It’s that time of year I suppose. A time when it’s tempting to look back at some of the running highlights that I’ve been involved with over the last twelve months. It was a very good year for me racing-wise, with more than one personal best to remember, as well as my usual quota of niggles, bonks and dodgy races.
1. Fields of Athenry 10km – January 2010. Twice postponed, this race is my home club’s main event. Having acted as the race director for many years, I’d never actually run in it before. This year my club mates did me the great honour of not only allowing me to run but also of giving me the number-one bib. It was a special day. Having been fairly crocked over the weeks leading up to the race, I had no great hopes of running a fast time and so was astounded to clock 34:40. Given the race and the occasion, I made sure that I left absolutely nothing out on the course. A day to remember.
2. Craughwell 10 Mile – March 2010. A great first-time race organised by our near neighbours in Craughwell AC. The organisational effort was superb and there was a warm and genuine welcome for all who took part. The course was mostly flat and completely traffic-free as the roads had been closed for the occasion. The chat was good, both before and afterwards, and the generous refreshments were most welcome having raced hard. A 57:56 clocking earned me 7th place overall, another PB and an expensive looking juicing machine. I was on a roll.
3. Connemara Ultra (39.3 Miles) – March 2010. In my, admittedly biased opinion this is the best road ultra in Europe if not the world. The setting, standard of organisation and general atmosphere that surround this event are second to no other that I’ve seen. This race improves everey year in some way or other and I only wish I could say the same for myself. My previous best performance over the course had been somewhere in the 4:45 region and I felt I could possibly improve on the with some luck in running. It was to be another day that will long live in my memory as I believe I out-ran my fitness on the day. A fifth place finish in a good standard field was more than I had any right to hope for given my training. My finishing time of 4:28:33 was satiffying as it meant I had managed sub-three-hour marathon pace for the full distance. I’ll be back 🙂
I was thrilled to be allowed to pace the 3:00 hour group at the Limerick Marathon in May on behalf of the www.boards.ie pace team. It just wouldn’t be true to say that the race was without its teething problems, but in fairness none of the glitches in any way spoiled what was a great day out. Pacing a marathon is a serious and responsible task and one that I was very anxious that I got right on the day. Thankfully our group ducked under the banner at 2:59:24. One more job done and certainly a big highlight of 2010 for me.
5. Cork Marathon – June 2010. Another opportunity to pace a 3:00 hour group at a big city marathon. A hugely enjoyable day, although the conditions were extremely tough. Strong winds and driving rain meant that anyone who made it under three hours that day had to have run really well. Thankfully, a good number of people in our group made it back to Cork city centre in time. I got the pacing fairly close, passing the line in 2:59:47, which was perhaps a little too close for comfort for some. This is another Irish race that seems set to go from strength to strength each year. Great credit has to go to the pace group organisers on www.boards.ie for taking the initiative in Cork, Limerick and many other races.
(Cork Pic, Copyright TwoWheelsOnly)
6. Portumna 50km – June 2010. Probably the best ‘vibe’ of the year. This was another first-time event and a really friendly and positive day for me. The race organised, Seb Locteau did a superb job in difficult circumstances to host this race. That the event was such a great success speaks volumes about how highly regarded he is by Irish runners generally. The positivity and support were just jumping out of all concerned – absolutely amazing. Although there were not large fields in the marathon, 50km or 100km races, the standards that the race was operated to were amazingly high and the organisers couldn’t have done more for the participants. Although I was first home in the 50km, I really didn’t feel that I ran up to my potential on the day, but I’ll remember the occasion because of how it felt to be there. It was one of those days when I was especially proud of being able to take part.
7. Connemara 100 – August 2010. A race/happening that almost defies description. As the song says, it was ‘a long and winding road’, that leads from Clifden to Clifden. This was 14 hours, 26 minutes and 6 seconds of time exceptionally well-spent. I’ve written a lot about this race before and so won’t go over that ground again, except to say that it’s probably the most unusual and rewarding running challenge available anywhere in this country. A 100 mile road race really isn’t a ‘race’ in the same way that a 10km or even a marathon is. Such a long run is a more personal challenge than other races and yet, at the same time, it’s a shared experience. There was great mutual respect amongst the athletes and support crews at this event and a mutual understanding of the scale of the task we had taken on. I’ll remember this race long after many others have faded into my distant running past.
8. Street of Galway – August 2010. I’ve been running this particular race for many years and it remains amongst my very favourites. The Galway City Harriers take great care with the event and it shows up in every aspect of the arrangements on the day. I had been running very poorly in the weeks leading up to this race and had no realistic hopes of running quickly. Sure enough I was well outside my PB for the distance on the day but I ran respectably well with 27:51 on the clock at the end. I was thrilled to get the M40 category prize again – the third year in a row. Any prize earned in this race is hard-earned and I was very happy with this run if not the finishing time. The ‘Streets’ is always a great place to meet, greet and socialise and it was great to see a huge turnout from our club at the starting line. A classic race.
9. County Galway Cross Country Championships – October 2010. The longer I live the more I’m sure that I hate cross country running and yet I couldn’t help but enjoy this one. Loughrea AC had provided us with a superb venue and there was a great turn-out from the various clubs in the county. I never really got into my running and struggled from pillar to post, but it was a great event for Galway running and a credit to the hosting club Loughrea. One that would make your heart smile.
10. Dublin City Marathon 2010 – October 2010. I went to the starting line of this race in October in a state of guarded optimism rather than with confidence. I’d been injured for three weeks after the 100 miler and hadn’t really had enough time for a proper build-up to a target marathon. I was hoping that a solid year of running would stand to me rather than confident that I could run a fast time. In the end, I got lucky and the conditions turned out to be perfect for marathon running and I managed to come through strongly over the last 10km to run a PB 2:44:31. Dublin is the best marathon in Ireland by some considerable margin and, having missed the race in 2009, it was a special pleasure to be able to run this year. A great way to finish racing in 2010.