Wednesday 30 August 2017


Longford Marathon  5:10:11

I was originally down for the Ultra here but recent form dictated that I would have been out there all day and probably last so I dropped to the Marathon.

This was my 3rd marathon (2 other half's) at Longford and it is one of my least favorite routes. It is dangerous, fumy and boring. Apart from the course the logistics and start finish are great. There is also normally a great T shirt, goodie bag and medal. Previous efforts seen a 3:52 and 4:00. But with recent form, I thought I would be lucky to break 5hrs today and that was my goal.

Weather was due to be good and I arrived in plenty of time. Unusually a lot of the marthoners had gone off with the walkers and I hardly seen anyone I knew all day. That was a really bad thing as a 2 hrs early start in my opinion makes a mockery of the event as a race and its more a day out.

I started with the half marathon at 10am and was in trouble from the get go. The first number of miles were clocked off between 10 and 10:30 on very non descript roads that had lorries and cars flying at 100-120km/h against you. I quickly lost the 4:15 pace group and was pretty much on my own for the rest of the day. Once the half marathoners passed me and diverted onto their own course it got very quiet. I had no gels with me and with only water on the aid stations I did run a little short of energy.

I was through 10 miles in 1:43 and half way in 2:16. This still isn't good but certainly significantly better than in recent weeks. In fairness its a fairly easy course be it run predominantly on the hard shoulder of busy roads that at its narrowest is very narrow and dangerous.

Once you leave the town after a first small loop any support that was there disappears and in general its a very atmosphere-less race. As I slowed in the second half  it became clear that at 20 miles that I would be struggling to make 5hrs and despite trying really hard and quickening over the last 2 miles I came in after 5:09. There was unfortunately no chip time and gun time is the official time and it was 5:10:11.

I was also disappointed in the finish area as even though I finished in circa 5hrs which isn't fast, but not slow either, the course was being dismantled and there was no-one there at all cheering runners home. All the relay runners and faster guys had long since retired home or to the bar. This normally doesn't happen in races with most runners being supported home. I really didn't like that.

All in all it was another disappointing experience and I say this every year but this will be my last Longford.

Photos: Paul Kelly

Stats for today

Tuesday 22 August 2017


Knockagh Ultra  6:58:58

31 Miles

This was an East Antrim Marathon Series (EAMS) event that I had been wanting to do for a while. I heard it was tough. It was over a 10.35 Mile loop from Greenisland all the way up to the Knockagh  WW1 monument high in the hills above Belfast before returning to Green Island.

Having full use of the Presbyterian church, registration was in the hall and toilets were available all day. The car park was also free and most people were able to get in without issue.

There were around 100 turned up but as there was a choice of 1,2 or 3 loops there was something for everyone. Around 40 finished 3 loops for a 31 Mile (50K) Ultra.

As usual the EAMS guys had a perfect setup with medical onsite all the time in a smart car ambulance and there was full chip timing.

The aid station wanted for nothing and even had gels. As normal with EAMS this was a very northern affair with a few interlopers from the south. It is fairly well supported by local running clubs and I noticed 3 there from EDAC from the Downpatrick area. One  in particularly lapped me on a 3 lap race ??? There is also a very loyal following for EAMS and I believe in the very near future there may be some loyalty merch coming their way.  After the usual race director brief (given this time by Craig) we lined up and when the police gave the go ahead,  Peter gave us a toot on his horn and we were off. All races started at the same time.

Leaving the Green Island Presbyterian church we headed towards Belfast for a slightly undulating 2 miles along the Ironically named upper road (it was our lower road). This was on all on footpath (except for the first lap when we were escorted by the police).

This was a fairly easy start that belied what was ahead. But if you are trying to make time on this loop this is where it is done.

After ~2 miles we turned right and started to climb. It was steep but runnable if you wanted to try in parts. I walked most of it on all 3 laps. After about 1.5 miles of quite some effort, we crested for a undulating road towards the Knockagh memorial. We had the monument in site pretty much all the way.

Mile 8
Turning right we ran up monument road (very well stocked aid station), which was 3/4 mile fairly steep climb up to the monument itself. I walked most of it. The views were spectacular at the monument and it was a lot bigger that I had expected. Views stretched from Scotland on the left , over Belfast to Cave Hill and the Mournes on  the right. Leaving the Monument we went back down Monument Road before turning right at the bottom at the aid station again. A one mile flat section gave way to a 1.5 miles steep downhill section brought us back to the flat. A further ~2 miles of undulating footpath brought us back to the church.

