Monday 25 May 2015


#92 Newry City Marathon


This was my first time doing this race and I found it to be a very nice experience from start to finish. There had been some horror stories of a boring course on a dual carriage way and issues with logistics from the previous year. But there was also talk of them reverting to the old course by the canal which seemed to placate everyone.

Contemplative at the start
 In fact they not only had reverted to the canal but added a hilly section that meant it wasn't just a straight out and back and as it turned out was a really interesting course. Because of the nature of the course there was however very limited crowds supporting.

Also included in the day was a very well attended half marathon and 10K that went off after the marathon. 163 took part in the marathon and we didn't really see the other races as they started after and finished well before our race.

45 minutes took us up the road and I managed to get one of the last parking spots at the leisure centre. Number pick-up was possible on the morning which is always welcomed and  T-Shirt and goodie bag were also acquired with no hassle. There were quite a few who had done the Clare-Burren challenge the day before and most had got out on the course early.

On the tow path
A short walk brought us to the start and with out too much ceremony we were off. I started off steady enough around 8 minute miles as we wound our way out of the city onto the tow path by the canal. It was a very flat start. I had studied the elevation chart and knew the first 7 miles were relatively flat. After 1.5 miles we were directed onto one of the main roads going north. It was still flat with a stiffish wind in the face. I kept the same pace and came through 5K in 24:30 minutes. Soon enough we were back on the tow path still heading north into the wind but it was a nice tarmac surface and a fast start to the race. Through 10K in just under 50 minutes had me well positioned for the hills I knew were coming up.

There were aid stations every 3 miles that were well stocked and there were lots of PSNI around stopping cars. Everything ran smoothly. After 7 miles we came off the tow path and hit the rural roads that were quite undulating. There was around 400ft of climb in the next 10K which was pretty much all the elevation of the race which overall made it a fairly flat race. The hills were quite steep and it slowed me a little but I was still doing OK. At 10 miles I noticed Kristy right behind me. I think I scared her in that I mentioned we were ahead of schedule a bit and should come through half way in 1:50. She dropped back a little. We passed Brenda, Collette and Seamus fresh off the Clare Burren
challenge and looking at 3 events next weekend. They looked tired. The hills were not as bad as I was expecting and very runnable. Then they were over and we were back on the tow path. I came through half way in 1:48 a little ahead of plan A. Kristy was just behind me, well ahead of her plan.

Celebrating with PB Queen Kristy
The tow path was pancake flat with the wind now gently from behind. You wont get an easier second half to a race anywhere. At 15 miles Kristy pulled along side me looking very strong and she slowly pulled away. I could still see her at 20 miles a couple of minutes ahead. She would go on to smash her PB by 10 minutes and come in 5th female at 3:37:30. What a run!

The rest of the race was very pleasant and uneventful. I came though 20 miles in 2:46 and kept it going. I was passed by a few (Enda Dunne) and passed a few on the run in and had a very strong last mile to record a 3:45:00 time which was very satisfactory.

A very small medal and some things awaited us at the end and there was a short walk back to leisure center
Small but cute medal
where there was hot showers awaiting. Everyone seemed very happy with their times today with everyone well up on normal runs.

Photos from various face book posts (sorry if I have stolen them without credit).

I definitely will come back for this one.

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Sunday 17 May 2015

Richmond Park

#91 Richmond Park Marathon  3:57:34

David Weir

This is my favorite urban park marathon and I was 36 minutes faster than my first outing last year. This is one of a series of 3 trail events by Gaz the organiser. The others being the Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 and the Vanguard Way.  I have had the pleasure of doing both the others and they are all fine tough events.  Gaz incidentally remembered me from Salisbury 2013 and the Vanguard Way 2014 and gave me a great welcome. I wore my Vanguard Way top today and I was surprised on how many people commented on it.

