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Go West, Young Man!

In 1850, the newspaper editor and Liberal Republican, Horace Greeley, coined a phrase that did much to influence the popular notion of American expansionism and may have changed the history of the United States forever. He said: “GO WEST, YOUNG MAN, GO WEST”. Had Greeley been Irish, and had he known about the Connemara marathon route containing the relentless 3 mile climb from Keane’s pub to Maam’s cross known as the “hell of the west”, he might well have regretted saying it.

By the time I arrived in Galway at midnight last Friday, the rain was pelting down with 20mph winds thrown in for good measure, so boy was I glad that I had thought ahead and booked a great hotel room with wifi and hot breakfast included.

No animals allowed. All major credit cards accepted. Deposit may be required for group bookings.

It seemed I couldn’t have made my marathon debut any harder on myself if I tried. The next morning, I was due to run one of the ‘West of Ireland’ series of marathons run by the 100 Marathon Club of Ireland. We had a tiny group coming out on the bus to the starting line, less than 20 other guys were running the 26.2 mile marathon, with a few others doing the half or the ultra. Every single one of them had more running experience than I could possibly imagine. One of the guys I was running with had mentioned that he recently finished an ultramarathon in 11 hours, cutting 2 hours off his time from the previous year. I overheard a lady worrying in the bar afterwards that she had “only” 32 marathons finished and that she needed to start get a move on! For context, a couple of the lads I was speaking to had completed over 100 marathons. Pat, the guy who I was running with for the first half was on his 61st marathon; I think he may have mentioned that before the point at which he stopped in Leenane village for an ice-cream and then proceeded to easily catch up and pass me out!

The exact moment when I realized just how far out of my league I was

I can’t remember all the details clearly; the “devil’s mother” section wasn’t quite as bad as I was expecting but the “hell of the west” is exactly what it says on the tin. Nasty, unforgiving, painful and right at the end of the route. It’s only three miles long, but it seemed like 30.

Still there are plenty of positives to draw on, so draw on them I will. First, I cut roughly fifteen minutes off my previous 26.2 mile run in December. Also, back in December I was really pushing myself out to my limits, whereas pace-wise I was running well within myself on Saturday (injury-prevention being high on my list of priorities). Also, this marathon was on the exact same route as the Connemarathon coming up next April 1st, which I’m told is one of the most challenging routes in the country, i.e. harder than doing laps of a block around Dunleer! And finally, the come-down was much easier. Back in December, I wasn’t able to walk properly for the best part of a week afterwards; this time around I was legging it full-tilt into the Sweetest Thing for hot chocolate shots as soon as …well, the next morning.

Finest recovery food in all the land!

As of time of writing this afternoon, I’m in almost no pain whatsoever. So I’m calling that a positive result! Next two runs are the Connemarathon on April 1st and then the Clare Madventure on April 15th, billed as “Ireland’s toughest marathon.” We’ll see about that…

Photos are up on Facebook & Flickr
Final time – 4hrs : 55min : 30secs

(Editor’s Note: Congrats to my pal Janet, who got her exams results last week! Ridiculously happy for you, this calls for a victory tune…)

Bohermeen and Taming the Carb Craving Monster

I’ve been ridiculously bad at updating this blog lately. The dearth of posts over the last month has mainly been down to lack of free time to sit down and write; I’ve been working hard at training and on lots of new developments in the magical realm of online social media – ‘Running for ReachOut’ now has a facebook page, a twitter page and, as of this morning, a flickr profile (still figuring out how to use that one…). Also, there are a bunch of cool fundraising events taking place over the next couple of weeks and I’ll be sending out more information on them through the facebook page very soon, as well as getting this blog up to speed!

More importantly, the first race finally happened! Specifically, it happened in Bohermeen at the Meath Spring Half-Marathon last Sunday. It wasn’t without its mini-dramas though. My jogging headphones decided to stop working that morning, leaving me in a slight dilemma since I never run without music. Ever. The only alternatives I had available to me were a huge set of circumaural headphones that would fall apart from the sweat, not to mention they would probably look more than a little silly.

Something like that.

Let the panicking begin. The race was starting at midday out in Meath; was it too much to ask to find an open music store at 10am on a Sunday?

I couldn’t find anywhere in Drogheda that was open, Scotch Hall let me down badly! Added to that, I was delayed for ages on the Slane Road, large tracts of which were closed off for reconstruction over the weekend. I was almost resolved to doing the unthinkable (running 13 miles without the choons!) but then in stepped Patricia from the Tesco in the Navan Shopping Centre at the last minute with a grand wee pair of wrap around ear buds for a handy €9.99, instantly cementing my affection for all things Navan-related.


Almost all things.

It was a gorgeous day for the most part. The course took in two laps of a 6.55 mile block, starting on the Newline and running left hand through Ongenstown towards the Navan Athboy road,cleft on the Boyerstown road and back to the Bohermeen Community Centre, with a couple of crossings over the dual-carriageway and some tough hills in between. I’d gotten a bit of slagging for showing up in a beanie-hat and long-sleeved jersey, but barely an hour in, it started to bucket down hailstones. Ollie:1, Nature:0! My ankles were a bit sore after the end of the first lap and legs were really heavy by the two-hour mark. By the end, the sweat was bucketing out from under my beanie-hat and I was thinking of nothing only the goodie-bag waiting in the car with the crisps and the strawberry protein shake. The goodie-bag also contained a free pen from Chris Curtis Kitchens & Wardrobes – a superb consolation prize if ever there was one.

I wasn’t too sore afterwards but I had crazy carb-cravings for days afterwards. Within about half an hour of finishing, I’d torn through a protein shake, a sportsfuel bar, several tubs of fruit smoothies and soup, a couple of bread rolls and some biscuits. And so it went on for days. For the last four days, I’ve eaten and slept roughly twice as much as normal, and I’m just beginning to feel like my old self now! Given the amount of runs in the near future, my only goals were to avoid injury and to finish the event without taking any walking breaks, which except for two brief water-stops, I managed. The next three races are scheduled for Galway next Saturday (March 10th), Connemara (April 1st) and the Clare Madventure Marathon on April 15th (26 odd miles of running on the open hillsides of Ballycuggran … job!) One thing’s for sure, I’ll never be short of a few spare t-shirts this year. Final finishing time: 2hours, 9 minutes, 34 seconds. Roll on Saturday!

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