22nd out of 55 finishers
But suffice to say the weather was pretty much perfect with a North Easterly over the shoulder the whole way and tempeatures between 8 and 4 (Real-feel 4 to 0) and that was very manageable. In fact I managed to do the whole race in the same clothes and took off my hat early on and didn't need to wear it again.
I was also attempting the challenge unaided. The course itself was not flat with >5000ft of climb over the > 4 marathon distance. Each of the marathons by themselves would have been classed as hilly.
My first good decision was to sleep in my own bed the night before and got the Aircoach from O'Connell St in Dubin at 7:30am. For the princely sum of 10 Euro I was delivered to about 100m from the start line by 10am, 2hrs before the start. I immediately met Michael McEnerney and we had some coffee in the bus station cafe, swapping strategies and experiences. I never saw Michael during the race at all as he was way ahead from the get go and he finished an hour odd ahead of me. Going round to the start at 11 they were not ready and I kept warm in the Nero coffee shop opposite. Lots of friends and competitors were there and the excitement was palpable.
|Dinny, Lito and Ger|
Belfast - Lisburn
We started on the dot of noon and headed South. The start was an area that I was fairly familiar with having gone to university here in 1982. It had changed beyond recognition from that time but the steady uphill climb up the Lisburn Road was still there. I was very pleased how I held myself back early and settled near the back. As per usual my feet hurt like hell for the first 5 miles but settled down after that. We passed Windsor Park heading towards Lisburn. The field was spreading out and the banter was great. One of the more unusual things we came across was through Lambeg where a guy was walking along the footpath hauling a crucifix. Given it was good Friday it was understandable but unusual. I was with Ger and Charles (wearing brand new shoes) at this point and it was obvious they also had done their homework and knew the way. I pulled away when they had a walk break through Lisburn. Charles would go on to finish. Everything had been uphill to this point.
|Philip with popup aid station|
Fairly quickly I met up with Rosie and Amy Beggs who were running together and we all had a good old chat. Mark Haigney was just in front of us on the phone. It turns out he was on the phone to RTE and the Ray Darcy show and had bagged himself a slot on the Sat night show to talk about the race (he now had to finish sub 30 hrs to make the show). We were now on back roads that had climbed high above the A1. We spotted some runners below us who had gone the wrong way and were still on the carriage way. Lots of shouting and waving got their attention and they were soon back on track. We all went on together towards Loughbrickland.
|Aidan dropped by|
Passing through Loughbrickland we headed left towards Poyntzpass. This again was undulating and relatively quiet traffic wise and we all tooed and frooed togther. The two who got lost joined us and they were another Mark and Johnathon. Johnathon had run with me in Portumna 2 years previous and amazingly remembered me. Mark was a veteran of last year and would go onto finish in 26 hours.
Poyntzpass - Newry - CP1
CP1 - Dundalk
|Libby not impressed|
The other Mark had run away from me but being refuelled on rice and Coke I caught him before entering Dundak and we wound our way into the town center together. We were joined by Derek Mackessey and Theresa Grimes who herself had been lost already several times and not happy. It was close to midnight now and the pubs were emptying.
Dundalk - Dunleer
Climbing out of Dundalk we hit towards Castlebellingham with Theresa powering ahead. Traffic began to get less frequent and it was really a case of hunkering down and getting the miles in. I came through Casstlebellingham which was like a ghost town about 200m back from Theresa and we climbed again out of this town towards Dunleer and CP2. We actually had 12 hrs to do CP1 to CP2 which was very very very generous. As you can probably gather the race was very settled at this stage and there was few runners around us.
Coming into Dunleer Theresa Taffe passed in a car. She had retired earlier in Newry because of a very strict cut off some 5 miles further than some people thought. At this stage I had also lost sight of Theresa Grimes and assumed she had pulled away. I was shocked when I heard later in the race she was behind. I can only guess she got lost again. Into Dunleer and a quick CP, stuffing my face and filling up on caffeine and salt and off I went.
Dunleer - Drogheda
My hot spot issue was getting really bad at this stage and I stopped on the bridge in Drogheda for adjustment. Mark Haigney and Andrew from London came through on the main bridge over the Boyne.
Drogheda - Balbriggan
Balbriggan - Swords
Swords - airport.
Out of Swords there were lots of roundabounts and it meant a lot of scrambling across them or through underpasses or climbing barriers and just trusting I was going the right direction (towards the planes). I have to say the highway code may not have been followed precisely at this stage. I noticed a group of 2 ahead of me (one wearing a Welsh bandana) who were walking. I quickly went passed and spotted another 3 at the next roundabout. I came up on them quickly and it was Derek, Mazza and Danny. We negotiated through to the airport together and managed to get every green man that was going. At 98 miles I was also visited by Crusaders colleague and neighbour Denis who was a welcome relief and a few selfies were taken. Derek was really struggling with his feet. We all came through 100 miles together in 26:16.
Airport to Home.
I got my medals and a few hugs and photos and went into the pub. Two lovely pints with my new friends were had and a taxi home. I was asleep within an hour.
Photos: Maryse Mackessy, Philip Miles, Denis Murphy, Sammy Daye, Donna Owens
Stats for today