There was around 300m climb per lap. That is huge.

3 laps for the ultra.

Great Medal
My knee was still bad so it was a struggle all day and slow. Lap one took 2hrs 10 and a very slow 2nd lap of 2hrs 28 odd had me fairly near the back. I really tried all day to run when I could, but it was the downhill that was causing me the most issues and I made time on most around me on the up hill but lost bucket loads on the downhill. Amazingly I speeded up did the 3rd lap in 2hrs 21 for a sub 7 hr finish. I came around 30th out of the 40 finishers and well down on where I should have been. In full fitness I could have easily broke 5 hrs on this route.

All the marshals were great and there was a wonderful bespoke Knockagh medal for everyone who did 2 or 3 laps (smaller one for those that finished 1 lap). With the Quadrathon on both this event and LOS suffered for numbers and I wonder if the schedule will clash in the future (I've heard not).

Thanks to Adrian, Peter and Craig for the day.

Photos: Adrian Boyd

stats for today

Wednesday 16 August 2017


#202 Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1  6:21:37

First Hill
Coming into finish
This is the second time I have taken on this tail run. The first time I was in better form regularly running sub 3:45 and managed this one in 4:10 and a top 30 spot. However I was nowhere near that at the moment and can barely break 6 hrs. I had 6hrs as a goal but didnt even get close.

It is a long single 27 mile loop trail with lots of elevation and lots of very rural running. There was also a 50K option and a half marathon and an unusual 33K option.

I had dropped down from the 50K to the marathon as I have a lot on. I knew I could do it in the very generous cutoff time but didn't fancy it today. I turned up early and got the transfer done and number picked up. Administration was very slick. There were plenty of toilets and plenty of food vans. Free parking is always a bouns. There were lots of 100 mc members around and it was due to be a scorcher.

Nuala on marshaling duties
The 50K was off at 9:30 and we were off at 10am. The first mile is through housing estates and very tight, pretty much immediately however you are down to single track and up up up on a steep hill that leaves you overlooking a Motte and Bailey and lovely views over Salisbury. I was pretty much at the back at this stage. After 5K Brenda came passed and disappeared into  the distance. She would finish sub 6hrs which is great improvement for her.

There were many well equipped aid stations every 5K or so and it was well marked (for our race anyway) and the marshals were great. For the shorter races however we saw a few incidents of people going wrong and having to run back to get back on their course.

There were many hills and I found it just as hard to run down them as up. In fact I gained ground on the field on the up hill stretches and they came flying past me on the downhill bits.
Brenda and Roger

We went through some lovely villages and estates and Longford castle is always a standout. This is a real pretty course and very runnable except for the last 10K which crosses many busy roads and we run through the middle of Salisbury after passing the cathedral and the run to the finish can be quite confusing.

I survived it however and had a nice day out.

Photos: Sean Smith  David Lewis

Stats for today:

Darnley Challenge

#201 Darnley Challenge

I did this route once before as day 3 of a 4 Ultras in 4 days effort this time last year. It is one of my favorite trail routes as it takes in around 4 other marathon routes and ties them together. I love the forest sections and the views in Ranscombe never disappoint.

Overall its a 13.1 mile loop that you have to finish within 8 hours. The twist this year was that you have to be out on your last loop after 4hrs 30 mins. Last year it was 5hrs 30 and given where I am at the moment, this left me with really only the option of 2 loops and a marathon. Even at that it turned out a little long at 27 miles odd.

Also slightly different from last year the start and finish was within Jeskins Park and it was a double out and back route. Similar to last year it was part of a quad but today it was day 2, last year it was day 3.

It was great to see Paddy Quinn over from Cavan after his amazing 10th Belfast 24hr 100 miles effort last month.

