The last few weeks have been eventful but quite fulfilling on the running front.
In contrast to the early months of the year I got into quite a happy running groove and ran two enjoyable marathons quite close together in October – the Galway Bay Marathon on the 3rd and the Dublin City Marathon just three weeks later.
As you might guess, running two races so close together wasn’t ideal in terms of running the fastest time in either of them, but that’s the way I decided it had to be. The Galway race is organised by my old friend Ray O’Connor and I knew he’d put on a great race. If anything, I was prioritising Galway over Dublin as it was literally the road-less-travelled. The Dublin Marathon has been very kind to me in the past but the temptation of running a really good marathon so close to home was impossible to resist.
So, Galway had the upper hand this year.
Race day in the Claddagh could have been specifically designed for running, as it dawned cool, calm and dry. If someone had announced that the IAAF had made roller-skates legal for this one event, my prospects would only have improved marginally. Although the course was over four loops, which isn’t to everyone’s taste, it was flat and trouble-free. I got into a conservative groove early in the race and waited to see how the race might unfold in front of me. After a few miles three super-speedies had disappeared down the road and a following group of six followed them at a discrete distance. I was clinging onto the back of that group for the early miles, although I eventually had to let them go as the pace was just a little to hot for my taste.
I passed the halfway mark in 1:26:57 feeling strong but running on my own. The five other runners I had been tailing had moved gradually away and merged with the half-marathoners and 10km runners with whom we by now shared road space. It was good to have those other racers around. There was loads of room to pass or be passed and we encouraged each other along. As usually happens when I’m in decent shape, I could feel my pace improving over the later miles of the trace without consciously increasing my effort. Mile splits dropped from 6:40’s to 6:20’s and sometimes lower. Between miles 17 and 25 I caught and passed each of the gang-of-five, some of whom were slowing and some of whom I passed because I was picking up the pace.
I got to the finish in 5th place in a time of 2:50:57. My split for the second half of 1:24:00 is my fastest half marathon of the year by quite a bit. As some of my American friends say, ‘Go Figure!’.
Three weeks later I was standing at the starting line in Dublin. Once again, I felt fresh and ready to rock, although conditions were distinctly less favourable. I had managed to get straight back on the road after Galway without missing any training and saw no reason why I shouldn’t run a similar time – all going well.
After just a few miles, I could feel that optimism start to fade. I felt too warm and knew I was running too fast to maintain that pace all the way to the finish. More than once I deliberately tried to slow my pace, only to see another sub 6:30 mile split pop up on my watch as I went past the markers. After the 10km point I managed to steady the ship a little and so went through the half-way mark in 1:25:36, quite a bit faster than Galway and not going nearly so well.
The second half turned into a slog-fest. I slowed, not dramatically, but it became harder and harder to keep a respectable pace. It was grimace and bear it stuff – just about tolerable but not much fun. The last few miles were a tad easier as we ran gradually down-hill to the finish and also benefitted from a following wind.
I ground-it-out and there was 2:52:57 on the clock at the end. In fairness I was happy enough. I certainly didn’t have a faster race in me on the day.
After Dublin, I’ve once more managed to get back onto the road almost straight away with little or no soreness to contend with. I’m hoping to round out my running year with the Clonakilty Marathon in December where I have some unfinished business from a few years ago, when I actually managed to miss the race start and had to run through the entire marathon and half-marathon field.
Enough moaning, it’s really great to be back in a happy place.