there were suggestions from some quarters that a couple of not entirely focussed lads, on their own in Prague, might think better of slogging round the city and just go and sample the sights instead. Saturday saw us strolling round the city, popping out to the expo to get our numbers, briefly appear on tv and then eat a pile of pig and potato in preparation for Sunday.



We're famous!

We’re famous!

A couple of things that worried me while strolling around on Saturday were the fact that there didn’t seem to be much in the way of flat roads or streets in Prague, and also that the temperature seemed to be steadily rising. When I arrived on Friday there were grey skies and non-stop drizzle, perfect for us Irishers and also for marathon running. This blue sky and sunshine craic, not so much. Stepping out of our flat at 8am on Sunday morning there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was already warm enough that back home tops would be off, barbecues would be getting fired up and sales of Bulmers would be sky rocketing. I’d worn an old t-shirt down to the start line over my running one but already discarded that a few minutes prior to the off. Remembering how I, and most other people struggled at Dublin marathon in October when the temperature was a few degrees warmer than normal, though still grey and overcast, made me even more determined to stick to my planned pace, as well as making more of an effort than normal to drink at the water stations.

I think this is one of those selfie things. Unfortunately my photographer had stayed behind in Ireland and we were forced to take our own pictures.

I think this is one of those selfie things. Unfortunately my photographer had stayed behind in Ireland and we were forced to take our own pictures.

At 9am, the music blaring over the PA switched from terrible Europop and dodgy rock to the more sedate sounds of Dvořák, ballons were released and off we went. Immediately hundreds of runners went streaming past me, even more than usual, and I remembered that when I applied initially for Prague marathon I was hoping to knock a bit more off last year’s PB of 3:41 set in Hamburg and get a bit closer to 3:30. That might have to wait for a little while yet, for now it was it was all about slow, steady and consistent.

The first 5k was pretty crowded, as to be expected from any city marathon but especially one starting in the narrow streets of Prague’s Old Town, and you had to be mindful of the changing terrain underfoot – smooth tarmac, cobbles, cris-crossing tram tracks, the odd step or lump of wood masquerading as a ramp. It was all fine for me as I was just trundling around but I wouldn’t really fancy it if I was pelting around, looking for a PB, maybe running in a big group. As it was I was just glad that the drizzle that soaked the streets on Friday evening, causing me to slip in my spanky new Nike AF1 Duck Boots, had disappeared and everywhere was dry as a bone.

The second 5k was a little less congested than the first so marginally quicker, but I was still making a concerted effort to keep it very slow and steady (29:02 for the first 5, 29:29 for the second) especially as the temperature was still rising. I’d made the decision to wear earphones for Prague, in part just to reinforce the idea that it was only a training run. I haven’t worn them since my third marathon, and never wear them when I’m ‘racing’, but if I’m going for a long run by myself I’ll often listen to a podcast for the first half of it before then switching to some music. I’d put a ton of music onto my MP3 player the night before leaving for Prague, but forgot entirely that I’d been having issues with the earbud/foam tip falling out, which of course happened again less than 10k into the race. I faffed around with it for a couple of kilometres but it was far more hassle than it was worth so I just took them out and stuck them in my pocket. They really weren’t needed anyway as a nice feature of the Prague marathon was a DJ or live music every two kilometres, and with this being eastern Europe in a lot of cases ‘live music’ means dodgy rock bands, which was absolutely brilliant. I grew up on dodgy rock bands – AC/DC to Guns’n’Roses, on to Metallica and then death metal – and still have a real soft spot for it so it was great to see so many exponents of tight jeaned, questionably coiffured, fist in the air, irony and pretence free hard rock/heavy metal around the course.

One person who certainly shared my view on it was the incredibly enthusiastic, overly excitable middle aged Italian marathon runner who was stopping at each little stand to exhort, exalt, or eventually just join in with the bands, before jumping back on to the course and tearing off after his friends. I have no idea if he managed to keep it for the entire race, whether he dropped dead of a heart attack or whether he was dragged away by security after some overzealous gyrating with some of the female singers on course. Any of these explanations are as likely as the rest.

