I’d been feeling lousy the last few days. Took Friday off work, managing only to sit on the couch all day, and had an on-off fever all day Saturday. Lemsip got replaced by Solpadeine. On Saturday night, I was seriously contemplating pulling out of the race altogether. I figured there would be no point in running poorly and feeling even worse at the end of it – particularly with the National half in Ballybofey coming next weekend. But my girlfriend was also running the half in Longford so naturally I packed all my gear for the drive up, just in case I felt okay to run.
I’d come off the back of a tough 21.5 mile training run around Dangan and Salthill on Tuesday, and a good summer of running in general. There was also the element of race-day sugar highs, with a solid breakfast followed by plenty of fruit, lucozade sport and chocolate. More solpadeine kept the ill-feeling at bay. I took off near the front of the pack in dreary, wet conditions. The drizzle was all but incessant. Passed Jerry Forde a little earlier than last year. I think he was at the same pace, more or less, whereas I’ve learned to give myself some credit by not starting half-way back the field, thus ensuring more trouble free starts.
I was shoulder to shoulder with a GCH lady for about a mile, from 0.5 to 1.5 miles. Then she took off, and a rash of other runners (a dozen, maybe 15) all passed me between the 2 mile and 3 mile markers. I was feeling a little flushed. Hot and cold at the same time. I thought I was finished. I pictured myself at the upcoming water station (3 miles), close to fainting, telling my girlfriend when she arrived to run on ahead and I’d meet her at the finish, don’t worry, I’ll be fine… serves me right to think running while ill was a good idea. My splits supported this notion. 6:24, 6:40, 6:57. Spot a trend?
But I kept going, and mile 4 was a 6:35. And during the 4th mile I passed out about 80% of the runners that had passed me in the previous mile. And I didn’t feel tired or strained. Breath was easy. In, in, out, out for every 4 footfalls. Good rhythm. Not much wind and flat, even terrain made it feel slower than it was. After mile 5 (6:32) I caught up to the back of a group of club runners who I guess were averaging about 6:30 or 6:35. These were my core pacers for the remainder of the race. At least a couple of them would always be 10-30 yards ahead of me.
At about mile 6 (6:34) we turned off the main road and onto the back roads. These introduced a few slight inclines but nothing really worth mentioning. There were a couple of matching downhills which provided a bit of relief – yet without giving the knees or thighs much of a pounding… just a chance to stretch out the legs. I’d been in zombie mode for quite a while, churning out some very consistent miles and not feeling the pace at all. 6:34, 6:29, 6:24 and then 6:28 for mile 10. There’s a rather unpleasant turnaround point just after mile 10 where the full marathon route rejoins the half. Half-marathoners must run against marathon traffic for a few hundred yards, then go around a cone and run back the way they came. I met this cone with a stifled groan, and at this point a runner from Inishowen club passed me – the only one in the entire race to do so after the 3rd mile. I was worried that I was feeling the pace now, but despite the cone and a water station (where I slowed a bit to get some into me) in this mile, it was still a 6:34. The Inishowen lad was a dozen yards or more in front by now – he’d obviously kicked into another gear, and he finished 18 seconds clear of me in the end. I said farewell to him in my mind, while at the same time doing some jumbled math…
13 times 6 is 78
13 times 0.5 is 6.5
78 + 6.5 is 85.5 (yeah, I said jumbled, this is the result my brain gave me in the race)
Allow a minute for the 0.1 mile at the end (conservative) and assuming the average is a bit worse than 6:30 overall, gives an approx 1 hour 27 minute half marathon, including that extra minute my dodgy addition provided. Even still, not bad at all considering my Bay Run time of 1:29:12 in May left me over the moon and delighted… and I wasn’t ill for that one either!
Kept going. Back into the same rhythm again – relieved at that. Up over the railway line and then back out onto the main road. I kept passing the odd runner, but didn’t have much to say. The breath was no longer easy. Inishowen guy and the GCH lady from the start were my only conversations (“good man, well done” when he ran up to me just before 10 mile, and “well done Galway” when I passed her around 9 mile). No idea where the 12 mile marker was – I looked at my watch, saw 6:54 and forgot about it. I put the head down and bore down on the finish. My 13 mile split was 12:55 so let’s call those two a 6:28 and a 6:27. Sprinted in past a few more pairs of labouring legs, glanced at the race clock and couldn’t believe it. My own stopwatch put me at 1:25:51. Brilliant! Had a quick chat with the Inishowen guy and the other Athenry lads that were running. Adrian Fitz came in at 1:29 and the other two boys were both around 1:31.
I hobbled back to the car and changed, thinking I had loads of time before the girlfriend arrived (2 hours expected). I was barely back out to the finish chute when she came storming in with a 1:54. Great running for her first half-marathon!
A couple of other thoughts:
- Post-race refreshments put other races to shame. Particularly when the entry fees for Longford are just €40 for the half and €45 for the full. I’m running the Dingle marathon in two weeks… another €70 race. Why? Same for Dublin. €90 for a late entry? Why? I hope people start demanding more value from races. I’ll certainly be looking at this aspect in races I enter from now on.
- Kerry beat Meath in the football semi but both teams’ performances mirrored the miserable weather in Longford!
- Mile 1 – 6:24
- Mile 2 – 6:40
- Mile 3 – 6:57
- Mile 4 – 6:35
- Mile 5 – 6:31
- Mile 6 – 6:34
- Mile 7 – 6:34
- Mile 8 – 6:29
- Mile 9 – 6:24
- Mile 10 – 6:28
- Mile 11 – 6:34
- Mile 12 – 6:28
- Mile 13 – 6:27
- Mile 13.1 – 0:45
- Total: 1 hour 25 minutes 50 seconds