Unlike the B&B in Portumna this one worked out well and I managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep. For once I arrived at a start line well rested. Maybe that was a factor why I felt better than expected.
When asked of my plans I had no real idea and would have been happy with anything between 3:15 and 3:30. I only had started feeling okay again a few days ago following the 100k in Portumna and hadn't done a lot of running in the meantime, at least by my standards. I therefore positioned myself a good bit behind the 3:15 pacers and then we set off.
I took it very easy during the first mile and then gradually, almost imperceptibly, accelerated a bit. Before I knew it I was alongside the 3:15 pacers and had a little chat with Alan before heading off, hoping that his call of "see you later" would come true after I had crossed the finish line, not several miles beforehand.
The course criss-crossed the city of Waterford for the first 8 miles in a seemingly random fashion, taking in a few hills, but nothing major, or at least certainly nothing that would have felt like a major hill so early in the game. I noticed that I kept storming past dozens of runners, especially on the uphills, and quietly wondered if I was running a bit too fast.
This was not a goal race of mine but the last long training run before Belfast. The idea was to run it at 95% effort, injecting a good workout into the leg muscles without destroying them. When I checked the HR I was a bit surprised to see the numbers in the high 150s, even low 160s on some climbs. That wouldn't be alarming, but in the last few months, since I started doing all those long runs, I have never really managed to get the HR up into those levels, except when climbing really steep mountain trails. I dialled the effort back a smidgen but still kept moving up the field.
The half marathon and full marathon runners had started together, which is why there were plenty of runners around me and catching them one by one was great fun and kept my spirits high during those early miles. We finally turned away from Waterford heading into the countryside after 8 miles, and the support from the sidelines reduced to virtually zero. But I kept seeing enough runners ahead of me to keep the chase and the fun going. I just managed to catch up to a reasonably big group at mile 10 when the half-marathon runners finally split off and every single runner near me went the other way. I went from being surrounded by a dozen runners to being completely on my own in an instant. The next marathon runner was at least a minute ahead of me and I only saw him on a long stretch of straight road, apart from that I might as well have been on a training run, albeit one with regular water stations.
At the 10-mile marker my Garmin showed 10.1 miles, a fairly normal reading in a marathon. However, the 12-mile marker came into view much too early and I passed it with only 11.67 miles on the Garmin. I wasn't particularly bothered, I have seen a lot of misplaced mile markers over the years. However, it did not correct itself by mile 13 or at the timing mats at halfway. Indeed, when one of the 3-hour pacers who had finished his job and handed over duties at that point, asked me what the mileage was on my Garmin (12.9), it confirmed to me that I wasn't the only one who had noticed that something was amiss here.
Nevermind, I still had my race to run and made it into Tramore, which eventually appeared another mile later. It was good to have some support again from the sidelines. I still felt mostly good and fresh, but my right hamstrings and glutes were a bit tight, which was a bit of a pain in the arse. It did not affect my running pace and not my enjoyment either. Somewhere around the 15 mile mark I saw race leader and serial marathon winner Gary O'Hanlon come the other way looking good and with a respectable lead on his pursuers as I headed towards the promenade.
This was probably the stretch I enjoyed the most, the place was buzzing with loads of spectators giving generous applause, the weather was nice without being too hot (just about) and I enjoyed running along the seaside. I had never been to Tramore but it sure is a very nice place in a lovely setting.
We did a little loop through the town, avoiding the one steep climb that had people moaning and bitching like mad last year and eventually headed back towards Waterford, seeing the runners behind us come the other way. I managed to pass one runner, my first one since mile 10. I saw the 3:30, 3:45 and 4:00 pacing groups come the other way, Grellan and John Desmond especially telling me I was running way too fast, the jokers.
And still all the mile markers kept coming too early, generally 0.2 miles ahead of the Garmin, and by now I was seriously wondering if the course was going to be short.
The climb out of Tramore turned out to be a real drag. It was one of those climbs that would have felt fine after 5 miles, but with 18 miles in the legs it was a different story, and the fact that there was a stiff breeze against us didn't help either. I started wondering if I had overcooked myself rather that taking it a touch easy, as had been planned. One runner passed me, local man Michael O'Mahony, who I had traded places with a couple of times earlier on, and he was moving very well indeed.
I noticed one curious thing. All mile signs were placed where someone had painted a little red number on the tarmac.It was the same at mile 20, the big white sign right beside a little red painted 20, except that it had come with only 19.8 miles on the Garmin, just like all the other recent mile markers. However, when my Garmin said about 20.1 miles there was another little "20" painted on the pavement, in the same writing and exactly the same colour but crossed out. For crying out loud, that one would have most likely been spot on!
We finally crested that hill soon afterwards. I had passed an ambulance with one runners sitting inside, so I guessed I had gained another place (he didn't look too bad. No idea if he finished, though). Another runner came into view and it was the familiar face of Barry Casserly. He asked if he could tag along when I caught up with him, which I obviously had no objections to. Barry is a quickly improving runner and had hoped for a sub-3 today but had blown up at mile 18 and that hill had given him a good beating, which is of course a rather familiar story, my own first sub-3 attempt had been an exact carbon copy of that. I told him I wasn't exactly feeling too hot either, but we shared the next couple of miles together. In fact, I think my pace increased a tiny bit with his presence, but maybe that was just a false subjective feeling with the growing fatigue. He had also noticed the wrong mile markers and we both agreed that the course was most likely going to be short. Somewhere between miles 23 and 24 he dropped off again, having struggled for a while, but he would still finish right behind me in the final results.
Closer to mile 25 we turned off the road into some "Eco Park", which wasn't what I would have liked at the time as it took us away from any potential support from the sidelines and back into loneliness. I did pass a few half-marathoners, so at least I wasn't entirely on my own. The legs were rather tired at that point and wanted this to be over. However, the end came very quickly, just after we left the Eco Park we turned into a stadium, ran three quarters of the lap (the soft bouncy surface felt weird after almost 26 miles on tarmac) and finished in front of the grandstand.
My time was 3:05:26, but the Garmin had recorded 26.04 miles and I guess this was about a quarter of a mile short, so on a correctly measured marathon this would have been a 3:07 time. Indeed, a few minutes after I had finished I saw one lad receiving his medal and without breaking stride he ran another stadium lap before finally stopping. He may well have been the only runner to have run a full marathon today.
I chatted to a lot of other runners, including the pacers from 3:00 all the way to 4:00, and every single one of them confirmed the short course. It was worse for the pacers because the never knew if the course was going to be short or if there would be a long mile towards the end to make up for it, and they all came in 2-3 minutes early, despite all of them running a very slow stadium lap (I have seen faster laps in the 24 hours race!). It was worse still for guys running for a time, a friend of mine (hi Pat!) was going for his first sub-3 and had finished in 2:57, which would still have been sub-3 on a correct course but it left a slightly bitter taste with him.
It is a real shame. Everything else about the race was good, I liked the course, the water stations were just right and enthusiastically manned, Tramore was particularly good and the overall organisation of a high standard. But providing a correctly measured course (the half was correct, btw. Only the full was out) is an absolutely fundamental requirement and relegates all the positives into minor territory. It did not really affect me as I got my desired training run, but I do feel sorry for some of the other runners.
- 27 Jun
- 5 miles, 40:25, 8:04 pace, HR 134
- 28 Jun
- 26 miles, 3:05:26, 7:07 pace, HR 157
- Waterford Viking marathon, 19th place, 5th M40
- 29 Jun
- 5 miles, 42:59, 8:35 pace, HR 131