Saturday 30 August 2014


Marathon #65  Lucan

Time not important on this one.

I really wanted to do this run even though it was only 5 days after Achill and I really hadn't recovered well enough (the hills in Achill beautiful as they are nearly killed me). But this was day 10 of Denzil Jacob's mission to do 12 marathons in 12 days to raise awareness of families living with Autism. All the more significant for me due to my own family situation.

I arrived expecting a run along the Grand  Canal but due to the potential of some skallywags taking the water at the turn-around point it was decided to instead run a very unusual event, that would consist of running enough laps of the Griffeen park (parkrun course) to make a trail marathon. This would be classed as an urban trail marathon and we didn't actually know how many laps it would be until after the first one was completed. It turned out 17 laps brought us around in 26.81 miles well within the bounds of  the trail marathon criteria.

Being a short loop marathon, I thought this would be a highly sociable event, but as there was only 14 of us in the race and with only one point on the course that you got close to other runners it was quite solitary. You pretty much found your position early and stayed there. So I didn't really meet too many people except for the odd person lapping me or even rarer me lapping someone else. Significantly today it was Denzil's
10th marathon in a row and he still managed sub 3:40 being paced by AAI's Niall Murphy which was awesome to witness. David Brady had also done all 10 to date and was currently on a 412 marathon total and this would be no 60 for this year alone. Surely on the way to a new Irish record. Even more amazingly Paolo Gino from Italy (current national record holder) was also there doing his 26th marathon in 26 days and had also done all 10 so far. James and Eugene (on his own 10 in 10 mission) started early and I didn't get to see to much of them.

I started off too fast as usual and even managed to get lost on the first lap while in second position and following the eventual winner, but was soon back on track. We passed the aid station every 2.56 km and it became great fun with the banter between runners and Aiden (the race director) and Vincent. Being there every time really helped with the loop-de-loop. Vincent despite recovering from a hernia even ran with me a little. I wish that had been captured on camera.

I ended up following Anthony Sheridan for most of the race and the thought of not being lapped by him kept me going to the end. However that can't be said for David  Brady who passed me at about 16 miles and went on to beat me by 10 minutes!!!! That was on his 10th marathon in 10 days!!! and he is 64!!!!. It was nice to chat to Stephen Mullin and Seamus Dornan (good luck to both in the 10 in 10) during the race and the girls Olivia and Elle both brought much needed glamour to the event and did great and I even think there was a PB there. My time of 4:44 was a bit slow (whats up with that) but it was only 5 days since Achill. Now for a couple of weeks off.

Today was awesome, particularly to watch Denzil's very focused efforts for autism and to experience the road show that he had pulled together with Niall, Shane and Vincent and of course his family. As well as the money raised there was a tremendous awareness uplift for families living autism and as such this whole effort has to be seen as a roaring success.

Garmin stats for the day.

Sunday 24 August 2014


Marathon #64  Achill


I had been looking forward to this race all summer as in 2013 this was my favourite event despite the weather. This year the forecast was great and I had been honoured with the "No 1" bib. They know how to plámás me in Achill.

The Usual Suspects
Jimmy, Lesley and Gerry
I stayed in Galway on Friday night and wandered up to Achill on the Sat morning. Everything was setup and I registered and proudly put on the "No 1 bib".  There was an Ultra on as well that started at 8am. The Marathon was off at 10 and a half was off at 12. It was over a 13.1mile loop around the beautiful Atlantic drive.

One of the great things about this race is that you get close to the other races and we could watch the Ultra unfold. The fist runners were through their first loop in well under 2hrs with Rocky Six in a steady third place.

There was lots of old friends at the start line for the marathon and the weather was great. Ger Donohue had
been given the task of pacing 4hrs. He had never been round the route before and I think I scared him with tales of hills. He managed it in 3:59 but it was a massive effort.

At 10 we were off and we started off steady enough. I settled in behind the 4hr group and let them go off. My target time for today was 4:30. I ran a little with Lesley Crawford at the start before he went ahead. There was much encouragement from the Ultra guys coming against us and I managed to give Lillian Deegan a massive high 5. She was running great today on her first road Ultra. Quickly I was soon joined by 2 newbies running their first marathon at Grainne's Castle. They were young and fit and I new they would do well. One even managed to catch the 4 hr group and finish at 3:57. I was impressed.  It was at this stage I was joined by a work colleague Gareth Winders who was also running his first marathon. We chatted and stayed together for the first half.

