Monday, May 14, 2018

And ... 100!

When I checked the weekend weather forecast on Tuesday, things didn't look great. Saturday was going to be a miserable day in Kerry. I guess that's always a risk but I was dismayed nevertheless - you only get to 100 marathons once, and it looked like the beautiful sunny day in the glorious surroundings of Killarney National Park I had imagined was not going to happen.

Throughout the last few years, as my marathons started to accumulate, I had never spent much time thinking about the numbers. I was not chasing the target of running 100 marathons as such, they just kept adding up as I kept running them, the majority of them first and foremost being training runs, leading up to a longer ultra as goal race. However, once I got to about 97 or so, I started looking forward to reaching triple figures, and the last few days I was actually quite excited about the prospect.

Still, even on Friday the forecast wasn't that great; at least it wouldn't be raining at the start but then the weather system would close in. Ah well.

Imagine my surprise when I awoke on Saturday to a glorious morning with not a cloud in sight. I know the weather can change very quickly here but it really did not look like that was going to happen - it might just turn out to be that day I had imagined after all!

There was one issue: I awoke with a seriously sore right ankle. Actually it wasn't the ankle itself, it was a spot about an inch above the ankle, on the inside of the right leg. I've had similar pain before. It might not even be a running injury; I think I might have gotten it while driving from Dublin the night before. Anyway, it hurts when I run, it hurts when I walk and it equally hurts when I don't do anything, so the thing to do was to try and ignore it as much as I could.

The one thing I had asked for my 100th marathon was the bib with the number 100, and RD Alan was kind enough to provide it. It was with quite some pride that I put it on my top - you don't get to run such a round number of marathons very often. I got plenty of well wishes and congratulations (slightly premature at that stage) and just after 9 o'clock we were off. My 100th marathon had begun.

I had every intention of enjoying every single step today and watched the lead pack race ahead without any regrets - not that I would have been able to challenge them anyway. I very quickly settled into a comfortable rhythm and intended to stay there for the next few hours.

The course consists of 3 laps in the Demesne of Killarney National Park, mostly between the Castlerosse Hotel and Ross Castle. The course looks really confusing on a map but makes perfect sense in the actual surroundings. It is incredibly scenic - at least on a day like today, but from what I remember the weather seemed to cooperate most years, which is great because it's not half as enjoyable in the rain. It is also very hilly; there is a big climb shortly after passing the hotel, with some rough surface to boot, and there is a loop on Ross Island which is constantly going up and down, something I had almost forgotten but got reminded of very quickly on the first loop.

Of course we have to share the course with the other park users, which is perfectly fine as the path is generally wide enough, though there was a tricky bit in the first miles when there was a convoy of at least 5 jaunting cars, and they were a bit tricky to pass (and I declined the offer of one tourist load to join them for their ride).

The first lap passed very quickly. My ankle did hurt quite a bit for the early miles but I ignored it and eventually the endorphins kicked in and the pain went away. Apart form that little niggle I was on loop 2 almost before I knew it. When climbing the hill for the second time I remembered back to 2013 when I had a really good day and just seemed to fly up that climb totally effortlessly. Today I was a bit slower but it still felt easy enough - I wasn't running at my limit, and was able to enjoy it all the more.

The weather was still sunny, which makes such a difference. KNP is a stunning setting, though in a marathon you have to pay for that on all those hills. When the sun is shining, it's well worth it - hell, I'd pay extra just for the views. On a miserable day it would be very different but somehow it all worked out perfectly today. I was still cruising along nicely, the pace and effort remaining constant with the enjoyment level at its peak. Today really was a great day.

The biggest climb of each loop is right at its start, which is good as it meant tackling it for the last time at mile 18, when the legs were still in reasonably good working order. All throughout the day my legs had been working away perfectly happily on the flats and the downhills but with each little hill the hamstrings got a little less willing to put in the work. By the time I had reached the top of that hill, I was glad I didn't have to tackle it again.

Photo by Susanne Foley
I was a bit surprised to start hearing voices behind me. I had passed the second placed lady sometime through the second loop, so I figured this was the new second lady, and she was clearly gaining on me. For a while my competitive instincts kicked in, or maybe it was just the fragile male ego, and I put in a little more effort and kept her off. However, once we reached Ross Island for the third time the climbs started again and I could hear her getting closer. Eventually I realised that to keep holding her off I would have to go full throttle, and even then there was no guarantee that she wouldn't pass me, and I decided to enjoy the last few miles of my 100th marathon instead. Plus, my ankle was hurting again and easing off seemed to lessen the pain. Anyway, it didn't matter to me if I finished in 3:25 or 3:27 today and I consciously decided I'd rather savour the moment. I eased up, let her pass me (and her companion, who had a tough time staying with her) and continued to jog home.

Looking at the mile splits later I realised that I actually only eased up for about one mile. Once we left Ross Island and its constant climbs behind I got right back to 3:25 pace without even noticing, and I was still able to enjoy the last 3 or 4 miles. The weather was still as lovely and the scenery still as gorgeous as at the start and I drew it all in.

And then, much too soon really, I reached the finish, soaked up the applause, and just like that it was all over and I was done.

100 marathons completed (well, 65 marathons and 35 ultras).

Fastest marathon: 2:55:07
Slowest marathon: 4:36:42
Average marathon time: 3:25:02

Photo by Susanne Foley

Photo by Susanne Foley

12 May
Lakes of Killarney marathon
3:25:44, 7:51 pace, HR 146, 9th place


  1. Congratulations, that's a great achievement.

  2. Amazing, well done, congratulations!!

  3. Love it. Well done Thomas, that's some achievement - you can focus on the ultra now!

  4. you were right thomas,it was difficult to keep up with colette but managed to hold on for a new pb by over 8 mins..congrats again for number 100