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Halfway There: Kennedy Kane McArthur Centenary Marathon

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.

Not a popular opinion, I know.

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.

The Supremes out in force!

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

Coffee Morning for Reachout & Other Good News

The story so far is pretty positive; I’ve finished nine marathons so far with the tenth due on Saturday, with no injuries to report. But more importantly, €1,384 has been raised so far for Reach Out, which is slightly over 25% of our target. With that in mind, the third fundraising event of the year will be a coffee morning held at St Brigid’s Hall, Dunleer, Co. Louth at 10.30am next Friday.

Directions can be found here

Also if you’re on Facebook, I have it setup as a public event, please invite your friends, even if it’s just to make them aware of Reach Out. All support is very much appreciated.

By the way, the good news I mentioned in the title? Very soon, I’ll be contributing articles for, which is Ireland’s biggest running website and attracts 400,000 unique visitors per year. Naturally, I’m very excited about this and hope that it will the campaign gain even more momentum. There’s a lot to be positive about today!

Waterford Viking Marathon

4:58am, June 30, 2011

Woo! T-minus a couple of minutes till I have to drag my groggy head out of bed, and pretty soon I’ll be drinking enough coffee to kill a small hippo (Editor’s note: Don’t kill hippos, they’re endangered). I feel a familiar twinge in my left shin – a souvenir from the Midnight Marathon in Leixlip – my right heel feels like a brick and I know it will so much worse after this is over.

The Waterford Viking Marathon is on today. It’s the first time Waterford has hosted a full-length marathon and there should be around 1,000 runners on the course today. For me, it’s number nine of the year, nearly halfway through the Running for Reachout challenge.

5.45am-8.00am, June 30, 2011

More coffee, a couple of bagels and a lucozade later, and I’m on the road from Louth to Waterford. I feel like I should be more pumped up, but it’s spilling rain on the M1 and unfortunately the only radio station I can pick up is 2FM, which is in the middle of its own marathon of moody angst-pop.

I guess listening to Alanis Morrisette while trying to get psyched up for a marathon could be considered Ironic…

Otherwise, the trip goes swimmingly; the weather eventually picks up and I’m making good time. My phone runs out of charge at a petrol station on the M9 and I find myself staring longingly at the blank screen, wondering if I’ve missed any important Facebook status updates. Hmmm, I think I have a problem…..


The weirdest thing just happened! While getting changed at Waterford IT, I had two scoops of 4:1 High 5 all-in-one energy drink. Instantly, every pain and ache vanished; mere moments beforehand, I was concerned about being able to even finish, now I feel like I can run a sub 3-hour. It truly is the breakfast of champions!

And if you’d like me to shamelessly plug YOUR product, why not rattle off an email to

We have a good gang in attendance from the 100 Marathon Club, making the short bus-trip from Waterford IT to the Mall. We arrive with just enough time to run through a last-minute checklist:

Gels & Gear ✓

Timing chip/number ✓

Garmin/heart-rate monitor ready ✓

With literally moments to go before we start, I’m told that iPods are banned from the race for safety reasons – looks like I have to spend the next few hours listening to my own feet cracking off the road. Dammit.


And we’re off!! The first mile takes us on a loop past the Custom House quays and back again. Everyone’s still pretty comfortable and chatty; topics of conversation include next year’s Tralee marathon, the upcoming 24 hour race in Bangor, just exactly how much of a wuss I was for pulling out of last week’s race in Salthill (the consensus was “a huge wuss”) and so on. After about two or three miles, most of the club members pull away. I keep going with Pat and Jimmy for the most of the first half. So far, so good.


Then nearly halfway through, this happened.

At this point, once I hit the hill from hell, I’m slowing right down. I’m no longer keeping up with any of the 100 Club lads, both my feet are swollen, my shin feels like it has a stress fracture … and there’s still just over half the race still to come! By the time we get out off the country-roads and into Tramore, I’m running completely flat-footedly and have precious little mobility left in my ankles. The split times take a nose-dive.

I should mention that the 18-minute mile was when I met Deirdre from the Waterford sports injury clinic; she gave me a quick leg massage at the side of the road and loosened out my ankles. So at this point, I’ve basically given up. My quads are gone, I’ve gone from a shuffle to a walk and not even a particularly fast walk at that.


Then, like a damn mirage or some other manner of exhaustion-induced illusion, the 35-marathon man randomly pops up in front of me.

I could tell it was him because of the sustained hum in A flat.

That’s Alan Corcoran; I mentioned him once before on the blog because he just ran a 917-mile long lap of Ireland in aid of the Irish Heart Foundation, consisting of 35 marathons in 35 days. The Waterford Viking Marathon was his final marathon. And all kidding aside, he’s an amazing dude and you should definitely check out his campaign on his website and here on Facebook and Twitter.

So anyway, I look up and Alan’s randomly popped up a few metres in front of me. On the spot, I decided that if this guy could run and finish 35 consecutive marathons, I could stick with him for the last 5.2 miles (turned out to be nearly 5.4).


Which turned out not to be easy at all. At this stage, I had been contemplating perhaps walking 15-minute miles for the rest of the race. Meanwhile, Alan and the two guys on bicycles with him have other plans and are hauling ass, going ten minutes and under in the last stages. Gradually I loosen up slightly, and we start passing more and more guys until eventually we reached the RSC race-track and I …. well, got a bit of ahead of myself and stopped running at the entrance-gate, thinking it was the finish-line. Cue a mad 200-yard dash to the ACTUAL finish-line!

By the end of that, Alan was in SIGNIFICANTLY better shape than I was, somersaulting over line while I looked like I was just about to keel over it.

So ended a bloody hard day out in Waterford. So that’s nine marathons now completed and I’m looking forward to three weeks off until the Kennedy Kane MacArthur Centenary in Antrim. Well done to Liam Farrell (a fellow Drogheda & District AC member running on the day), the guys and girls from the 100 Club and of course Alan, who you can sponsor by checking out his donations page here. If you’d like to sponsor me, I have these fantastic little green buttons you can click on (cos I’m so techy!) And if you do, I will loudly proclaim your awesomeness from my twitter-hilltop!

Oliver started running marathons last March and has completed nine of them so far in aid of ReachOut – for more information about the work of ReachOut and the Inspire Foundation, check out their Website

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