10-15k was another consistent split, 29:14, just keeping everything steady, taking water on board (far more than normal) and also grabbing a sponge at the water stations and sopping my quads and hamstrings, hopefully pre-empting any late race niggles. There was quite a few out and back sections where runners were passing each other, 3:30 – 3:45 people going one way while I was going the other, then I was on that side looking back at the 4:00 – 4:30 people. At that point I was keeping a look out for Skippy, wondering how he was coping. He’d had a similarly poor prep for Prague, and to top things off not long beforehand and was struck down with The Black Lung, so his aim was to do a Mo Farrah and just run the half, despite the fact there was no official half marathon on the day. I passed him on one of the out and back sections, I was at about 23km, him at about 19km, and he was looking great, fresh and full of the joys of life. A quick detour for a fistbump and some words of encouragement and then back into our respective runs.

20-25k was my fastest split so far, 28:07, the sun was shining I’d just taken my second gel, I was feeling fantastic and running felt so, so easy at that point (it would be nice to get that feeling at this point in a marathon I’m ‘racing’ but I’ll definitely take this for now). It wasn’t like this for all though. I spotted an Irish guy wh’d been in the same starting pen as me, wearing a Bohermeen half marathon t-shirt, walking at about the 26k mark, so veered over to him to give him a pat on the back and offer some words of encouragement. When he turned to look at me I recognised that expression instantly, the ‘please fuck off and leave me alone’ with the misery just dripping off him. I’ve been there myself on many an occasion so just left him to it. There was a long way to yet and a little early to be feeling that way so I didn’t envy him the rest of his run.

From 25-30k (28:21) we had the pleasure of both the best band on the route (A.N. Other rock band but with an absolute legend of a lead guitarist) and the worst ( some prematurely middle aged miserabilist with an acoustic guitar and phonetically written English lyrics on an A4 sheet). The best thing was it was another out and back stretch so I got to hear both of them twice, the highlight definitely being the most depressed version of Bad Moon Rising I’ve ever heard.

I had a slight issue at 30k when I reached for my third gel only to find nothing there. Not a disaster or anything as I still had one left so just adjusted my strategy, going for gels then at 17, 25, 33 with top ups of the energy drinks on course rather than my initial plan of just gels at 18, 24, 30 and 36. I slowed down a bit from 30-35k, in part due to spending a bit more time going through the water stations, making sure I really sponged down my legs as I was starting to feel it a bit in my hamstrings, and in part just because I was slowing down. 35-40k was slightly slower again, 30:48.

Even though I’d slowed down quite a bit now I was still going faster than others around me for the most part. All around me people were slowing considerably, stopping to walk or just stopping altogether. It was a nice change to not be one of those people, not to be in pain, questioning who you are and why you’re doing this, instead just enduring a dull ache and some mild discomfort but salved by the satisfaction of a job (almost) well done. I was a bit miffed that for the first time my average pace had dropped to 5:50/km, having been at 5:48/km for the bulk of the run. Just going past the 40k mark it actually clicked over to 5:51, so I was outside my target pace for the first time today. For two kilometres then it was the struggle of effort and pain vs motivation and desire. I wanted to finish with an average of 5:50/km but how much did I want it? Especially now I was feeling a sharp twinging in my right hamstring. Very easy to ease up now, and I was doing a good job of talking myself into it. No point rushing things now, what difference does it make if I finish 5:50 or 5:51, these are just arbitrary numbers, what does it actually mean in terms of what I’ve done, in terms of effort or exertion or recovery or anything. Just trundle along to the finish, definitely no sprint finish, don’t want to pull a hammy!

And I didn’t. Pull a hammy that is. Or pull out a sprint finish. I did however manage to increase my shuffle rate just enough so that as I crossed the line my average pace for the day clicked back down to 5:50/km, and (somewhat) arbitrary number or night I was absolutely bloody delighted. I’d gone into a marathon with a definite plan – steady, consistent splits, no blow ups, no hissy fits, no injuries – and I’d done it. Training run or not this was by far the best executed marathon I’d run, the first time in numerous attempts I’d done what I’d set out to do. Obviously it’ll be another thing to execute to the same sort of level when trying to run a PB but this was easily the happiest I’ve ever been finishing a marathon, even more so than Hamburg last year which I ran 26 minutes quicker. Such a big part of running a race, or I suppose any endeavour is managing expectations, obviously your own in particular. If you go into a marathon in four hour shape, expecting to run 3:30 because that’s what you did a year ago, well you’re on a hiding to nothing. You could run 3:45 but be absolutely disgusted with yourself and spend a good two hours of your time out on the road berating yourself and running round in misery. Run 3:50 on the same day when you’re going in expecting, and planning for 4:00 and your experience is going to be the polar opposite.

