Tuesday 28 October 2014


Marathon 72   Dublin  4:31:38

Outside of New York and London this is the best supported marathon I have experienced. The build up for this race had been going on for months. My club Crusaders have had a huge marathon group that has been training since early July under the eye of Coach Cottle and had put forward something like over 60 runners for this race. Even though I have been unable to train with them this year I have passed and chatted to them most Tuesdays and Thursdays on my recovery runs. The excitement on-line and with them was palpable. 

Along side the runners there was also many plans afoot for the famous Crusaders roving support to be out and about. They are truly awesome and the period from mile 23 onwards was incredible with Beggars Bush just being special.

This was my 8th consecutive weekend running marathons and to be honest I was feeling a little tired and under prepared as I only had managed to get out for one recovery run since Amsterdam last Sunday. It was also my 40th marathon over the last 12 months. I think this will be my peak as I haven't entered so many for the rest of the year. But I am very happy for this to be a peak.

The weekend started early on Saturday with a trip to the exhibition in the RDS. There seemed to be a different registration process from previous years and there were massive queues for registration and it took an age. But after that was safely negotiated and the goodie bag was picked up (which wasn't bad) I had a good look around the exhibition. It is a good show, way better than some of the supposed bigger marathons. I met loads of running friends and browsed for a good hour before heading home to rest.

Sunday was to be an easy day so Linz and I headed to Glendalough for the morning. I thought I would drop in for a coffee at the Bike and Hike coffee dock in Roundwood but I had missed the season as its now shut to April. I did learn however that infamous Ultra runners Don and Donna have been hatching a plan with RTE for a 2 part documentary of them taking part in the biggest ultras in the world in 2015. Sponsorship I am sure would be appreciated.

MCI at the start
Monday morning came and I was meticulous with my preparation.
Beet Shots (no mouthwash) and porridge with Chia seeds set the groundwork and I was off early to meet up with Ronan Higgins from Tullamore Harriers before the start. We made our way to government buildings for a few photos before dropping the bags off and making our way to the start. Everything worked like clockwork and it was a mild morning.

Bob training for MDS
I was out of position immediately as I was in the sub 3:50 area and my goal time was 4:30. I therefore positioned myself to the back of wave 1. This was a great strategy as I ran on empty roads right through to the phoenix park. I may do this again in the future. I quickly came across Bob Manson from Crusaders who was also on a back to back from Amsterdam and was in full MDS training gear. He is off to New York immediately after for the run there next weekend.

The new route was very odd and I found the long drag up through the park particularly long and then up up and up some more through the Castleknock gates. The support was just brilliant and luckily for the supporters it was a great day for watching. After cresting, the run down back into the park was nice as was the park itself. We were then back on the old route but some 1.5 miles further into the run that I was used to. This time-shift messed with my head all day. At mile 10 Brian Ankers and Ronaldo Espina brought there 3:50 pacing group past me. I went through half way in 2:02. This was 6 minutes up on last week and I felt OK.

At Mile 16 Olwyn Dunne and Barry Casserly brought their massive 4 hr group past me. My initial plan was to go with this group but I was out of position from the start so couldn't.

High Fives at Beggars Bush
And we are home
I started slowing bad and at Mile 20 just passed Milltown (thank goodness I had just passed Kate Murray from Crusaders roving support) when my diesel engine finally gave up and I struggled badly from here to UCD. It was only that Lillian Deegan and I were swapping places that kept me going. At UCD I gave a big shout to Lillian that we only had 3 miles left and we headed off in formation. By Tesco at the Merrion gates we had regained ourselves and perked up by Joe Dunne and his support equipment malfunction we ran together for the last couple of miles. 

