Last Friday, I drove 250 kilometres in the middle of the night from Islandbridge, Dublin, to Dervock, Co. Antrim, so I could run in the Kennedy Kane McArthur Centenary the next morning. That night, myself and a group of friends had been indulging our own marathon … of Batman movies. The plan was to watch the two previous movies in the trilogy and then see the Dark Knight Rises on the Sunday.
I never did get to The Dark Knight; by the time we finished with the first movie, it was well past time to get moving. I didn’t think to eat anything or have a place to sleep booked before leaving; all that mattered was getting to Dervock, incidentally making the implicit admission that some things may be more important than Batman.
So began a journey that was sure to test my sanity, and was filled with your typical road-trip fare, i.e. vehicle trouble and the sat-nav helpfully running out of power with twenty miles to go. Of course, by the time the car eventually reached Dervock (3am), it was too late to do anything other than clear out the back seat and kick back for some much needed shut eye. After a few hours of tossing and turning, I finally relented and rang up a few B&Bs. Surprisingly; one of them answered the phone at 5am. Even more surprisingly, they actually took me in. There were no beds left at that stage, so the next morning my fellow travelers were much amused to find me plonked down in a sleeping-bag on the dining room floor. Still, I’ve never been more grateful for three hours sleep so the least I owe them is a quick plug; if you’re ever stuck overnight in Dervock, Burnbrig House would be well worth your visit. It also turned out that most of the guys from the 100 Club were staying there as well.
After breakfast, we were on our way to the start-line at St. Colman’s. For the uninitiated, Kennedy Kane McArthur was an athlete born in Dervock in 1881. After emigrating to South Africa at the age of 20, he began to train as a marathon runner and won a shock victory over Olympic silver-medallist Charles Hefferon in 1908. He later bettered Hefferon’s achievement by winning the marathon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm (hence the centenary festival) before retiring undefeated due to a foot injury. The course would be two gruelling laps of a loop from the Knock Road, through Rose Yards and Stranocum, around to the Knockmore Rd and Moycraig Road, before coming back around to the church again. Translation: Hills, and lots of them!
The last few moments before we began were pretty hectic; most of the 117 runners showed up fifteen to twenty minutes beforehand, so there was a definite whiff of organised chaos at the start-line. And then we were off. I remember being relaxed enough as we came down through Dervock and around past the Garry Forest. But after six miles, as we came into Stranocum, I heard the two words you never want to hear from my iPod – “Battery low.” The moment when I realized I’d have to listen to my feet cracking off the road for the rest of the race (I REALLY hate that) was easily the worst moment of the first lap. The hills were also difficult; in a couple of early patches, there was elevation of over 100 feet per mile. With the possible exception of the Connemarathon, I’d say this was my toughest road-race of the year in terms of elevation. On the plus side, there were two loops, as Gerry Forde said at the beginning of lap 2, “At least we know what’s coming!”
What was coming was about four hours of crazy heat, so much so that I had to ditch the ‘Running for Reachout’ t-shirt on a signpost, and pick it up on the second lap. (I hope the guys at Reach Out weren’t too put out about that!) Also there were nine miles of hills, followed by a relatively flat patch about four miles long near the end of the loop. The course started getting a bit smoother roughly around a spot with an unusual-looking tree formation hanging across the road. Plus, there was a good group of people around that area to cheer us on, which is always fun!
The first thirteen miles followed the same pattern as the Midnight Marathon and the Waterford Marathon some weeks before; I managed to run them all at a pace under nine minutes per mile. Then, from mile 13-20 I slipped back to around twelves minutes per mile. Finally, I mostly pulled back it about ten minutes per mile going into the finish. That quickening was mostly due to meeting up with 100 Club guys, and managing to stick with Kathleen Cheshire until the end. We even got in a fast mile at the end, despite one last hill that was plonked right front of the finish-line, which we weren’t too impressed with! But that’s a very minor quibble, overall it was a very challenging and ultimately satisfying course to finish; my time was 04:19:51. Congratulations to everyone at the club, several of whom came in around the 3:30 mark. For me, it marks the halfway point in the ‘Running for ReachOut’ challenge – 10 marathons finished, 10 still to come!
My original article ‘From Batman to Ken McArthur’ can be found here, at runireland.com