Maybe this is one of those lessons learned things?

The setting.

The setting.

It wasn’t until today (Tuesday) when I was looking at my Garmin records for the last few months that I realised just how rubbish my running has been since Christmas (and before Christmas I had eased off a bit and was planning on a mini running camp to get my push for Donadea back on track). I was honestly under the impression that I was running at least semi regularly but I was all over the shop – a long one here, a couple of short ones there, two days in a row one week, nothing the next week then a 36km run on the Saturday and 16km on the Sunday. So much for consistency eh? It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t fully grasp the bleakness of my fitness situation before I started on Saturday which brings me back, in a roundabout way, to the start line of the Donadea 50k. My usual running buddy Mark and myself lined up along with roughly two hundred others (our other Friday morning companion Paul  couldn’t make it, bloody real life getting in the way of running) for what is definitely Ireland’s, if not Europe’s most popular 50k. Ten laps of just under 5k around Donadea Forest, and a little run up to the start line to make up the distance, lay ahead of us but I’ve never known a start line that had such a relaxed and friendly air. Very little apprehension, a slight smattering of nerves  but friendly chat seemed to be the order of the day, at least back where we were anyway. Even the start was a very causal affair – people started running but no one seemed to know whether this was the actual start or whether we should start our watches. A minute or two later we were all streaming across the timing mats anyway so the race had definitely started now.


Who wouldn't love running round here?

Who wouldn’t love running round here?


The first lap was really nice and easy. I planned on doing 28 minute laps, which would bring me in at 4’40”, but I’m not sure why I picked that time. It’s not like I was basing it off extensive preparation or dry runs, I think it was just because 4’40” sounded like a respectable enough time under the five hour cut-off and 28 minute laps made it easy to count them up. Regardless, with only a quick look at my watch at one stage of the lap to check my pace I clocked my first 5k in 28:00, absolutely perfect pacing, bang on schedule. Surely a good omen for the rest of the race.


Somewhere around the start of lap 2 I heard a shout from behind of “on your left” and shortly after that Gary O’Hanlon, the eventual winner and a young red haired guy (who I found out was pacing him) came flying by at a rate of knots. I didn’t even really think about the fact that I was getting lapped so early, I was just blown away by the speed they went past us at. It was some time before the guys in second, third, fourth place and so on came past and despite all of them being fantastic runners in their own right, and light years ahead of the likes of me, the difference between Gary O’Hanlon and them was marked. Just after they went past I got chatting to another runner, a guy called Jarlath who apparently was (a) local and (b) quite well known as we couldn’t run past a spectator without them giving him huge cheers, or the more usual Irish alternative of mild abuse. I ran with Jarlath and another couple of guys for most of laps 2, 3 and 4 and although I had an inkling the pace was a tiny bit too fast I was enjoying the company and rather than slogging round on my own, which I’d surely have enough of at later stages of the race.


Feeling good at this stage, local man Jarlath leading the way.

Feeling good at this stage, local man Jarlath leading the way.

Midway through lap 5 I can distinctly remember starting to feel a little tired, looking at my Garmin and seeing 22.49km on the clock and thinking “balls”. Almost all my confidence heading into this race was based on that one 36km training run I did where I felt great throughout. Now I wasn’t even at the halfway mark and I was beginning to feel more tired than I had at any stage on that run and I started to worry. This is what happens when your confidence is built on shoddy foundations, the slightest bump in the road and it all begins to crumble.  Instantly my mindset changed from one of cheery blind optimism, just enjoying the day, enjoying the running to one of obstacles, endurance, distances and times. So much longer to go and I’m slowing down, tiring, I’m on my own now, where is everyone else? Am I miles behind everyone?


Please say it's in here.

Please say it’s in here.