The last couple of miles were absolutely brilliant. Rather than continuing onto Trinity we swung left at Slatterys pub and ran past Beggars Bush to the finish. The Crusaders had encamped themselves at the Beggars Bush pub and we got a great welcome. At this stage we spotted Lucy Foley who was on her 100th marathon and Clodagh Kelly on her 2nd in a month and caught them up. Also in the distance we spotted Bob Hilliard and caught him up as well. The last 800m were way better than the previous finish and Lillian, Bob and I finished together and I managed to get Lucy finishing her 100th just after. It was great.

Another one done
The medal and goodie bag and Tee were duly picked up and it was off to meet Linz and Crusaders and a lot of my running buddies for well deserved pints before home.

I'm taking a couple of weeks off now to prepare for my onslaught on Marathons 73,74 and 75 which will be at the Quad Dipsea in San Francisco over thanksgiving.  Quad Dispsea

Garmin Stats for today

Monday 20 October 2014


Marathon #71  Amsterdam   4:28:24

Ready to go
It is the World Broadband Forum time in Amsterdam and I had managed again to blag a speaking gig which much helps in financing a running trip. Unlike last year I was injury free so was up for this marathon. Unlike previous years this was also my 39th marathon or longer in the last 12 months and as a direct result I have slowed significantly but that is just the way. It was also my 7th weekend in a row running. I was really looking forward to this one as I have had an office in Amsterdam for the last 10 years and been there every few months for a long time. I love the city and its parks and canals and culture. This would be my 3rd Gold label IIAF standard race this year. This status is only granted to a maximum of 30 races globally a year. Surely this would be a good one.

finding my way at the expo
It was an early start on a 6am flight out of Dublin. At the airport I ran into Bob Manson from Crusaders who was doing the first of three big city marathons on consecutive weekends in Amsterdam, Dublin and New York. This all in  preparation for the MDS next year. Bob is a great runner so I knew he would do well. Everything was on time. I was staying at an airport hotel so decided to see if I could offload my baggage early before going and registering for the race. Luckily they had some spare rooms and were able to check me in immediately at 8am (result). 3 hours later I woke up.

I knew Amsterdam pretty well (particularly its transport system) and headed off. The Olympic Stadium was walkable distance from Amsterdam Zuid or you could change to the Metro and get marginally closer via one of its stations. 20 minutes later I was there. The exhibition was a lot smaller than I expected and I quickly picked up my bib and Tee. Recently I ran out of gels so would wait and pick some up at the expo. I was shocked to find that only clothing and shoes and limited accessories were on sale. No gels or anything like that. So I would have to run tomorrow with no gels, something I wasn't that comfortable with.

Busy in Dam Sq
I headed into town for a while. There was the normal autumnal fun fare in Dam Square and there was a huge dance festival on in town which made it absolutely packed. It was a beautiful day and one of those balmy European evenings. A very pleasant day all together. It was off to bed early.

The race started at 9:30 and I had arranged to meet some people at 8:30 at the bib 10000
Some familiar faces
baggage drop. I was shocked to find when I got there that this concept didn't exist and it was a matter of randomly walking up and down hoping to bump into people. Luckily I happened to run into Lucy Foley who was running her 99th marathon. We also met some of the Fil-Irish (Namely Mike Gonda). More of Mike later. The toilet situation was disgraceful with not even close to enough toilets. I had to wait
Ultimate relaxation from the FIl-Irish
till on the course in my own time (not good). I took a quick look inside the stands of the stadium.  More of the Fil-Irish were caught asleep inside, relaxing before the start (nice to see you Celso and friends). I then entered the main stadium ready for the start. It was spectacular in the stadium but it really was bedlam with toilets again being a big issue.

We were off. The start was great with 200m on the track before exiting onto the streets. The next 41km were not great. Unfortunately the course designers didn't bring the route
In the Stadium
into old Amsterdam at all, and we only skirted the canals for a few km. The race seemed to be very out and back with us passing each other quite a few times en-route. There were also a lot of tram tracks to avoid and I seen a few miss their footing. The only landmark of note that we came across was the Rijksmeseum tunnel which was cool.

