Saturday, September 03, 2011

Over The Hills And Far Away

This one was an easy sell. "Honey, do you want to spend a free weekend in Dingle, just the two of us?" I think she was on the phone to Nana to mind the kids for us before I had even finished my sentence. So we found ourselves in Dingle on Friday evening, in a B&B just 100 meters away from the start line, now that is service.

The weather had been absolutely scary on Friday but we awoke on Saturday to absolutely perfect running conditions, no wind, no rain, cloudy, what more could you ask for. I shared pacing duties for the 3:30 marathon group with Grellan. I had hoped he would help keeping an eye on the pace but his Garmin had given up the ghost and it was up to me to keep us on target.

Wearing the bright yellow pacing tops from the Cork marathon was a good move. They are so distinctive. We shared the first half of the race with the half marathon runners and it subsequently was busy enough. There are other races who are vying for the tag of most scenic road race, and they all have things going for them, but the Dingle course is truly special. I did make sure to point out a few particularly beautiful views, but I don't think our pacees were particularly interested, they were busy enough trying to keep up, fully understandably so. 3 miles into the run, Grellan got a bit too close to the blackberry bushes. From that moment on, I was the only balloon man.

Pacing Dingle is a bit trickier than most marathons; there are no flat bits at all and the 350 feet killer hill awaiting at mile 22 demands some planning. We decided to bank about 2 minutes by mile 20 which meant running all miles between 5 and 10 seconds faster, depending on the hills. Grellan had had a look at previous results and pointed out that last year only 24 runners had broken 3:30; his prediction was that we would finish on our own. We had a decent group with us at first; at mile 9 I looked around and there were about 12 runners. At mile 11 I turned around again and went like "where the f*ck is everyone?", there was just one lady and nobody else. We eased up on the pace a bit and gathered our lost sheep. At mile 12 the half marathoners left us and the obvious joke "Half runners to the left, real men to the right" proved irresistible, but it did get a couple of laughs.

The climb out of Dunquin is challenging, we lost a couple more runners but kept on pace. At mile 17 I chatted with the only lady in our group. She told me she was suffering but agreed that the best thing to do was to hang on for as long as possible. I knew she would be well placed in the ladies' standings. As it turns out she was second, but as she was several minutes behind the leader but several minutes ahead of number three, our pacing did not have an influence on the actual placings.

As was inevitable, we steadily lost runners in our group and by the time we hit the big climb at mile 22 we were down to 3. One went ahead, the other 2 fell behind and Grellan's prediction looked very realistic. We did encourage runners to keep up as we passed them, but nobody took up the offer for long.

As challenging as the course is, running at 8-minute pace was so comfortable I never lost the perception that I was out for a comfortable stroll. At one point I told Grellan that my last long run had been the Cork marathon, prompting him to say I was faking my way to a marathon, but then I remembered a 20-mile run a few weeks ago, so I DID do some training. Anyway, I still felt perfectly comfortable even going up that steep hill. We reached the top with about 30 seconds still in the bank and took it very easy on the way down, which meant we got caught by a few runners we had just passed on the uphill, but nobody of our original group managed to come back.

Coming onto the last stretch it turned out that Grellan had been absolutely correct - we were indeed on our own. As he had already made suggestions about a final 100 meter sprint to determine the winner, I challenged him. He later claimed he let me win. Niamh confirmed that. I like to think he had been psyched out. In any case, it was a fun way to end a great run, milking the applause of the crowd for all it was worth.

The final sprint meant we were a bit quicker than planned, but I had 3:29:06 on my Garmin as I crossed the line, which is a perfectly acceptable time for a 3:30 pacer, and considering the tricky terrain I like to think we had done a good job. It would have felt better to have some runner with us at the line, but I know even so we did help a good few runners for as long as we could.

It definitely was the most fun I've ever had during the marathon. It looks like I've reached the point where I can run a 3:30 marathon at the drop of a hat, even without training specifically for it and even on a course as challenging as Dingle. It's a good place to be.
3 Sep
Dingle Marathon, 3:30 pacer, 3:29:06, 7:58 pace, HR 152


  1. Nice going for a comfortable stroll. You blokes look like the bananas in pajamas in those shirts ;) Good job that you helped some runners slip under the 3:30 barrier.

  2. I was pacing using the traditional method of a watch and mile markers, used long before Garmins were invented.

    Absolutely fantastic run. Onwards and upwards.

  3. make it interesting and lead the 3:15 your next time around. by the way, well done on the pacing and finish, looks like you two had a great time.

  4. Good upon you fellas!

    Looks like a great time. Love to come and run there with you'se one day!

    But I don't look so good in yellow!

  5. Another good run Thomas.

    I think it's great that you can give something back and help others achieve their goals.

    It's almost as good as reaching your own!