I had it in my head for some reason that lap 8, 35-40, was going to be the toughest, and looking back I think I made that a self fulfilling prophecy. Lap 6 I did in 30:17, so I was obviously still going OK, but the thoughts going through my mind at that point weren’t great. This is getting really tough, I’m slowing down so much, my legs feel so tired, I should really walk this bit. I was on my own and living in my head at that point, dragging myself down and giving in to every little moan. I dropped from a 30 minute lap to a 37:30 lap, in large part due to my mindset. You can’t physically deteriorate that much over five or so kilometres, as someone in a 100 Marathons Club vest had said to me about half an hour earlier “it’s all in the head at this stage”, and he was 100% correct. Unfortunately my head was not a great place to be at that point.




Lap 8 actually turned out to be a little bit better, but only because Don Hannon, the sweeper for the race suddenly appeared beside me in all his beardy, smiley glory. Now I was worried. I really wasn’t expecting to see the sweeper, the guy who was supposed to be enforcing the 40k/4 hour cut-off pop up alongside me so early. That meant though I had no option but to run, or at least shuffle. No more walk breaks or it would be no finish for me. Actually, how bad would that be? I could just drop back, slow down, get cut off, pulled from the race, then I wouldn’t have to carry on. “Sorry, it’s beyond my control, just didn’t make it you know”. Except I really didn’t fancy going home and saying to my sons I didn’t finish, that I just let it go because it got a bit hard. Family, friends, work colleagues, everyone knew I was doing this and I really didn’t want to have to repeat, over and over, “nope, didn’t do it, didn’t finish” and be reminded over and over again that yet again I hadn’t finished something I’d started. So I gritted my teeth, I pulled all sorts of faces, all the time whinging internally and feeling sorry for myself but held on to Don’s coat tails (figuratively speaking) until we at least made it to the finishing straight for that lap.


I trudged through the feed area to start lap nine, shoving whatever I could into my face, trying once again to substitute calories for miles in training and only succeeding in giving me stomach cramps and GI distress. Lap 9 was an absolute horror show. The pressure of making it through the 40k/4 hour cut-off was off now so I completely slacked off. Feeling thoroughly down and sorry for myself, I trudged around, walking as much if not more than running. I was lonely, tired, cold, sore and wondering once again why I was even doing this. I love running, it’s honestly changed my life for the better since I took it up a few years ago and I’ve had some of the most enjoyable times of those years out running, but here, now, on my own slogging along this cinder path I was wondering what the point of it all was.


Look at the concern on his little face.

Look at the concern on his little face.

This is like one of those optical illusion things.

This is like one of those optical illusion things.

At the start of the last lap nothing much had changed. My stomach still felt like crap, my legs felt like lead and my head was a hundred times worse than both of them combined. Benny (and Mags and Buzz) had come along to offer support and Benny started the last lap with me, asking me what I wanted from my feed bag. I really wasn’t in the mood for anything, and I definitely wasn’t in the mood to chat, but Benny walked alongside me, just yammering away, not looking for any response from me, just talking shite to keep my mind off things. He came with me for the first couple of kilometres, which was by far the hardest part of the lap, before turning off to head back to the finish line. At that point even I had had enough of my whinging and moaning and gave myself a bit of a talking to. Three kilometres to go, forty seven done, all I had to do was shuffle forwards, the quicker I got to the end the quicker this would be over with. Could I do three kilometres? Of course I bloody could. So that’s what I did for three kilometres, asked myself “Can I do this?” and answered “Yes I can”. Over, and over, and over again, like a mantra, for three kilometres. And you know what? It worked. Just the simple process of filling my head with these simple words allowed no space for the nagging negativity and with that everything seemed so much easier. Don’t get me wrong, I was still really tired, my legs ached and my feet were really sore, but I was moving, jogging if not running and constantly moving towards the finish line.