With Paddy Quinn
From Jeskins we nipped through the hedge that got us pretty much straight onto the lightning bolt course from the Cyclopark. A long sweeping downhill brought us onto the Bridges (Rabbit bridge) over the M2 and onto the main cycle track. We followed this undulating wide cycle track all the way to main cyclopark building before turning and retracing our steps to Jeskins. Running past the fantastic aid station we ran through Jeskins on its wide good trails before exiting at the back of Cobham village. Turning left from Battle St onto  the Main St, we ran through the village before turning right at the war memorial. This brought us to a quiet country road that led to the main hill upto the Mausoleum. Climbing this hill and straight past the Mausoleum we were now on the familiar Ranscombe farm reserve traditional loop. Some great downhills , the track along the railway line and across a field we came to the Dee and Helen aid station. Heading on with the loop we crossed a couple of fields before climbing back to the Mausoleum. We then retraced our steps back to the start and finish area. Then did it all again.

Lee was the only one who went Ultra today.

Finished with Andrew
I ran with Leon Hicks and crew for the first half which was slow at just over 3 hrs. We had a lovely time tooing and froing with everyone. The weather was hot and there was plenty of sun cream on. The second lap for me was a more solitary affair  as I limped and struggled around the course. Still I had a very enjoyable day and walked the last mile in with Andrew before he headed off to do an extra bit as he got lost on the first lap. I was home in 6:21.

Even at this I was mid pack as this was a particularly challenging course at >2100ft of climb.

The usual big medal was there with goodie bag and I was home again in 2 hrs.

Photos Philip Rand:

Stats for today:

Wednesday 9 August 2017

Celtic Warrior

Celtic Warrior  5:26:41

This was my 200th Marathon..  Yeah!!!

I chose this event quite a while ago for my milestone run. My son is severely autistic and Denzil and Franky have been working tirelessly over many years to raise awareness of families living with autism. So I thought it was right and proper to support this event.

This was a sporting festival of a weekend, with lots of triathalons and duathalons and running happening. This was all based at the Lilliput adventure center just outside Kilbeggin in Co Westmeath. Some guys even managed double full Ironmans over the weekend. I believe there was over 600 events completed of some nature over the weekend.

I decided to run on the 3rd day which was a running day only. Again I was in Galway and a 1hr 20 min commute got me there. I was surprised when I arrived that there were people already on the course as the word the previous evening was there would be no early start. But nine had gone out. My own start was 11am with a half marathon (and I think a 10K and maybe even a 5K) also going off later.

My lists had been verified and MCI did a lovely presentation through Vincent at the start of the race. At 11am we were off. After 1 mile I was forced to walk. It was a very flat course on just over a 5K loop and I was struggling to get around in under 40 minutes.

Quite a few were doing their 3rd marathon in 3 days and I was predominantly along with these. I quickly lost touch with Dave Brady who was doing his 675th marathon and was on my own, barely keeping ahead of walkers at the back (be in Humphrey who has improved enormously because of Theresa Grimes tutelage).

There was a very well stocked aid station every 5K and there was a lovely touch when several cars drove around giving out Ice Cream. Gerry Ford in particular must have had at least 4. I spent quite a bit of time with Theresa talking about things particularly 52 in 52 and eventually I caught up with the group doing the 3 in 3 who were delighted to get around their 78 miles for the weekend. There was also someone doing their 1st marathon who smashed his 5hr goal. There was also an interesting young girl quietly going around with a 10Kg back back. On quizzing here she let me know she was training for a 5 day 250km ultra in Chile the following month.

There were some nice moments like when Jill stopped me at half way and presented me with some bubbles and I got some nice selfies with some old freinds.

I kept rocking along enjoying the day out despite the slowness and the pain. Everyone at the back was fishing for a joint finish but I decided to push on and came in 5hrs 26 mins (and I worked hard to get that). The rest all came in together.

I had a few more photos when I crossed the line and I really enjoyed my day. Luckily again there was just over the 25 finishers for a counting event.

Afterwards there was a lovely burger, cup of tea and lots of rolls and bikkies. It was good to catch up with Leslie again.

Photos: Zaldy, Theresa, Jill and Mary

It was back to Galway for me and a great day.


#199  Staplestown  5:39:23

Early Start
This was an East Of Ireland event in Staplestown nr Donadea forest park in Co Kildare. This was my first EOI in 2 years. Nowadays I seem to booking events a year in advance and the schedules have just not aligned.

Initially I was booked into the 50K event but this darn knee issue meant that I would really struggle to make the 6hr cut off so I decided to drop to the marathon. EOI facilitated my request with no issue.

