Saturday 19 November 2016


#165  100th anniversary of the finish of the battle of the Somme  6:31

Lonely (Photo: Dee Rand)
This was the sister event of the July 1st Somme event and book ended the 100th anniversary of the battle. It was back in Samphire Hoe and was the same 6hr challenge.

Over from Ireland were Craig Mills who stopped at 50K in July (for 3rd spot)  and was determined to go further today. Also here was Philip McEvoy wearing his 100th shirt for the first time and a first time SVNer.
race directors

A 6am start got me the 2 hrs drive to Samphire Hoe without incident and we were checked in and ready to go in plenty of time. A few presentations (including Philip Rand's world record 200th) and a very emotional speech by co-race director Rachel and we walked the 50m to the start. Some serving paratroopers had flown in from Germany and one had lost his great grand father at the battle of Somme. A few words from him followed by the last post and a minutes silence and we were sent off to the now familiar trench whistles. It was freezing.
New WR holder

First outing of the shirt
I went off very conservatively wanting to stay out for the whole time. The field quickly spread out with Carlo, Craig and a few others going out relatively fast but there were no hares today.  The wind was in the back on the way out but right in the face on the way back. It would only get stronger and stronger as the day went on.

I was wearing my newish Hoka's and had very sore feet during the first loop. It got so bad that I had to stop at the end of the loop and change into my Asics. This made my decision there and then that I may not be a Hoka's fan any more. I also picked up a pair of gloves that stayed with me all day. In fact I also stopped later for a hat change. It was freezing (particularly into the wind).

Ni well represented
Craig had gone our relatively fast and had settled into second spot. Eventually Carlo who was leading would fall back and the two of them ran together. They came through marathon in well under 4 hrs but seem to take elongated breaks before going out again. I did my best to encourage Craig to keep going and he duly lapped me and went out for lap 8 for Ultra and even a lap 9.  I thought that Craig had this race sown up but inexplicably didn't go out for a 10th. Carlo did however but was barley able to walk never mind run but that was enough to win.

Meanwhile I was also encouraging Philip to do his second ever ultra in a week (after Tollymore) but he seemed happy with marathon and stopped. Also there running well was Noel Keenan who did a swift 50K before stopping. He will be back next summer to tackle 27 laps and his first 100 miles. I have no idea how I managed 27 laps of this course back in July.

My own race was very uneventful and even though the weather badly deteriorated with biting winds and freezing rain for an extended period I ploughed on. I saw a lot (more than usual) go out for 8 laps but most finished at that. I was determined to run the whole time and easily got out on lap 9 before the cut off. One of the paratroopers had also gone out for 9 and was just ahead but I don't think any other ventured out.

I eventually came in for 34.5 miles and 4th overall out of 152 finishers. Nothing dramatic, nothing stressful. I dropped Craig and Philip back to Gatwick before hitting off to Hampshire for the evening.

Photo's courtesy of Dee rand and Philip McEvoy

Strava stats for the day.

Sunday 13 November 2016


#164 Tollymore Ultra  7:31:44

Photo: Paul Fegan

This was the 3rd running of the Tollymore running festival with a 10K, Half, Full and Ultra. The Half, Full and Ultra were all on the same 13.1 mile loop around the forest. It was as Linda Cunnigham reminded me at the end my home event as I could nearly see my house from the course.

The loop itself was hilly, like very hilly with approx 2000ft of climb in two very significant climbs in the middle of the loop. It also followed the beautiful Shimna river in the park for long periods and enjoyed spectacular views over Newcastle and the Mournes from various parts of the course. Being the autumn, the leaves had fallen and the colours were just stunning.

In the forest
I had decided to do the Ultra today as last year due to a septic toe I had to drop to the marathon distance. This meant 3 loops with approx 6000ft of climb. The Ultra started at 8am and the Mara at 10 and the Half at 12 and the 10K at 2pm. The way things worked out I never saw any of the other races at all as I was at the back end of the course when they started. Kris was defending her title for last year and the conditions were perfect.

A 4am start for breakfast and  a jaunt up the road with a stop at McDonalds got us to Tollymore by 7:15. A lot of people followed their GPS's and got well lost and there was a lot of panic at the start. A quick youtube mannequin challenge and we were off on time. I had totally forgotten how hilly this course was and also how beautiful.  I was walking early on the big hills which surprised me as I had recently been in better form than I had been last year. The hills were tough and the first part of the course was relatively warm and humid, but as we climbed it got colder and when the wind turned into the face it got very cold. Conditions underfoot were good. I was however going slow and I had hoped for a 2:00-2:05 first loop but ended up with a 2:15.

This set the tone for the day and I was approx 10 minutes a lap down from where I wanted to be. So instead of a 4:30 marathon it was 4:45.  Mountain Dew and Coke were the order of the day at the bag drop which worked well and there were 3 very well equipped aid stations on the course and lots of roving paramedics. Things were organised perfectly.

The way timing worked out meant that I was on my own for long periods (hours) without seeing anyone and I was 46th overall after loop 1 and finished 43rd overall so passed few and was passed by few all day from early.

The third lap was tough and I was walking early even at the hint of an incline but I did try my best to run the downhill and flat sections. I have to say I was disappointed with a 7:31 finish as I thought I was in 7hr form but that was not happening from very early in the race.