When I did cross the line, five hours, seventeen minutes and thirty four seconds after starting I was in an infinitely better place than I had been for most of the three hours or so before that. I’d forgotten about times, I’d forgotten about finishing positions, I’d forgotten about what I should have done and instead just thought about where I was at that point in time. I’d been down in the dumps and dragged myself back out of it. Through a combination of misplaced optimism and unfounded confidence I’d got myself in way over my head but finally, belatedly managed to find enough stubbornness and will to get me through it. I’d really, really like to think that this will be one of those learning experiences that people talk about, but I’m pretty certain I’ve written before about ‘learning lessons’ and so far the evidence would indicate that’s not the case. However, this is the first time in a while I’ve got myself into a situation like this and managed to finish strongly, come out the other side and sit there humbled but very, very happy with how things worked out in the end, so maybe I have learned something after all.

Happy, proud and relieved.

Happy, proud and relieved.


A few quick notes:

Huge thanks to Anto Lee the organiser and everyone else involved with putting on a fantastic race. Obvious to see for anyone who was there that day why it’s such a popular race.

Absolutely phenomenal running from Mark who not only finished in a time of 4:17 but set a marathon distance PB of 3:27 along the way. That’s ridiculously good going.

Storming finish

Storming finish

An amazing performance from Gary O’Hanlon who set an Irish 50k record in winning in 2:57:06

Sinead Kane who became, as far as I know, the first visually impaired person to complete an Ultra distance race in Ireland, and her guide John O’Regan were truly inspirational (literally as I piggybacked behind them for a while and was following John’s advice to Sinead myself).

Peter Mooney, who finished in third place, ran the whole thing with a smile on his face, encouraging everyone and thanking all the stewards and supporters on his last lap.

Peter Mooney

Peter Mooney

Mark Doyle who finished in fifth place had everyone, without fail, commenting on how easy he was making it look as he went past.

Speaking of the stewards and supporters, phenomenal. The previous two ladies winners cheering like lunatics, the two ladies just before the monument at the first bend, the lady and gent out in the woods at around the 2k mark, the ladies with the selection of home made signs, all made a huge difference.

This lady, who for the last three laps, while I was running/walking/stopping/starting/whinging/moaning, just kept on grinding it out, keeping the same pace going all day long. Amazing consistency and resilience.



I could mention just about everyone here but I suppose I should also give a special mention to  my good wife Brid, who (eventually) got out of bed to come over and take a few pictures towards the end. What better way to spend a Saturday in mid-February?


I was almost going to start off by talking about training for Raheny, but I haven’t been training for Raheny (5 mile) I’ve been training for Donadea 50k in February. The point of doing Raheny was just to get an early race in, get a race mindset and preparation in, get used to a race environment and get a bit of hurt in. You could probably call Raheny quite successful then, as I got four of the five done with, funnily enough, only the preparation not being great. A combination of work, home life and laziness meant I hadn’t been out running all week (though I had done over 50k the previous weekend) but I did plan on going out for a very easy ten miles or so on Saturday afternoon. A plan which disappeared out the window when Benny, my friend and neighbour, appeared like a grubby apparition brandishing his last remaining bottle of duty free Jameson Signature Reserve just before Leinster kicked off away to Sale. The afternoon was then spent sipping whiskey, talking nonsense, watching sport and latterly eating Chinese (only boiled rice with my curry though rather than fried, I was racing the next day after all). At least though I went to bed early rather than staying up to watch the UFC.


Apart from when I then got up at midnight and watched the rest of the card.


The race itself is an unusual one to prepare for though. A 3pm start meant my usual routine of wake, multiple coffees, race, wouldn’t do, some food would have to be had, but more time was spent shaving heads (mine and the abomination that was Fionn’s after a foolhardy wager on Thursday) and looking for gear than cooking or eating. Naturally despite the late race start we were even later leaving the house and rushing to get there, running through Raheny, desperately trying to find the race number pick up before the supposed cut-off at 2pm. I think I’m the only one who pays any sort of heed to those times though as there were hordes of people still casually strolling in after me to pick up their numbers. Between that running around though, and the planned running shortly after that, I did get a good warm up. I also had a bottle of my home made SSSD (Super Special Sports Drink) which I glugged after the warm up so I was good to go.


Bodies everywhere

Bodies everywhere

I strolled to the starting area with my boys then (my sons, Oran and Fionn rather than some Tim Westwood style posse) and was slightly taken aback by just how many people were there. Apparently there were almost three thousand people taking part, so add friends, family, supports etc. and the area was thronged with bodies. Speaking of bodies, probably the highlight of my pre-race was the barely disguised look of shame on Oran’s face as I exposed mine to the masses when I took off the t-shirt I’d been wearing for my warm up to replace it with my vest. A little further embarrassment by dragging each of them into pictures with me and then it was time to start making my way towards the start line.


