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Happy New Year


from Diary of a rubbish marathon runner One of my problems with running is the lack of local races (and if they are on, I sometimes don’t hear about them), so when they put on this 10k in Beaufort, about 20 minutes drive from Caragh Lake, I was always going to do it. You can’t miss an opportunity like that. The start was at 2pm, and since I have had good experiences with running a few easy miles before a race, I ran 5 miles in the morning. The weather was nice enough, but the blustery wind was less than ideal. Despite a certain lack of sleep, which goes with that date, my head wasn’t too bad, and I was looking forward to the race. I definitely hoped to start the year with a new PR.

It’s funny, but when racing I recognise way more faces in Cork than in Kerry, and even the few familiar faces here tend to be from Cork, like Mary Sweeney and especially John Walshe, who had made a long trip today. John was helping out with the registration. That man’s dedication to the sport is unparalleled and very commendable. He even emailed me the results afterwards. Thanks a million John, you’re a legend. No wonder the Ballycotton race is so famous.

Anyway, we lined up at the start a few minutes later than advertised. If they ever start an event in Kerry on time, I’d be very surprised (in fact, I’d probably miss it). Following a by now familiar pattern I followed a few steps behind Mary Sweeney early on. She and two other ladies threatened to pull away from me, but I was already running a 6 minute mile and thought it unwise to increase the effort even further. The course is a lollipop route with a mile going out, followed by a 4-mile-plus loop and one mile back towards the village. It seemed reasonably flat, but in fact it was a series of never-ending gentle climbs and drops. Still, a good time was definitely doable today. The first mile passed by in 6:05, and eventually I managed to close the gap to the runners ahead, and halfway through the second mile I passed them all. I greeted Ms. Sweeney with “hello Mary” as I went by and she responded back, but I don’t think she had a clue who she was talking to.

By now I was a step behind an older gentleman who looked familiar. I thought I recognised him from the 8k in Liscarroll last August where I had slowly fallen behind the eventual winners of the M45 and M50 category, and I thought it might be one of them (Update: I was right, it was Tom Fitzgerald who had finished a place ahead of me in Liscarroll). Same fella or not, this time I managed to keep up, at least for now. Mile 2 passed by in 6:18. As long as I could keep this pace I would get a new PR.

It happens all the time, in every race. I lose time on the climbs and regain it on the drops. Today was no different; as we were nearing the halfway point, two runners approached from behind on a climb. The young guy passed by but the older only managed to draw level as we reached the apex, and I soon left him behind again. I also regained my place against the younger one on the downhill. The same game started again on the next incline (there were at least a dozen of them). It kept the effort high, but the Garmin says I had slowed down some more to 6:21 on the third mile, which surprises me, to be honest. I certainly wasn’t taking it any easier. I passed the 5k marker in 19:12, which definitely put me into a position for a PR, but I now think that the sign was a bit out and came too early.

The main problem was that now we were turning towards Beaufort and into the wind. I also thought that the first half was net downhill with a net uphill on the way home, but the map disagrees and has both halves pretty much even. Anyway, running became a lot more difficult with the growing fatigue and the blustery headwind. The young guy eventually managed to pull away from me (and overtook at least 5 more runners until the end) but the other one fell behind. Nobody else went past me, and I gained a few places on the return journey, but was too occupied to count them. I was still close behind the older familiar looking runner. I tried not to let him get away from me, which probably explains the little pace increase for a 6:19 fourth mile. We then turned into the main Beaufort road, which I am reasonably familiar with. I hoped the fact that I knew the course from now on would help, but a few short but steep climbs took a lot out of me; I actually started swearing at one point because I felt like standing still battling uphill against the wind. I slowly, very slowly, lost contact to Mr. Familiar, with a 6:32 fifth mile not looking good, being followed by an even worse sixth one in 6:35. I pushed with all I had left to close the gap over the last half kilometre through Beaufort village, but I only managed to halve it; closing it was never on the cards, and I crossed the line in 6:24, 15 seconds behind target.

I was a bit disappointed. I had hoped for a new PR to start the year with a bang, but came up short. 15 seconds is so little, I’m sure I could have found them somewhere along the line if only I had pushed a tiny bit harder.

I hadn’t taken any easy days before the race, which might have cost me just that much. I had taken the decision to train through the race in full knowledge that it would impede today’s performance, and there’s no point in wondering what might have been. It was not my target race, end of story.

I didn’t have time to hang around and had to drive back home pretty sharpish because Niamh needed the car to take the older kids to the cinema, leaving me behind to mind Maia and cook the dinner (lovely it was, too, thanks for asking). It’s great to drive to a race, run it and drive home again in less time than it takes for a long run. Definitely a rarity for me.

1 Jan
am: 5+ miles, 41:19, 8:03 pace
pm: 9.2 miles, including:
Beaufort 10k, 39:24, 6:21 pace, 20th place