From about 12K to 25K we were taken along an out and back on the Amstel river. I know that we passed by some beautiful parks on this route but didn't see them. For example we ran along the outside of the fantastic Amstel Park with its many many public sculptures and its famous "midget golf" course. That would have been more interesting.

The weather though forecast hot was actually OK with a reasonable breeze around.

The rest of the route pretty much retraced our way back to the stadium. Gels for me became a problem from half way. AA gels were
Tok Tok time
given out at 30K and 38K (which was a waste of time).  These did however help, and my last 5K was my fastest.I met Mike Gonda again at the 40km mark. He was running strong and we had a quick chat and even got a shaky photo in.

And we are home
As far as my run went it was pretty uneventful. I had a "technical break" during the first 5K and a  very very slow first half of the marathon coming through in 2:08 (well down on recent runs). But I came back stronger in the second half. I was very vigilant of sponsored runners in sponge suits. But as the marathon was sponsored by a consultancy firm I guess they havn't invented a fancy dress running outfit for a tosser yet so I was safe.

The marathon really only came to life as we entered the Stadium again for the finish. It was special and I came in with my fastest last 2Km to finish in 4:28:24. Pretty slow really. I am definitely taking a week off after Dublin next weekend.

Overall apart from the start and the finish I was disappointed overall with this marathon. It didn't live up to the Gold Label status and the route did not show off Amsterdam as much as it should. It was still relatively affordable and easy to get into and flights and accommodation was reasonable. But not for me again.

The finish was the best part of the day

Garmin Stats

Saturday 11 October 2014

Fowlmead Challenge

Marathon #70  Fowlmead challenge near Deal Kent.

This was a 6hr challenge around a 2.67 mile loop. I stopped after 10 loops in 4:55 to clock up a marathon.

Results:  Fowlmead results    10th out of 33 who stopped at marathon distance.

I decided this week to check out a marathon series that I had heard off in the South East Of England. It was the Saxon Shore series that has an amazing 25 events over the next 12 months. These include Marathons, b2b's, 3in3's, or timed events (6+ hours) and even includes some midweek. They are all run on local parks or coastal routes around the South East.

I chose a single day event that was a 6hr challenge around a 2.67mile loop. You could stop when you want and only need to finish 1 loop to get a distance and a time recorded. 10 loops were officially a marathon and 11 were officially an ultra. Fields are kept small at around 50.

The ethic seems to be all about participation and inclusion with all standards catered for. This particular race also allowed dogs on leads and prams. They don't have chip timing or finish gantries but choose to spend their money in sustaining the routes (£5 of each entry fee is donated back to the venue) they run and HUGE medals and very nice goodie bags.  It is very professionally run.

The whole event was organised by the indomitable Traviss Willcox and his team. Traviss should be well known to many in Ireland because of the Sixmilebridge 10 in 10 and also being a former  Guinness World Record holder for the most marathons run by a male in a year which was 114 in 2011.

The event was to be held in Fowlmead Park near Deal in Kent. Fowlmead park is a small park that was created out of a spoil tip from one of the local collieries in Betteshanger. It contains wetlands and a pond as well as well appointed gravel paths. It was also surprisngly hilly with two small steepish hills having to be navigated every lap and a long drag upto the finish.

 Mr Google told me it was 2hr drive from Basingstoke and it was a 10am start. Sure enough Google was right and I got there 50
Hiding from the rain
minutes before the off. I have to say though the weather on the way down was awful and I had to pull over on the M20 for 10 minutes as the rain made it un-driveable. When we arrived we were told that road shoes should be Ok and there was only some standing water and some mud but not that bad.

Indomitable Traviss and Darth Vader
After race directions from Traviss and bizarrely Darth Vader we
Very wet and muddy
were off. The conditions were worse than I was expecting and there was a lot of standing water on the course. Then after loop 1 there was a biblical deluge of Craughwellian proportions. It soaked everyone to the skin but more importantly it filled every gully and pothole with water and every depression on the course became a standing puddle. The off gravel bits became very very muddy and slippy.  Even though the weather improved the aftermath of the deluge was with us all day. It also showered regularly after this just topping up the puddles. Naturally this made things slow. I gave up on a good time early and even on the opportunity of doing another Ultra and settled for the marathon distance. Trail shoes would have been a better choice.

