Monday 29 September 2014


Marathon #68   Berlin  4:28:51

If you ever want to run a marathon major pick Berlin. It is just fantastic.

I headed out to Berlin early doors on Saturday arriving mid morning. I took a taxi straight to the exhibition with Joe and Olwyn Dunne from Crusaders. Joe having encyclopedic knowledge of everything gave a very interesting history lesson on the way, which included the fact that the exhibition was in a building that was at one stage the biggest building in the world. I had recently read a race report from Valerie Fogarty and had picked up lots of tips on getting your number and getting to the race efficiently and had taken notes.

When we arrived at the exhibition we were lucky in that the queues were not too long and with all the pre-printed tickets (thanks Valerie) it was a fairly easy process to pick up the number and Tee's. The exhibition itself was huge. I'd estimate around 3 times the size of Dublin with every running accouterment you would ever want on sale. I spent a few hours there. I had long since lost Joe and Olwyn.

Then it was off to find the hotel trying to navigate the U and S Bahn systems. I had an address and knew it was close to the Ostbanhof. I'm not joking when I say it took 45 minutes searching for it before I found it. It was down a poky side street in a real dodgy area of town. I was shocked when it turned out to be brand new and 4 star. However I got an even greater shock when I went to room to realise this must be one of those boutique fetish joints.  Enough said.

Off I went to check out a few of the sights (I have been in Berlin a couple of times so knew my way around fairly well). First up was the Brandenburg Gate. This had been transformed into "Marathon Village" and there were several races on. First up was a kids race who got the opportunity to run the last couple of K of the marathon. There was a huge crowd there and when a group of special needs kids came past with their carers/parents or siblings there wasn't a dry eye in the house and the biggest cheer you would ever hear. It was real lump in the throat stuff.

Next up was a inline skating marathon. This was awesome and the speed was absolutely incredible.
Starting area

I headed off to get something to eat and back to enjoy the hotel.

Checking my notes from Valerie's race report again I was up and at it early the next day. With great
German efficiency everyone arrived for the short walk to the entrance. It was a bit eerie with steam rising off the grass and the most beautiful skies. After dropping off the baggage it was off to
the start with 40000 others. Everything worked like clockwork and I got to the start 30 minutes before the off.  We were immediately treated to an obvious hit song in Berlin called "This is a marathon, through the streets of Berlin". I was in the second wave behind everyone who thought they could beat 3:30. That meant pretty much of all the other Crusaders.

The first wave was off and we had to wait 10 long minutes before we could get going. The announcer came on and said "You will all clap you hands to the music" and so we did.

Then we were off.  I was only 1km into the race when I saw a Crusaders vest ahead of me. I didn't
recognise the runner but soon learned it was Denis who has just joined the club. He was to go on and do 3:36. I had a plan today for a 4:15, that was going to be a 2hr first half followed by a 2:15 second. This was reasonably agressive for me so I went off at a pace sticking with the 3:45 pacer.

The music enroute was fantastic with many many bands. The support was also fantastic. Not quite as many people as London or New York but never the less great. The only downside for me was the water stations which were carnage as you waded through 300m of plastic cups. No bottles. The guys at the front wouldn't have had to deal with this.

I noticed that there seemed to be half of Demark either running or supporting. I think it is a national obligation in Denmark to wear national colours and as many flags as possible. The Crusaders top looked a bit Danish and I reaped the benefit of much extra support. The Irish were also out in numbers with many shouting me on.

I stayed with the 3:45 pacer to half way but knew he was going too slow as we both came in half way at 1:59 to be joined by the 4hr pacers immediately (on plan). The 3:45 guy gave up soon after. I stayed with the 4hr pacer through 29km when disaster struck. I had noticed that one of the sponsors "Erdinger" had a number of runners running in costume (8 ft sponge beer bottles). There was one in the group with us. Then all of a sudden the beer bottle swerved across me and I bounced off his sponge suit and ended up in the cobbles.

Luckily I didn't hit my head but the rest of my left side didn't fare so well. My shoulder to my knee got hit bad. Noone came to help. I got to my feet but my knee had froze. I hobbled Jake-the-peg style to the 30km aid point seriously thinking about a DNF for the first time ever. Fortunately they had a massage area and a young frauline managed to free up my knee and I decided to continue. But my race was gone.

I kept a slow but steady pace from then on deciding just to enjoy the atmosphere. It was also hot and getting hotter and my leg hurt like hell.

The finish was just special and iconic. It was worth doing it alone for this. You passed under the Brandenburg Gate and to a great finish, 500m after.

I limped across the line and picked up a well deserved medal.  Phew!!!  4:28 would have been a lot better if it wasnt for that Erdinger bottle.

I met up with the Crusaders in the "Oscar Wilde" and Stephen Mullins dropped in on the way to the airport. It was great fun recounting the various good and bad stories from the day.

O yes and it was pretty cool to be in the race where the world record went.

Kimoto  (2:02:57 world record)

Garmin stats for the day.

Thursday 18 September 2014

EOI Clontarf 10 in 10 day 7

Marathon #67 10 in 10 Day 7 Clontarf

9AM start
This was like Groundhog day. Everything was pretty much identical to Sunday except for a few injury pull outs and a retirement. The weather was identical, the course was identical and the field was pretty much identical.

Today was not about times. All I wanted to do was be part of this fantastic event and catch up with and see how all the 10 in 10ers were doing.