Admin area
This race is actually pretty convenient to my house only being some 40 minutes away and I was there bright and early. The forecast was for overcast and breezy. It turned out warm (approx 19 degrees) with a little breeze. It was however as hilly as I remember at some 1300ft-1400ft climb but on good quality trails in and around the park. I did however notice that I had forgotten my timing chip about 5 mins from the race. But as a mark of the professionalism of the event they sorted me out in no time.

There was much excitement when 6 time Paralympic Gold medalist
Finish Gantry
David Wier turned up and spent time with everyone chatting and getting photos taken. I had my couple of minutes with him and what a nice chap.

complex but well marshaled route
There were some big celebrations today as well. Traviss and Rachel from SVN had announced their engagement and Janet and David were celebrating their 300th and 600th marathons respectively. There was also a 100 from piers. Also there was Anna Hatton sporting a very fetching new hairdo. So all in all a great atmosphere at the start. Fortunately I have a degree in maths and was able to work out how to attach the very unique timing device. Not everyone fared so well.

David and Janet's cakes
Unique timing device
At 9:30am David Weir set us off and we followed the now traditional Gorilla on a bike (seriously). There were approx 300 in the race all doing the marathon. I decided today to go out reasonably hard and managed the first 5K (small loop) which was predominantly on road but up hill and into the wind in 24 minutes. This set the seen for the next larger 9 mile loop all around the park. I eventually came in half way in 1:47:43. This was Ok and I was feeling good particularly as this had been a tough half with the temperature steadily rising. I felt at this stage I was running as good as I was at Belfast recently and was targeting a sub 3:50 as I knew the second have was even tougher with some very long climbs.

Past the first water stop
The race was perfectly marshaled and it had to be as there were some roads that had to be crossed. There was well stocked aid stops every 3 miles and I am becoming very adept at drinking out of plastic cups.

From mile 12 we entered 2x7 mile loops around the perimeter of the park that ended with extremely tough climbs (1.5 miles) at miles 16 and 23.  I was still doing great coming through 20 miles in 2:51 and over 21 miles at 3 hrs. It was at this point I was overtaken by Janet Coby in her 300th marathon. What a woman!

It was at this stage the wheels came off and I had nothing left in the legs and with tough climbs on the way home I lost mucho time.

Goodies for today
I was under real pressure but thankfully was still running (be it slowly) when London based Crusader Michael Costello pulled beside me on his bike. I must admit that because of my state of delirium that it took a few seconds to recognize him. He was to go on to tell me about his own travails the day before at a park run in London, blowing up while in second place after 3.5km. My heart bled for him.

I knew I was safe for under 4 hrs so didnt push too hard for home and eventually came in 3:57:34 in a satisfactory day overall and another solid sub 4 hr. It was a very tough course and it was a very warm day and it was my 8th weekend running in a row, so lots of excuses there. I met up with Michael after and I was glad to see that he had settled well into London.

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Sunday 10 May 2015


#90  Greenisland (Belfast)  3:44:23

I was delighted with this time as it continues my improvement and you have to go back 59 marathons before I had a better time on a much easier course in Sept 2013 in Athlone.

Today's event was organised by EAMS to help a fellow's runners family who's son tragically became very ill in recent times and needed urgent expensive assistance. With this in mind it was designated a charity event and fancy dress was encouraged.  There was to be a 10K, a half marathon and a marathon on the Station Rd marathon course in Greenisland in Belfast. This was the first time I ran this particular course.

Signing in
The usual quality of organisation was at hand with plenty of marshals, helpers, medical help and the PSNI to help us across some busy junctions during the first couple of laps.

The Globe Trotters
We registered at the Greenisland Prespreterian church and there was a great buzz around with many turning up in fancy dress. I thought about reprising my white rabbit but in the end went for my new virtual running club top from Globetrotters. Leslie the only other southern based Globetrotter was also there and it was a great photo opportunity.

At 10am we had a quick race briefing and we walked the .22 down the road to get to the start. The course was simple, the .22 and then 4 laps of 10.5K. At the start line I had a quick chat to Barry Casserly who was also doing his 90th marathon today. At 10am we were off and Barry sprinted into the distance. He would go on to win today in a 3:07 which was a great time on a warm day on a hilly course.