Soon enough we hit the hills. I had forgot about one of them and they were brutal. But we were rewarded with the best vista you could wish for anywhere. It was just great. I knew today I was only going to run these once which proved the case. We kept a steady pace going and ended the first loop in about 2hrs. Meanwhile Rocky Six had moved to second place in the Ultra and was looking strongest. I was shocked to hear he hadn't won in the end but did stay 2nd.

On the second loop I hooked up again with Lesley who at the time of writing this would have completed 9 marathons in the last 17 days. We ran and chatted for around 5 miles. Stopping to take photographs and even pick Blackberries at the cemetery section. I was beginning to tire at this stage and Lesley pushed on. The second time over the hills was brutal and I walked them all. Finally at mile 22 we were at the top and it was a reasonably easy net downhill finish. I had managed to keep my place in the race since just after half way so knew everyone else around me was struggling too. Most everyone was slower than last year by a long way and I eventually came in at 4:36:08 over 45 minutes slower than last year but I wasn't out for a time today and I thoroughly enjoyed everything. The weather was stunning, the views world class and the company great. What more could you ask for.

When I crossed the line I got great hugs and a custom medal from Donna (the national 24 hrs champ) and some great soup in the local pub. It was a great event and I'm sure to be back.

I stayed over in Achill for the night and went to McLoughlins for the band later. I met some great people. Bonnie, Donna's Cousin from England who broke 4 hrs in her first marathon in an awesome run and the ebullient Kevin Hill from New Jersey who was back again to take on the Ultra. It was great fun but I have forgotten what a hang-over was like.
Garmin stats for the day.

Sunday 17 August 2014


Marathon #63    Lehinch (Co Clare)

4:28:45    On a very hilly course on a windy day.

I was back on my comfort zone this week at marathon distance away from those lung and gut busting 5K and 8K races.

Group Photo
I was in Galway for the weekend, so it was a relatively short hop down to the race start in Enistimon. I woke early and as usual checked the computer for the weather as I was having breakfast. The web was full of extraordinary uplifting stories. It was with great jealousy that I read the ebullient posts and viewed the happy photos of the mad yokes doing the 4 in 4 Quadrathon in Donegal. It was day 3 and I initially was booked in to this race for today. It looked absolutely super. I was so jealous. News had also come through that David Brady had just completed his 400th marathon. I had spent a lot of time with Dave over the last 2 years having passed him and been passed by him many times and he was always up for the chat. Then Brian Ankers had joined blogger and put up his amazing account of his win in the Connemara 100 the week before. Again I have run with Brian many times over the last few years  and he is a machine. I still have nightmares of after one of my best efforts on the really difficult Howth course,  being in 5th place and bombing my way into Howth village when I got the shocking "Tap Tap" from Brian 100m from the finish. I just cant let it go. I have to say all of these uplifting stories made me feel quite down and I felt, fat, middle aged and distinctly average as I got in the car.

As I was early I took the coast road to Enistimon. Soon the awesomeness of the Burren, the knowledge that Dave Brady was a one off and Brian has turned out to be one of the worlds best ultra runners (Connemera 100 time was top 10 globally this year for 100 miles) and the fact that I had my own inspirational story soon brought me round and I arrived at the startling line back to normal.

There was a lovely atmosphere at the start line where 31 runners had come along for this MCI organised event on this new course. It was Patrick O'Neill and Theresa Murphy's first attempt at being race directors and it was a fantastic effort and brilliantly organized. 

And we are off
After the group photo we were off, and it became quickly clear this was going to be a tough course (turned out close to 1000ft climb) as the first 1K was straight up hill. In fact the first 3 miles was really really tough with steep rolling hills being the order of the day. I immediately settled into a group of around 7 that seemed to include most of the committee of MCI with the newly shaped MO after losing over a stone leading the way.  It was at this stage I thought my shoes were feeling a bit tight and when I checked I was horrified to notice that I had forgot to change into my marathon
Valarie and Brenda and MO
shoes and was still wearing my good "pulling" runners that had never seen even 1 mile running before.

We continued on for an
Lehinch Golf club
other 3 miles dropping into Lehinch past the world famous golf course which I played some 25 years ago. It still rates as one of the best. At this stage our group had broken up and I was with Valerie and Brenda. In Lehinch the route brought us along the promenade where we felt the full force of the strong westerly. It was beautiful.  At the end of the prom was an aid station manned by Vincent  Guthrie who was obviously still in Connemara 100 crewing mode as he was refusing to give out salt tablets to anyone who didn't have a doctor cert (thanks Vincent for all the encouragement)

Loose Chucks
There were steep climbs back out of Lehinch again but brought beautiful views over the Clare countryside and soon we could see Enistimon below us. Farm machinery and loose chickens were just some of the  obstacles that we had to overcome on this section.I took advantage of the steep drop back into Enistimon to break clear of Valerie and Brenda and entered the town over the famous waterfalls before making my way back up the main street to finish the first 8.4 mile loop.