Racing today started early with John Chapman taking on the course with a headlamp at 1:30am and would finish in 4:11 (impressive). There was the usual 8am starters who were out on the course before I arrived for the 9am start. Niggles, pain, sore feet, nails and hernia's was the chat at the start. Seeing grown men compare hernia's was a sight to behold. But luckily Ronaldo brought some sane medical advise to the party and everyone started.

Frank the Tank
We were off at 9am after the usual photos. I spent most of the first half with Frank McDermott. It had been
nearly a year since I last ran with Frank in atrocious conditions in Craughwell and it was a nice conversational pace (Franks only pace) and we sorted out all the issues with the marathon running industry in Ireland.

The beach was still pretty cut up and the wind was slightly stronger than I remembered on Sunday. We came through half way in 2:06 (5 minutes down on Sunday).

Frank then headed off running strong with Gary and his son as I decided to pull back and take it easy.

 I got a wonderful surprise just before the wooden bridge when Olywn Dunne came past on her bike as a
Olywn on taper for Berlin
roving marshal. I don't know who was most shocked, me or her.

She pushed on to chat to Frank and Gary and I met up with her at the far side of the beach where she opened a Pandora's box of running goodies. We also managed to sort out logistics for the Berlin Marathon. Olywn (former national 50K champ) has been training hard and I expect her to come close to a new PB c3:10 in Berlin and I look forward to running with her hubby Joe for the first half. GO CRU!!

I stopped and took loads of photos of everyone on the course during the out and back section and I was well down on Sundays time turning at 3:23 (18 minutes down on Sunday).

I didn't suffer as much on the return leg with a nice wind helping all the way coming in at 4:37 and am now starting my taper for Berlin. I ran past much human suffering on the way back. How everyone keeps going with injuries is amazing.

Brian O'Kelly
Rolando and Dipak
The overall race also became interesting with Brian O'Kelly cementing his lead overall (averaging under 3:20
over 7 consecutive days). Barry Casserly really struggled today and Ronaldo and Dipak both took some time out of him. It will be an interesting weekends racing.

Barry Struggling today 
Lillian built on her lead in the ladies race.

Lillian , Ger and Gary
Thanks in particular to Gary O Daly who gave up his own run to man the water stop on the causeway. Thanks Gary

I managed to make it to the office for 14:30 and don't know whether I am disappointed or not that no one seemed to miss me :-(

Good luck to everyone over the next few days and roll on the taper and Berlin.

Garmin stats for the day.

Sunday 14 September 2014

EOI 10 in 10 Day 3 Clontarf

Marathon #66 EOI marathon Series 10 in 10 Day 3 Clontarf 4:23:28

Today I was privileged to be part of a unique event where over 20 runners were attempting 10 marathons in 10 days in Dublin as part of the East of Ireland Marathon series.

Today was day 3 and was on the Clontarf course. I knew pretty much everyone in the race as I have run with them for the last couple of years and I was fresh off a great day marshalling at day 2 in Howth the day before.

10 in 10 first prize
It was a hot and humid day and the sand on Dollymount strand was as soft as I have ever seen. There was a stiff enough Easterly sweeping across the course helping somewhat on the return leg but significantly into the face on the outward leg.

There was an early start and today there was an extraordinary amount of people took advantage and were off at 8am (what is up with that?). We would pass each other numerous times on the course and it was a good guide to how you were doing relative to the rest of the field. It was €25 for the race today and included the newly minted EOI medal. Now that is value.

I arrived in time for the main 9am start and as well as the normal banter we got a visit from a passing nun. She was game for a laugh and got her photo taken with the massive overall cup (and the race directors and favorites). After the normal group photos we were off. The field quickly spread out into either small groups or individuals.

I was shadowed by Anthony Sheridan for the first 18 miles. I tried
many times to shake him and thought I had at half way, but he kept coming back. Apart from some soft sand that required careful navigation on the beach it was a pretty uneventful race. The water stops were perfect at the causeway onto Dollymount strand and half way. Ronan and Gary were great as roving marshals on the bikes.

My shadow Anthony
I had a good run for the first quarter turning in 1:01 (into the wind) and came back to half way in 2:01 shadowed all the way by Anthony. There was very little change in race positions throughout this time but there was great fun meeting the early starters coming against us and the leaders (Barry,Brian, Ronaldo and Dipak) showing how to run multiple day events. I have to mention that  Lillian nearly broke my arm with the hardest high five ever just past the wooden bridge. Girl you are strong so go easy on those Yorkies.

Brian and Lucy
I had a slightly slower 3rd quarter (again into the wind) turning at 3:06 but was delighted to see Brian Ankers and his daughter Lucy with their personalised support at the turn around in Kilbarrack. I stopped to take a photo and Anthony slipped away from me. I have to say I struggled from here until the beach and Micheal and Frank both passed me at this section. I was feeling very sorry for myself.

Fortunately Michael had an emergency toilet break before the beach, and I regained the place quickly and picked up the pace for the last 3 miles. I came over the finish in 4:23 and reasonably happy as my times have slipped recently and I felt this was the best I have run since the start of the summer. I need to get back to speed training again soon and loose the 10lbs that have slipped on since June.

 The new medal is class.

 Good luck to 10 in 10ers for the next 7 days and I am in awe.

Photos courtesy of Brian Ankers and Mike Gonda

Garmin stats for the day.