I passed a few of the super heros at the start and settled into a
Tom with Anthony in close proximity
Stretching in out
group that included Leslie, Super Mario, Anthony Sheridan and returning from the highland fling and MDS Tom Reynolds. I had a good chat to Tom during the first couple of miles as we wound our way along the top road before turning left for a nice mile of downhill before entering a lovely park (still mostly downhill). He has still big plans for more great events coming up. We were averaging about 8:20 minute miles through the park before exiting on the Shore Rd. The PSNI safely got us across the road and we headed North on a flat section opposite the Lough Shore Caravan park before starting a steady climb. We crossed another couple of busy intersections (The fist 2 laps aided by the police) before passing a lovely aid stop. There were lots of roadworks and plenty of trip hazards with half finished pavements and loose gravel and cars pretty close to you. Still climbing we turned left on Station Rd and started a steady climb up towards Greenisland train station. Taking the tunnel under the train station we hit a short very steep exit before climbing 800m back to the start of the lap and another fully stocked aid station. There was much encouragement at this point.
Lower Aid station

The group of Leslie, Super Mario, Anthony were still within 50m of each other at this stage with
Tom having gone into the distance. Anthony over took me and I trailed the group for a time dropping back maybe 100m. We passed the finish for the first time at 56 minutes and were running steady.

The group stayed like this through lap 2 all running within ourselves. We came through the half marathon in 1:49 . I was very happy with this as it was 2 minutes up on the Belfast marathon 5 days previously but still one minute down on Brighton. But I was running well.
Coming through the park at 23 miles

 On the third lap there was more status quo until we got to the turn onto the Shore Rd when Super Mario seemed to slow and Leslie, Anthony and I (now only 25m apart) slipped passed. For the next mile we got closer and closer and when we got to the aid station I took the opportunity and managed to take both Leslie and Anthony in a 10m stretch. I really pushed from here up hill through Station Rd to the finish line for the third time. This was just around 20 miles which I passed in 2:48. I was now 2 minutes ahead on Brighton and 3 minutes ahead of Belfast and still felt strong.

At 3 hrs exactly I felt Anthony on my shoulder and he pushed passed. We were well over 21 miles and I knew we were both on for a great time. He was just too strong for me today. Leslie however had dropped back. Today was his 95th marathon and he had just completed a multi year best of 3:31 on Monday so it was no surprise. I pushed on with sub 3:50 in mind. By the time I hit the Shore Rd this had changed to a 3:45. I passed Pol, Collette, Emear, Seamus,Amy and Philip who all gave great encouragement and I really pushed for home. I could still see Anthony ahead of me but he had a good minute on me on Station Rd so I knew I couldn't catch him.

All done
Coming through the tunnel for the last time there were kids out asking for autographs. I obliged and immediately headed for home. I came in 3:44:23 for 8th position and delighted with a sub 3:45 finish on a course that showed close to 1200ft of climb. This is hillier than Connermarathon but just slightly short of Howth. It was a great test and the weather had been warm. I was very happy.

I stayed around for for a while to see others finish and encourage those in fancy dress who were struggling in the heat. I hope the charity got what they wanted and it was a great success of a day.

Photo's courtesy of Trevor Denton and Elma McEvoy.

Full results Click here

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Tuesday 5 May 2015


#89 Belfast  3:48:26

30th Sub-4

I swore last year that this was the last time I would do this marathon. I really don't like much about it. I find the course quite boring with its long sections of dual carriageway, narrow tow path and industrial estate  (that normally smells). It also has 5 relay sections with in excess of 10000 relay runners making for a very busy course with all levels of runners with you at all times. This is quite disconcerting at the later portions of the race. It also has had significant problems with lack of water and security issues in the past.

But I signed up and it was my 7th time over the last 11 years. But there seemed to be a bit more excitement this year with EAMS putting together a Star Wars themed team in fancy dress to celebrate Star Wars day and the "4th" was with them.