Because of family logistics I had to travel up from Galway city early and it took 1hr 45 to get there and I arrived well on time.

Weather played ball
This was your typical rural open road small Irish marathon. Well organised on a 10K loop in around the roads returning every 10K to the well stocked aid station in the village centre.

I went off with the early start which was also the 50K start, indeed there was quite a crowd went off at 8am. The 50Kers had a short out and back to make up the distance whereas the marathon had 2 one mile out and back to make up their distance.

Wexford marathon Club
Quickly I fell off the back. I was very slow. The course itself was fairly flat and was laid out in a triangle. I have to say I have never seen straighter roads and the triangle was nearly perfect with 3 x 2 mile straights. The only view was a bog. I would not put this down as the most scenic route ever but was very functionary.

The main marathon and half marathon started at 9am and there was a 10K started later. Regularly I was lapped by most of the field as I struggled my way around the course. Saying this I was very consistent in my times and ran a pretty even 2:47 split for a 5:36 marathon. It was a painful affair with my leg playing up all the way round.

We were lucky with the weather. As we registered there was a steady drizzle which cleared up just before we started. It stayed great right until after we finished when it started up again.

There seems to be a new club in town with the Wexford marathon club here in numbers for both the 50K and the marathon

20 Miles in
There were some great 50K performances with most people easily breaking the 5hrs and qualifying for the national championships. I traipsed in last in the marathon and luckily there were 26 finishers (a lot more in the 50K) so it counted for all clubs and goals that I have.

There was the new EOI medal at the end and some crisps/chocolate and coke at the end. It was nice to know a lot of people in the race again and it leads to a very pleasant day out. At €25 it is still a great value race series.

I left soon after I finished and headed back to Galway for cocktails and prepare for no 200 which was 2 days later.

Photos Teresa Taffe

Stats for the day:

Wednesday 2 August 2017


#198  Passchendaele  6:11:57

This was my first SVN event in a while and was one of my favorites as it was part of the Tomb stone medal series from SVN which included the Somme events last year.

Race Brief
Today's event was around Kingswood in Kent. This is one of the hilliest SVN courses with a marathon generating >2500ft of climb.

Specifically the event commemorated 100 years since the WW1 battle of Pachendaele. This was one of the bloodiest battles of WW1 based in Flanders fields in Belgium and it is thought that upto 500,000 men lost their lives. The event is always very emotional.

I ran this route before on the Chocathon and Fudgeathon last year on its 10K loop. Today we were on the 4.4. mile route which meant that 6 laps were a marathon. Again my knee was an issue and I could not really run downhill which meant a lot of walking today as this route had zero flat.

First Marathn
Philip McEvoy and Elaine McAnulty had turned up from home and I would spend a lot of the race with them.

As is traditional in these events, a prayer was followed by a 1 minute silence and we were set on our way by the sound of trench whistles.

This was a pretty uneventful race with laps being ticked off in roughly an hour. There was lots of walking. Weather was humid with the odd shower and conditions underfoot were pretty good.

The first 1.5 miles of this lap is down hill. Out of the aid station for about 600m we traversed an area of rough flinty trip hazard ridden roughness (where I saw 2 falls) before the trail opens up to a wide forest trail that plunges quite steeply for over a mile. This is where all the time is made on this loop. Its a pity that I cannot run downhill at the moment. Bottoming out you immediately go into a long steep section that was for me today only walk-able. Cresting you got a little rest bite before another sharp steep downhill followed by a very steep uphill (200m). Flattening out at last for about half a mile you turned right onto a long long uphill drag. Turning right into a lovely forested section on grass we were led onto another open fire trail that undulated its way back to the flinty rough section back  to  the aid station.

The aid station was full of goodies today. I walked a lot and ate a lot.

I tooed and frooed today with Philip and Elaine and talked to anyone who would listen. It was nice to see the lady from Folkestown (orange and white check in photo) go out for 3 laps and end up doing her first marathon. That was sweet.

Half marathon was in 2hrs 50 mins and I finished the full in just over 6 hrs. This was pretty far down the standings and it was a long day. All the usual guys where here, some as part of a quad and there was a super atmosphere. Gary continues to extend his SVN ultra count and mine stayed the same today.

And done

The event was exactly what we have come to expect from SVN.

