Anyway, about a week before the race Niamh asked "are you staying in the River Lee hotel", and since that probably happens to be our favourite hotel in Ireland (not that we have sampled a lot of them) she more or less insisted on coming along. We then added daughter Lola to the mix and this quickly started to resemble a family outing rather than a pacing job. Family circumstances also dictated that I would miss the Expo entirely (a Frozen sing-along and dress-up is basically compulsory for Maia, no compromises) but I did manage to show up at the pacers' meeting point on Monday morning in time and it all worked out well.
I gave Grellan a bit of an earful for bailing out of the 3:15 pace group and leaving me to get the job done on my own but he didn't seem too bothered. It did deprive me of the chance to be part of the oldest 3:15 pacing duo in history but maybe we can do that next year as long as our creaking bodies hold up for another 12 months. Jo had organised for another lad to jump in at mile 10 to help out in case I wasn't quite up to the job for 26.2 miles, but until then I had the responsibility for the entire 3:15 group resting on my shoulders alone.
The weather forecast had been scary at times but seemed to improve slightly as the race date got closer. We knew that plenty of rain and wind were going to arrive at some stage, the question remained when. General consensus amongst the pacers was that we would be alright; we just hoped for dry weather at the start. Once you get moving, a bit of rain isn't too bothersome.
|About to get going. Photo by Derek Costello|
|Mile 1. Photo by Derek Costello|
Passing the first relay exchange shortly after mile 5 provided a bit of excitement. Having a relay in a marathon can be a two-edged sword. There is always a big buzz at the relay stations and if you're feeling good, this is going to make you feel even better. If you're having a bad day, however, being overtaken by a new batch of fresh runners every 5 miles can be soul-destroying. Luckily, as a pacer I've never had that problem (yet!).
We went through the tunnel and after we had climbed out at the other side I could tell my group that they had already mastered the worst climb of the day. The next stretch was the first one to be a bit more challenging as we were running right into the headwind for a while and it clearly required an increase in effort. With only about a third of the race done everyone (at least everyone I could see) was still felt fresh enough to respond.
After 9 miles we were joined by our second pacer. I had been a bit dubious about the idea of having a new pacer jump in but have to admit that it was a good idea. It certainly took the pressure off me being solely responsible for the entire group and I knew the guys and lady would be taken care off even if I had to drop off for whatever reason.
Because the pace between the mile markers and the watch was so different, I had to keep a close eye on the markers to keep us on pace, because obviously it's the official markers that count, not the virtual miles on your watch. It wasn't a major issue but it made things a little bit more complicated. It certainly was a factor for miles 10 and 11 being a bit fast - not by much but closer to 7-minute pace than I would have planned. The fact that they were net downhill and with an increasingly strong wind at our back was undoubtedly the main contributor. I did apologise to the group but the main consensus was that having half a minute extra in the bag wasn't a bad thing with a few miles against that wind just about to come.
|Photo by Doug Minihane|
|Photo by Doug Minihane|
We got to the halfway mark about 40 seconds ahead of time, pretty much where I would have wanted to be. The next few miles were a bit of a breather, sheltered against the conditions on the old railway line. I really like that stretch and on the rare occasions when I'm in Cork for a training run I generally go there as it's ideal for running. Close to the 15 mile mark the other balloon popped as well. Luckily, at that point most of the runners recognised us as pacers even without the balloons, and we still had blue signs on our back identifying as as 3:15 pacers for anyone running behind us.
|Photo by Kieran Minihane|
For the most of it I was still feeling reasonably comfortable but on a few of those climbs I definitely started breathing hard and had to put in a real effort. Still, by that time I knew for sure that I was going to be able to finish the job.
|Photo by Joe Murphy|
Thankfully, Cork is a big enough marathon to provide a sufficient number of runners to keep a core group together even for the later miles. A few runners would finish 2, 3, 5 or more minutes behind but as the 3:15 pacer you can expect to bring about half a dozen runners with you all the way.
|Photo by Gearóid Ó Laoi|
Shortly after passing the 22 mile point there is a downhill stretch followed by two right turns and that signals you're on the home straight. There are still 4 miles to be completed but the hills are behind you and on most days, including today, you have the wind mostly on your back. A group of 4 or 5 runners pulled slightly ahead of me and for a few minutes I ran at their pace before I realised that the guys had upped the pace a bit and I was going a little bit too fast. At that point I was about 40 or 50 seconds ahead of time and maybe 20 metres ahead of the other pacer so I eased up a little bit. Every time I caught up to another runner I encouraged them to stay with me. Only one of them let me know that there was nothing left, all others at least hung on for a while. Once they fell behind they got further encouragement from the rest of the group just behind me, which helped them again.
The rest of our group caught up to me just after 25 miles and we ran home together. A few guys and girls were struggling, cramps not helping, but everyone dug in deep and then, finally, we crossed the bridge and headed for the finish. I crossed the line in a official chip time of 3:14:38, which is pretty accurate pacing and I was rather pleased with that. Coincidentally, my gun time was exactly 3:15:00. I could claim to be a pacing genius but that was complete coincidence (and in fact, when I crossed the line I thought I had about 2 seconds in hand on gun time).
The watch showed 26.52 miles at the end, which is rather long but consistent with previous Cork marathons. Strangely enough, the difference between the official mile markers and the watch seemed to decrease over the last 10 miles after steadily growing for the first 16. I really had to keep a close eye on the markers today. Please note, however, that I do not question the accuracy of the course. I know the guy who measured it and have full confidence in him.
Due to my slow recovery after Turin I had been a bit nervous beforehand, but I had felt much more comfortable than I could have expected. However, once I stopped running my legs started feeling rather sore, more so than usual, and the walk back to the hotel was less than comfortable. The weather was also turning nasty at that point. We had been caught by a few rain showers and a few hefty gusts of wind on the road but until 12 o'clock it was still mostly okay, After that, however, it got worse by the minute and while the 3:15 pace group had clearly escaped the worst I felt sorry for the slower runners who had to battle some awful conditions.
Congratulations to all the runners in Cork, especially of course my own pace group. Thank you to everyone who said hello and who congratulated me on the run in Turin, either before, during or after the race, I was really flattered by the attention. I really enjoyed running this marathon, I hope you did as well.
Incidentally, my two ladies enjoyed being pampered in the spa of the River Lee hotel as well. I think they already booked themselves in for next year. I better be ready once more.
- 1 Jun
- Cork City Marathon
- 3:14:38, 7:25 pace, HR 158, 3:15 pacer
- 2 Jun
- 5 miles, 47:25, 9:24 pace, HR 141