Star Wars Day and EAMS out in force

Also DBRC had a big travelling entourage with Andrew Greany and Brian O'Kelly going deep under 3 hrs for top 20 positions.  Collette, Seamus, Brenda and Derek were attempting 3 in a row after a dreadful day in Ballyhoura that involved 7hrs 45mins traipsing through mud and rain on the mountain and getting lost.

DBRC on tour

My running buddy Kristy was also going to be there and was great company on the way up and down. Kristy got very close to her PB achieved on the much easier course in Edinburgh in 2014.

Over the last couple of years they have started mailing out the numbers which makes this event so much easier to manage logistically and there is no need to visit what has always been a small exhibition. After picking Kristy up early doors we headed for Belfast. It was motorway all the way and after a quick toilet break in Sprucefield (where we met Brian O'Kelly and Dipak) we got to Belfast early enough at 7:45. Brian was coming of his brilliant 2:42 in Boston and would go on to do 2:50 today and 17th place overall (an improvement of 12 places and 8 minutes on 2014) on a much hillier course than Boston.

The weather was beautiful and after parking near the start it was off for lots of photos and meet up with the groups who had arrived. As usual I knew a lot of starters. with 2.5K in the marathon and another 2.5K relay teams it was busy enough at the start but it only took a relatively short period of time to get over the line. At 9am we were off.
And we are off

I went off too fast of course and was through mile 1 in 7:45 ahead of even the the 3:30 guys. I kept the pace going and by mile 3 the 3:30 guys passed but I was still on 3:30 pace. This continued through 10K which was just under 50 minutes. Ronan Misteal passed looking comfortable and ended up with a 3:57 (despite a couple of long toilet breaks). I kept with the 3:30 guys until the Falls leisure center when Leslie Crawford passed me. Leslie and I were both in our new virtual club colours (Globe Trotters) and are 2 of only 3 members in Ireland. Leslie was on 8min mile pace and did brilliant with a 1:46, 1:45 negative split for a 3:31 and 5th in his age group. At nearly 60 that is incredible running.
Leslie in his new Globe Trotter top en-route to a 3:31

We started the long climb up West Belfast and the Ardoyne before hitting the Antrim Road, always climbing.
At the start of the Falls
My pace had dropped to 8:30 which was still pretty good. This brought me through half way in 1:50 still on my plan to break 4hrs. This knowing that the most difficult part of the course was over. It was then a right turn and steeply downhill towards Gideons Green and the big relay change over. The pace picked up. I think the relay change over points were a lot better managed this year as I have little memory of them which means they didnt annoy me.Lets keep it like that.

I hit the tow path and hit a head wind that would be with us for 10 miles. It wasn't that bad but I'm sure it had an affect. Climbing off the tow path we entered the worst part of the course the industrial estate at the port. Normally it stunk of sewage but today it was fine. I came through 20 miles in 2:51 still on target and it was at this stage that the 3:45 pacers came past. I had a chat with Tom Enright who was doing his 96th marathon with the big 100 coming in Cork. I couldn't keep with them so Tom headed off.

I steadily knocked off the miles till we came to the Lagan side and could hear the finish. This is cruel as you still have 3 miles left. Quickly we were off the embankment and onto the Ormeau Rd. Emer my sister and family was there and it was high fives for Aine and cheers from Aoibhinn and Conor and it was the last push up the hill past the Ivanhoe pub and the Nazereth Lodge. I was delighted to still be going well when I hit the 25 mile mark. I knew that 4 hrs was in the bag but wanted 3:50 badly and put in one last effort. It turned out my pace was back to 8:30 at this time and I was passing other marathon runners and relay runners all over the shop.

Waiting patiently for Uncle Leo (Aine, Aoibheann and Conor).
I turned into the park with 3:48 on the clock and recorded a finish time of 3:48:26 and was absolutely delighted as its my second fastest time over this course which was back in 2006. We picked up the goodie bag and medal and met up with Kristy and loads of others afterwards. Then it was back on the shuttle bus for the trip home.

Everyone was happy and probably my best experience in Belfast.

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