Marie Chapman on Lehinch prom
Despite the runners oversight my feet felt OK and I decided not to stop and change them but headed back up the hill into lap 2. I was on my own on this lap until Marie Chapman caught me on the outskirts of Lehinch for the second time. We ran and chatted for a while going over the details of her epic 100K run in Tralee and our plans for the rest of 2014 and next year. She was moving very comfortably and pushed on as we hit the golf course and by the time we hit Enistimon for the second time she was gone. I passed Adolfo at this point who was doing his 79th marathon and had just returned from the US and Mexico where he was on holiday but still getting a few races in. At the end of the second loop my feet still felt fine so I continued. 

Some of the obstacles
The hills on the third loop got me and I had to walk them. Not surprisingly I was passed by a couple of other runners on this loop but kept moving forward nicely. I have a  lot of  races in the next few months so was not killing myself. Then came Lehinch for the 3rd time. I felt very sore on my toes and sure enough when I checked my nice new runners had turned red. I guess I was lucky I had got this far but the toes had gone. This made for a very uncomfortable last 3 miles up and down dale back to Enistimon. The cruel twist in the day was that we passed the start line at km 41, and we were immediately sent back up the hill for the 4th time for the last km. This was a killer and was mostly walked. I was delighted to crawl over the line in 4:28 which wasn't a bad effort and just squeezed me into the top half of the field in 15th place. We got a lift back to the start for a fantastic spread and a cup of tea.
Crawling over the line

The wrong shoes
I was scared to take my shoes off and waited until I got back to Galway. My foot stung like it was an open nipple in the shower and I took this as a very expensive lesson.

Now we have the countdown to what will be a super weekend on Achill. This was my favorite event last year and I can't wait,

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Vanguard Way

Marathon #62  Vanguard Way Marathon Croydon , UK

5:40:33  (top 50 out of well over 100)

The time is a direct reflection of the conditions and the difficulty of the course so I'm not too worried.

This race cost £15 and was organised by members of the 100 Marathon Club UK and was well attended by the club. For £15 there was a fully serviced race and changing rooms with showers, Technical -T and an engraved medal as well as loads of marshals and a lead bike.

And we are off
It was a trail marathon that followed the Vanguard Way trail just beyond the M25 and back, mostly along the North Downs. It was self navigable and reports from previous years had it a difficult one to follow.  I carried instructions and my glasses and hoped others knew the way. I'd also heard it was hilly but I had no idea how much.  It was hot with temperatures raising to 24 degrees quickly.

Close to 150 started the race.

The first 7 miles were steady up hill, skirting housing estates and entered the Vanguard Way Trail.  Some of this up hill was quite tough and lot of people were trekking the steep bits. This was not going to be a fast one. I stuck to the trail quite well at this time running with a local. Several times the same people passed me obviously having took wrong turns. Definitely some urchins had moved the marker tape and repositioned it just to confuse everyone.
Signs enroute
Mile 5

Eventually after 10K we came to the first aid stop which was welcome and well stocked. Everyone was
carrying Camel backs or extra water which was refreshed. The next section opened up a bit on the North Downs and we crossed some open fields (full of bullocks, bulls and cows) before hitting some serious hills. On the way out there were two serious down hill sections that were unrunnable with one very long steep up hill section. This was as hard a course as I have come across. At times we could see the M25 but were way way above it and then of course right beside it. At the turn around there was the second aid station. I got here at 2:30 and it was hot.

I found the way back a lot tougher with 1 steep and 2 very very steep hills bringing us to the 20 mile mark. They were truly the steepest hills I have ever come across in a race and were barely walkable. Add to this I was now on my own and got lost several times. One time I was well off piste and only that I say a runner way back that I knew I had to retrace my steps. I eventually got back to the aid station at the 32K mark. Amazingly I had remained in exactly the same race position all the way through since around 10K. I really struggled through the last section, and came in knackered and  in my slowest ever marathon time.

Getting medal and T
When I finished marathion 2 started as it was now 3:40 and I was flying from Southampton at 18:15 and had to get back to Basingstoke to leave the car off, yomp to the train station, and then get a train to the airport. I made it with 5 mins to spare and only I had pre printed the boarding card I would have missed the flight.

Happily I was seated in Gaffneys of fairview by 8:30 enjoying a few Guinnesses....

Garmin stats for the day.