Meanwhile Kris had a tough day as well some 20 mins down on last year and
The Outfit
Kate (1:53)
came 23rd overall and 4th lady (some very classy runners ahead of her). She did however look amazing in her newly imported colour coordinated skort, top, gators and calf sleeve ensemble. Kate Murray also from Cru had a better day with a 1:53 in the half for 20th lady home and 119th overall in a field of 427 (kate also looked amazing). The half was won by ex Cru man Torben Dahl in a very impressive  1:24. The brother-in-law Kieran also kept his form for a very good 1:45 in the half. Everyone had gone home by the time I had finished except Marie Chapman who was 100m behind me all day similar to Dundalk (What a great Ultra runner she is). The rain started as I left the park (Phew!)

There were also some notable other runs out there today from Chris Denton and Paul Rogers in the Marathon. Paul getting revenge for a DNF in London. Also congrats to Philip McEvoy in his first Ultra after over 100 marathons and Susan Dixon and Seamus finishing in the dark with Susan also now able to call herself an Ultra runner.

My funniest moment was noticing up ahead a French "Game Of Thrones" tour dressed in Long cloakes with fur collars.  I shouted as I went past "L'hiver arrive" and got a lot of chuckles from them.

All in all it was a fabulous event and as tough as any Ultra gets. I guess I am just proud to have got around.

More photos to come  and video's

Strava results for today: Note GPS didnt pick up some distance and elevation because of the tree cover.

Tuesday 1 November 2016


#163 Dublin 3:57:21

I love the Dublin marathon. Its one of the few chances I get to run representing my club and we have a reasonably competitive O50 team. We have a real chance of podiuming in the Dublin Championships and up there at the national championships (mainly down to James extraordinary efforts). We were also defending the Dublin Championships title of 2015.

The support on the course is also second to none (well, outside of London and New York).

The weather was forecast perfect. The day for the race had been switched to Sunday and there was a record 19500 entered making it the 4th biggest marathon in Europe.

The weekend started off with a pasta party at Coach Cottle's wonderful
new house in Monkstown. There was more food that you could look at and it was good to chat to other people from the club doing the marathon and some first timers which is always interesting.  I picked up my number on Friday lunchtime and had a quick look around the expo. I went back again on Sat with Kieran (the brother-in-law, finish 4:09) and have to say the expo was smaller than I was expecting (very few bargains) but it was good to catch up with lots of people there.

The day of the race turned out as forecast with perfect weather and during the race I found it fantastic (though a little humid). Certainly the best conditions I have ever run Dublin in and this was attempt no 10. Up and out at 7am to find parking and leave off the baggage worked like clockwork. They had changed the toilet arrangements this year and I found them fine but a lot of people who waited until they got into their waves got left standing at the start. I suspect there will be some criticism of this.
Kate marathon Debut

My strategy was to go out at the back of wave 1 so that I would have a non congested run through the Phoenix park and the narrow bits afterwards. I got very caught up in this last year and wanted to avoid this again at all costs. This worked fine but I did find that the first 10K was slow at 54 minutes. This was more down to weight of runners and it being more hilly than I remembered. Support as always was absolutely super and the Cru support on the course was the best. I speeded up in my 2nd 10K and came through half way in 1:54. I should be able to convert a sub 4 from here but it would be very tight.

Cru team
Starting at the back of wave 1 meant that I was in the big hole where there were no pacers. I didn't mind this and it was Milltown at mile 20 before the 3:40 guys came past me. I wasn't going at a pace that I could stay with them and they slowly disappeared. If I kept ahead of the 3:50 guys I would break 4hrs.  I became
obsessed by mile splits at this time and kept below my target time by 20 secs odd but had to keep going. Heartbreak hill was at mile 22 and I walked it knowing I had some time in hand but got the pace going again on Fosters avenue. Knowing there would be 1 million Cru supporting in the last 2 miles I knew that walking was not an option and kept things going and was comfortably under 4 hr pace.

Fosters Av
Passing Ballsbridge was brilliant and there was lots of high fives and celebrations as a mile from the finish I had plenty of time. A steady last mile had me in at 3:57:21 and 5 minutes better than last year. Many pints were had and there was some great stories of triumph (Kate (3:44 marathon debut), James (national champ MV60), Brian (2:41)) and disaster (I particularly felt sorry for some of the girls, but they will be back). We also had a lovely club meal later that night where all the girls looked a million dollars and the guys made an effort.

The next day however I realised I had made a big mistake as I had forgotten that the Dublin and national championships was gun time and not chip time. The 2.5 minutes it took me to cross the line at the start was ultimately added to my overall time for the championships. This gave me a gun time of 4:00:01. What was worse was that even though I was 3rd fastest in the MV50 Cru team there was a 4th member who had started before me and though slower in chip time was faster in Gun time. It looks like we missed out on Dublin Athletics Gold by just a few minutes and I was no longer a scorer on the team even if it podiumed (likely second).

To say I was gutted at having made such a mistake is an understatement. Even though I really hope it didn't affect the team outcome (dont think it did), I do feel like I let myself down a little as these things are won and lost with fine margins and I really had tried my hardest. Its also likely the last chance that I ever will have of scoring for the O50 team as next year there is a glut of good young fast ones ticking over the 50 mark.

My elbows will be sharper next year regardless.

I'll add some more photos later as I find them

Stats for the day