Slightly embarrassed son no. 1

Slightly embarrassed son no. 1

Somewhat sullen son no. 2

Somewhat sullen son no. 2

The first kilometre was possibly the most crowded segment of a race I’ve ever run. There must have been seven or eight hundred people ahead of me, all attempting to run through a not particularly wide road in a housing estate, with cars parked either side. It was impossible to get into any sort of rhythm as we turned this way and that, people were going up onto footpaths, jumping back in, cutting corners and yet when I looked at my watch I was running at about 4:00/km, which is very quick for me. I’d planned on doing the first couple of kilometres at about 4:30/km and then picking up the pace a bit but this felt incredibly comfortable, even without really having gotten into my stride yet. Turning another corner I spotted one of my old, old, old friends Pony standing at the side of the road so gave him a shout and a wave before trundling on.


Finally out onto the open road I tried to moderate my pace, trying to run by feel rather than looking at my watch, semi-comfortable but quick was what I was looking for. Pretty soon I could see the three mile marker hove into view, which was a relief for a couple of reasons – first was that semi-comfortable was quite quickly turning into more than a little uncomfortable and second was that I could really, really do with a toilet break. Normally I try to stop drinking an hour before the race to try to negate that but this morning I was drinking water in the car on the way up, and more significantly had about 400ml of my SSSD not long before I started. Unfortunately I was running through a pretty heavily populated area, not overly blessed with secluded spots where I could stop off, and on top of that there were spectators everywhere. Naturally all I could think of then was somewhere to stop and tinkle, and the more I thought of it the more it became a pressing concern. Shortly after we turned on to the coast road, where I actually thought about jumping over the sea wall for a second, but thought that was maybe a little drastic, so when we then ran alongside a park with some trees and bushes I didn’t even think about it. In a flash I was over the low wall, behind a bush and about twenty seconds later back out on the road frantically trying to make up time.


I remembered quite quickly then that there was apparently a bit of a hill approaching the last mile or so and tried to ease off a little bit but almost immediately I was around the corner and facing up it. Everything after that was a real struggle, but then you should be going as hard as you can anyway. Going up that hill though my legs felt like lead, I felt heavy, slow and like I was really struggling to make progress. After cresting the hill I was praying to see the finish line but all I could see was houses, cars, people running this way and that. People were shouting “it’s just round the corner” but that was just the Raheny 5 equivalent of the usual “downhill all the way to the finish now” or “that’s it, last bit now” that you always get. It felt like I was running through some interminable concrete maze until finally, with legs and lungs burning, I could finally see the finish line and mustered one last effort down the straight.


Trundling towards the line

Trundling towards the line

After a few minutes of retching and dry heaving as we were ushered around yet another bloody corner and down a lane-way between houses to collect the quite frankly fantastic goodie bag I looked at my watch to see a finishing time of 35:25. I’d actually been really happy with my effort, was satisfied that I’d nothing left in the bank crossing the line but now was a little miffed. My one and only previous five mile time was 35:40, so this was a PB, but I’d have really liked to crack 35 minutes. Had my unplanned toilet stop cost me 26 seconds? If it had I was going to be really annoyed with my weak bladder and lack of willpower. As it turned out when I checked my Garmin afterwards it had actually cost me 25 seconds, my ‘moving time’ on my Garmin was 35:00. Maybe I would have dipped under 35:00 if I’d stayed running, maybe not, who knows as I didn’t and my time was my time. I suppose I’ll just have to do another five mile as soon as I can, and this time maybe skip the pre-race SSSD.


A plaque! Reallly nice change from the usual medal

A plaque! Really nice change from the usual medal


PS – big congratulations to my wonderful friends and colleagues Marion Sahani and Claire Lee for their races. Marion managed to make it the whole fifteen metres from her house to the start line to run a great time of 46:22 and Claire managed to make it off the couch for the first time since Killarney in October to run it in 52 minutes, though it would have been much, much quicker if she hadn’t waited to run the final stretch with her offspring.