Photos Philip McEvoy and Philip Rand

Stats for today (forgot to turn watch off)


#197 Dorset Invader   7:28:48

This was a White Star Running event, and the other times that I have run these events I have really enjoyed them (Giants Head, Larmer Tree x 2). We were back in Dorset again just beyond Blandford Forum, hosted in East Farm.

RD Andy
Lead Horse
I traveled with Brenda and it was great to see her back running again. A 1hr 45 min drive got us to the venue and the first thing that I noticed was that it seemed to be smaller than the previous events. There was camping (less than I expected) and there was the usual WSR tented village. But unlike Larmer Tree and Giants Head there was no buildings. There might have been some for later in the evening but we were in the middle of a field.

It was a Roman themed event and there was lots of centurions and togas around. We picked up our numbers and got ready. At the start, the weather was fine but it was due to close in later and it didn't
look that promising. This was a full running weekend and as well as the marathon on the Saturday, there was a "chase" race on in the evening and a half marathon on the Sunday. Because the weather on Friday was not great and the weather on Sat evening was pants I think a lot of people abandoned camping plans.

We walked the 200m up the field for the mass start and we were started by a Centurion and followed another who was riding a horse and led us out for the first mile. We came through the finish area and went through the farm. Almost immediately we hit a hill and was reduced to walking. I have to say my knee was very grumpy and I had to adjust my knee braces and fell off the pace immediately.

A couple of miles in we crossed a really busy road and hit into the deep Dorset country side. Over a style we came to the first aid station. Only Water??? This was not like WSR as I was expecting a feast. We went on and I was struggling all the way and was running pretty much on my own. I walked all the hills.

Around 6 miles we came across the Somerset and Dorset abandoned railway and stayed on this for quite some time. It had also been quite a while since we had an aid station. After 8.3 miles we came off the railway line and back into the rural countryside. Hills were a plenty and we skirted many barley fields that were ready for harvest. Eventually (way too long a gap) we came across another aid station (again only water and some gels). The rain had started at this stage and it would be with us for the rest of the day. On leaving the aid station we hit some country lanes that were well muddied up and walking was all that was possible. There were lots of slips and falls. These lanes seemed to go on forever and was broken now and again by some nice forest sections. Around 13 miles Paul Allen came past (lapping me) saying that he thought that all the leaders had been sent the wrong way and the race could be 3 miles long. I came through half way in 3hrs 15 mins.  I knew that the course was long and I knew that it was 2 laps but when the love station came up at mile 14 I was very confused. At least at this aid station there was some food and coke and many lovely young girls in Toga's.

The mud continued and after about 1 more mile there seemed to be a split, lap 1 to the right, lap 2 to the left. I turned right and after another big hill (past the best looking craic at a dirt buggy track) we were back on the railway line again. One guy with me should have turned left and after 23 miles was some 3 miles off track. He went back. The next 7 or 8 miles was retracing our steps over the railway, barley fields and hills and mud. It was very very slow going and the mud had got worse and was nearly unpassable at times. Eventually I slipped and slided my way to a very damp love station and filled up again.

B back running
This time at the split point I went left and was on familiar ground as this seemed to be retracing our steps back to East farm. There was one turn that was very ambiguous but thankfully I picked the right way which brought me to more hills and back to the very first aid station. I had 26 miles on my watch at this stage, but the lady at the aid station told me I still had 2.5 miles to go. We crossed back over the busy road and back into the farm. A little detour off the original route brought us around the back of the farm and up a near vertical climb  high above the farm which meant the last half mile was a sweeping downhill into the finish. I got there, wet, tired and hungry and in 7hrs 28 mins and it ended up 28.5 miles and over 2500ft of climb in what has to be said was horrendous conditions. It was also my personal worst marathon time but I still beat the sweeper by an hour.

We got a small goodie bag and a very nice medal. This surprised me as on WSR events in the past you got either a free Tshirt (which were for sale separately) or some free food (which was for sale separately). All in all I didn't feel this event was as good as previous WSR events (or even close) with facilities much lacking and the course not being that good at all.

Nice medal
It turned out there were significant issues with WSR leading up to the event which explained all of this and the event was nearly cancelled. What we got was better than it being cancelled. Would I do the Dorset Invader again. NO!

Its debatable that this was an ultra or not. I chose to record it as a trail marathon.

Photo's Rob Hamman and Mary Wilson