Friday 27 February 2015


Marathon #82  Malta  4:03:20

I have been to Malta a few times and always enjoyed my time there. This time Lindsay and I were going to spend a long weekend so it should be fun. The only problem was the weather was due to be awful.

Dublin flights didn't suit but there were relatively cheap flights that were going direct from Belfast. A bit of a drive, but the times and dates suited us. I had just taken delivery of my new EAMS hoodie so was all set for the trip. The flight was at 1ish so we left relatively early for the 2.5hrs drive to the airport. We arrived well ontime and parked up in the long stay which is only a short walk from the terminal. Ready to go in the Airport were the EAMs boys and supporters and everyone was on good form. Craig was out for a new PB and a sub 3:20 and Ken was out to break 4hrs. They were focused from early. Also on the plane there must have been at least another 20 doing the race. 3hrs 15mins later we touched down.
View from hotel

Rolando and Paulo at the start
We had organised through a friend to be picked up at the airport and it worked like clockwork and we were at our hotel within 30 mins of landing. The hotel itself "Pebbles" apartment hotel was right on the prom in Girza/Sliema and only 200m from the finish. The apartment was huge and beautiful views over the marina. We were on the 7th floor and well away from noise. It was a good start.

The race registration was at The Meridian hotel in St Julians. It was about a 30 minute walk from the hotel and we wandered down. There was no exhibition to speak off and registration took about 20 minutes. It started to rain on the way back and a right storm
With Ken Beggs at the start
was brewing. We got a little lost while looking for a restaurant and tried several that were booked out. Eventually soaked we settled for a English pub called "The Salisbury" that did food. It turned out the food was Italian and Maltese and was huge and good and cheap. Perfect. Fed and watered we headed back to the apartment. At this stage the storm was in full force with 40+mph winds and lashing rain.

Lots of localised flooding
It was an early start at 05:15 to get fed, and get to the bus transfer which was 200m away at the finish line. I got a 6am bus (met Rolando and Paulo in the queue) that transported us quickly to Medina (the old walled city on the hill). There was a good old atmosphere at the start line with lots of Irish (DBRC, EAMS, MCI and assorted others) and as usual a big contingent from the UK marathon club. I must have known 30 on the start line. We lined up early in very
Roads were pretty awful
very windy but dry conditions and we were off. To be honest I didnt know were we were most of the time except we ran through lots of medieval towns as we did a couple of high loops on the island before sweeping down to the coast. It was a net downhill marathon but the very windy and rainy conditions hid that well. The road surface was also abysmal with pot holes and localised flooding everywhere. The roads were also open to traffic and it was dodgy enough I have to say.

Lots of bands
I decided to focus a bit and not stop to take the usual photographs. Around the 10K mark in 57 mins I was joined by Ken Begs who was trying real hard to break 4 hrs. I pushed on from Ken and came through half way in 1:56. This was way better than I normally do and kept going.

There was lots of bands on the route. Quite quaintly most seemed to be brass bands that were of

the home made variety.

False finish
My next goal time was 25K and see where I was ( I was 10 minutes up on Donadea). At around 32K we filtered into the half marathon and walkers. It was like Belfast all over again with too many people on small roads (which were in bad shape anyway). I'm sure I did 400m-1km extra just going around them. I didnt like this bit. I was still strong at 32km (2:59) which again was well ahead of what I normally do and felt OK.

And we are home
At 37km (3:30) I heard a "Boys A Dear" from behind me and Ken swung past looking really strong. I knew he would break 4hrs at this stage and he eventually did a 3:57. I, on the other hand was spent and struggled for the last 5K. I only had one Gel with me today and wont make that mistake again.

I made a big effort in the last km. I thought I had finished under a gantry to realise that I still had 200m to go. I eventually sprinted home in 4:03:20, I was delighted as this was 21 minutes faster than marathon time last week and a 41 minute improvement since New Years Eve.

Off exploring Malta
The medal was huge and shiny. Lindsay and I met up with the EAMS boys (and Conor and Ann)  in the Dubliner pub later for a few pints and headed off to explore some more of the Island despite the weather. Craig would manage his PB coming in 3:19.

It was a good weekend.

Garmin stats of the day.

Sunday 15 February 2015

Donadea 50K

Marathon #81 Ultra #5

Donadea National Championships 5:21:15

Donadea promised to be one of the events of the year after it had been sold out since November. As it was also the National 50K championships and a IAU Silver awarded event it promised some extra spice. The cut-off this year was set at 40K in 4hrs 30. I was pretty sure I could do this so didn't feel too much pressure despite not being in the same shape as I was last year.
Olwyn, Kristy and Anto RD

I met up with Crusader team mate
Reprising our Gold Coast Marathon Pose
Kristy and her friend Gina early (Gina provided great support throughout the day) and was in Donadea in plenty of time. The weather looked perfect and we had heard that most of the course had a new surface. We wouldn't have the puddles or cold or mud issues of last year. At registration and number pickup the excitement was palpable and there were lots of photo opportunities and nervousness was everywhere. I knew half the field and there was lots of chatting and "good lucks".

All the usual suspects were there with a massive DBRC crowd and great representation from MCI, Donadea and Duleek and District. The women's race in particular had a lot of great runners despite Olwyn and Orla the last 2 champs being injured. Both however were there and cheering and singing at the 4K mark.

Walk to the start
Large 5hr group to start
Right on time we walked the long walk to the start (about 500m from the end) and lined up patiently. Once Garry O'Hanlon turned up we were off.  My strategy was to go out reasonably fast and stay ahead of the 5hr pacer Don and stay there as long as I could then lap in just
under 30 minutes for as long as I was able. I was shocked when after 1K Don caught me and I then settled into the quite large 5hr group for the first number of laps.

Group started dwindling at Lap 4
After 4 laps we were right on target in a slightly reduced 5hr group when  I had to go for an emergency nature break. Rejoining, I then settled in just behind the 5hr group. I came through half way right on target at 2:29:59. I however lost touch with them after 6 laps.

I knew at this stage that 5hrs was not possible but kept moving nicely.

I managed marathon distance at 4:24 which was 4 minutes faster than
Fantastic atmosphere at the aid station
any other event since last July so I was reasonably pleased. I was also about 22 minutes ahead of the cut off so all pressure was off.

Lap 8 and getting serious
I struggled through the last 2 laps in a sedentary 35 minutes each but managed a sprint finish for a 5:21 , this was 21 minutes slower than last year but to be honest was better than I was expecting and was very happy with my performance.

Donadea has to be a candidate for event of the year as it was brilliantly organised with
And we are home
a great atmosphere all day. Marshall's, facilities, course and even the weather were perfect.

Next up Malta next Sunday.

Garmin Stats