Very well stocked Aid station
We ticked off the loops coming past what was the most well
Getting Medal at the end
stocked aid station ever. I was through 5 loops (Just over half marathon) in 2:15 which meant a 4:45 was probably on the cards.  I struggled with the last few loops slowing badly and decided to finish after 10 loops (close on 27 miles) in 4:55. These trail marathons are always slower.

I got my amazing medal at the end from Traviss and got on the road quick to get back to get the dinner. The goodie bag was amazing with lots of chocolate, crisps, sweets and cider. Most of it didnt last the trip back.

I would strongly recommend this marathon series and it is very commutable from London.

Garmin stats for the day.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Galway Bay

Marathon #69  Galway Bay   4:18:40 wb (weeks best)

My leg still smarted from Berlin and hurt like hell, but it was off to Galway for a marathon that was put on as part of the Galway Bay running festival in conjunction with MCI with over 2500 competing in the Marathon , Half marathon and 10K around a closed course in Salthill.

The Marathon field
I traveled down the day before and the weather was awful, but we woke up to bright skies and a little breeze from the west. It started cold but soon got up to a very comfortable 14 degrees and was great running weather.

Looking back from Claddagh
There were 27 (I think) in the marathon, a long shout from the 37000 of last Sunday. The course was just over 2 laps of South Park followed by 4 laps of the 6 mile normal Salthill route. This took us out past South Park and followed the prom to the "kick wall". We then continued up hill past the golf course and the Spinaker pub turning around some 400m after, close to Knocknacara/Barna junction. We then came back to the pub and turned right towards the caravan park bringing us back on to the coastal path along the golf course. After the storms last year GCC have done a good job in getting this ready and even though they missed the summer it will be better than ever. It is nearly finished. We then followed the prom all the way back to South Park with a couple of short detours onto the long pier and the nice vista point. We passed the finish at Claddagh Hall a total of 7 times.

The field stretched out pretty quickly and Brenda Francis in particular seemed to have the bit between
Rainbows galor
her teeth and headed off at 2K never to be seen again. It turns out she finished at half way in 1:53 on a day when sub 4 hrs was on the cards for sure.

The Gutherie family were ever present on the course supporting with Catherine running with Gerry Forde in the wheelchair race.

At the head of our field there were some good efforts particularly Dipak who was still suffering a niggly ankle from the 10 in 10. He would end up with 3:25. Cezary was having a strong run on his 25th. Dave Brady well into the 80 marathons this year passed me early and would record a low 4hr race (impressive). Denis McMonagle on the other hand had a nightmare and was well off his normal pace.

Because of the racing festival they let the 10K off (many many runners) 10 minutes after we cleared South Park for the second time and the race caught us around Leisureland. The course got busy for the rest of the first lap before they peeled off to their finish.

The second lap was nice and quiet and I even managed to lap some of the 10kers.

With Valerie at the finish
I ran nice and steady coming through half way in exactly 2hrs. This was pretty much the same time as last Sunday in Berlin and I was on the watch out for any stray beer bottles. I kept my camera in my belt today today (so sorry about the lack of photos)

I got back at the end of my second big loop just as they were starting the half marathon and ran as part of this group until they turned left for their single lap of South Park. It wasn't long until Sergie passed us on the way to a comfortable  win. The race was busy from this point on.

I kept my place (except for a seesaw from Larry Rigney) in a pretty uneventful second half but got overtaken by a very strong finish from Valerie Fogarty who went on to do a 4:16 and Denis who recovered over the last couple of K for a 4:17.

A nice day out and good luck to all of those doing Monaghan tomorrow.

Garmin stats for the day.