Sunday, January 11, 2015

Amongst Friends

I would usually hesitate to attend a marathon so far from home but the Oylegate, Co. Wexford one, organised by the Marathon Club, appealed to me and I was looking forward to running with a few friends. I had no intentions of setting any records. Let me rephrase that: I was determined not to run fast, this was very much a training run. A time of 3:20-3:30, depending how I would feel on the day, seemed appropriate.

The entire family had gone to Dublin on Friday evening, making for a much shorter journey on Saturday morning. After a very wet and stormy night the weather had calmed considerably when I set off on Saturday morning, shortly before 7 am, but by time I had reached Bray I was driving through a very heavy thunderstorm. Uh-oh!

Luckily things brightened up considerably and it was sunny in Oylegate, though the windy conditions would add a little bit of a challenge today, no doubt about it. The course consisted of 5 loops of a little over 5 miles. The first mile of each loop would be downhill and the next 4 would be uphill, but there were no steep bits in there at all; the course wasn't going to provide any excuses, it was all rather gentle.

Right from the start I fell into step with two other runners, Liam Costello and Aidan Hogan. I have run with both before, with Liam in Dublin and Aidan in Tralee. There weren't any fast runners out today, which meant we were actually the leading group, not that a casual observer would have been able to tell as we were coasting along, full of chat.

I checked the pace on my watch a few times during the first loop and it seemed to indicate that we were on 3:20 pace, give or take a little bit, which suited me perfectly. The chatter quietened down a bit during the second loop. I got the impression that Liam was pushing the pace a little bit, though nobody had any troubles staying with the group.

I did start to feel some tightness in my hamstrings as we neared the halfway mark and the same pace required a bit more of an effort, especially on those climbs right into the headwind that showed no signs of abating, and all of a sudden the climbs did not feel quite as gentle any more. I had no problem keeping with the boys but did quietly wonder if I was going to work harder than planned and if I should drop back if things got worse.

I took a gel at the end of the third loop and seemed to fumble along a bit more than necessary, and while I was preoccupied juggling a gel packet and a water bottle all of a sudden I was several steps behind the lads. Initially I thought I'd just let them go and jog the last 10 miles on my own at a lower effort level but on the downhill mile that followed my natural pace seemed to be a bit faster than theirs and without any increase in effort I was back with them. Maybe the gel had kicked in by then or maybe they had slowed down a bit but I no longer felt the effort was higher than anticipated and for the rest of the race I would just jog along comfortably. Maybe it takes 16 miles these days for me to warm up properly.

At the start of the fifth and final round Aidan said words to the effect of "I hope none of you intends to start racing to the finish", which both Liam and me denied. Once more this suited me just fine, today was a training effort, and an ego-driven race to the finish would have been the last thing I had in mind. I have much bigger things to fry this year.

Vincent, Aidan, Liam, me
All of us had run well below racing effort and we all still felt reasonably comfortable so we just made our way around the last miles, enjoying the views and the unexpectedly nice weather for the final time. I had not once checked my watch for the pace ever since the first lap and still thought we were on 3:20 pace until Liam told us we would be there in about 3:15 - a quarter mile before the finish! In the end it was a 3:16 marathon and the three of us crossed the finish line together, even holding hands as we did so.

It sure was not the most competitive race I had ever been in but technically we were the winners. I stuck around, chatting with the other runners and enjoying the fabulous spread that had generously been provided. Irish record holder Ruthann Sheahan was there as well and she told me about her last 24-hours championship in Poland, which got me all the more excited about April; at that stage I can hardly wait, it is promising to be quite an experience.

Thanks to the members of MCI which made this a great day and a lovely race, especially to Marie Chapman and Vincent Guthrie for the flawless organisation. I had a great day and can't wait to do it again.

I did attend my niece's birthday party later that day. It was great to be able to answer the usual question of "You ran a marathon? Did you win?" with a "Yes" for a change!

8 Jan
10 miles, 1:24:17, 8:23 pace, HR 134
9 Jan
8 miles, 1:07:36, 8:26 pace, HR 136
10 Jan
26.2 miles, 3:16:47, 7:30 pace, HR 155
   MCI Oylegate marathon - three-way split for the win
11 Jan
5 miles, 43:27, 8:41 pace, HR 140
Weekly Mileage: ~81


  1. Sounds like a great marathon experience, refreshing to see everyone sharing the win. Keeping up 7:30 pace at just a little faster than tick over suggests you are pretty decent shape. Well done.

  2. Where was the photo-finish?! You're in good nick to run a 3:16 marathon for fun.