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Posts tagged ‘Road Running’

A Monster Update – Hikes, Bikes, PBs and Muck!

With the exception of the Docklands Run report, it has been a while since I’ve written anything new, so apologies to everyone who has continued to read the old posts. The website recently passed the 20,000 view mark – I don’t know where exactly that stands in the pantheon of blog-hits, but it’s a hell of a lot more than I originally expected, which was exactly zero. So thank you for that!

Mile Trial:

So what’s been happening? For the most part, I’ve been plugging away at the shorter distances; it turns out that when you’re not running marathons every other week, the PBs will come tumbling down! You may remember I actually ran a 10k in proper running gear for a change (i.e. no Santa Suit, no ballgown). On that occasion, my time was cut down from just under an hour to 41 minutes and 23 seconds. Not long afterwards, Drogheda and District AC hosted their monthly Mile Trials, which I decided was the perfect opportunity to show up at the track in a Saw Doctors t-shirt…


…with the sleeves ripped off for “aerodynamic purposes”. By the way, if you get that joke – congratulations, you grew up in Ireland in the 2000s. ūüôā

As is their habit, Drogheda and District AC had two mile trial events, one on the Tuesday and another on the Thursday. As is my habit, I didn’t change my training one iota beforehand – these days I do mostly weightlifting and for cardio, I cross-train three or four times per week. However, a couple of things happened that were distinctly unexpected – on the first occasion, I managed to cut my one-mile PB down to 5 minutes 39 seconds. Furthermore, unlike almost every other time I’ve cut the PB down, I was able to walk away from the race. No lungs burning, no feeling of imminent heart-attack, no taste of iron in the back of my throat – I still had more to give. Being a glutton for punishment, I decided to have another stab at it on Thursday. On this occasion, I managed to get my splits almost perfect, just over 1min20sec a lap, with an intense sprint to the finish-line alongside Declan Monaghan. Just beating him by a whisker, I came in at 5 minutes and 29 seconds. It seemed that the lucky t-shirt had done its job.

A Weekend of Fun-Runs:

After that came madness. Shivvy Hickey, Jennifer Tweed, Alan Keegan and myself have formed something of an informal running club over the last few months, imaginatively named Team JenAlShivOl. Jenny ,being a vital cog in the wheel of Team JenAlShivOl, was understandably annoyed when she broke her ankle at a Hell and Back-style obstacle race. (Since then, she has ditched the cast and is, in her own words, hobbling around like an 80 year old. Go Jenny!) The only problem was we had a packed schedule of races that weekend – with a 10k obstacle course on the Saturday and a 5k Rainbow Run on the Sunday. Crutches and road-races being exceedingly poor bedfellows, it was up to our fellow DCU alumnus and floppy haired science-man Dave Grimes to fill in.


Leading to the most epic pre-race photo of all time.

The Rainbow Run was a relatively short dalliance around the West Pier in D√ļn Laoghaire. Fun but not overly challenging – more of a Facebook photo opportunity than a serious race. The Mad Craic race was more difficult, being more than twice as long, taking place on a soaking wet day and littered with charming obstacles such as haystacks, neck-deep rivers and barbed wire.


Also, this happened.

The Half-Marathon: Trimming the Fat

However, all of this was prelude to the main event. On August 5th came a race that Shivvy and myself had both been looking forward to for a long time – the Dublin Rock n Roll Half-Marathon. I had only ever competed in one half-marathon before; it was in a tiny Meath parish called Bohermeen back in March 2012. I had technically kicked off the ‘Running for Reachout’ project the previous December and it was slowly dying on its arse. I had no idea if I could run a marathon, never mind 20 of them.¬† I knew nobody in the running community, had never competed in anything before, and had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that marathon season didn’t start until April and I needed to do SOMETHING. I vaguely remember showing up in a cotton t-shirt, 3/4 length shorts, and a woolen beanie, looking like a complete tool. After finishing in 2 hours and 9 minutes, I harassed a random bystander into taking my picture at the finish-line, holding up the participants’ t-shirt, and called it a day. Like I said, a complete tool.¬† So 18 months onward, the half-marathon in Dublin would be a nice way to bring the project full-circle. With the benefit of those months of added experience, and some excellent Dublin bands rocking out at the water stops, I managed to cut 35 minutes off the Bohermeen time, coming in at 1 hour, 33 minutes and 43 seconds.


Going Forward:

Going forward, I have some slightly different goals for the rest of the year. On Tuesday, I just got back from finishing my Adventure Journey project for a President’s award programme that I’m doing. That project eventually became an 80km monster of a hike, which involved summiting 24 peaks over four insane days; THAT will be getting a post all to itself.

A couple more assorted goals for the year, just so you guys can keep me honest – I want to go for my bronze award in the Marathon Club of Ireland, which is presented on completion of 25 marathons/ultramarathons. Currently, I’m on 20, so you do the math! In terms of aiming for time improvements, I still have to find a 5k, which I’ll be aiming to finish in under 20 minutes. Also, I’m going to have another go at the Eddie Murphy Double-Marathon in November, which I never technically finished the last time.

When all this is done, I’ll be going back to the drawing board, and concentrating on reducing my one-mile time. While I do have an ultimate goal in mind…

ultimate goal… the first step is taking a minute off my one-mile time (As I said, that’s currently 5.29) Can it be done? I haven’t a clue. But it’s going to be fun trying.

Dedicated to Kate Fitzgerald – 26th June 1986 – 23rd August 2011.

Ben McGilloway’s 250Km Challenge

I have been decidedly less than stellar when it comes to updating the blog, especially since finishing the last marathon in Leixlip. But I’d like to let you guys know about a friend of mine, Ben McGilloway, who is embarking on a loony running mission on his own. By next November, he plans to clock up 250 sanctioned racing kilometers to raise money for charities that help those affected by still births or neonatal deaths – namely the Sophie-Ellen Foundation, the Little Life Time Foundation and Feileacain. Ben is already seven races (or 60 kilometers) into his challenge with many more still to come.

If you’d like to support Ben on his journey, the 250KM Challenge for the Sophie-Ellen Foundation is now on Facebook, Twitter, and you can sponsor him by going to


Ben at the finish-line of the Wexford 10k race in April

Fundraising Complete! Thanks for Your Support!

Well technically we hit ‚ā¨5,000 back on the 9th of January. But yesterday, it was with great satisfaction that I left in the last few offline donations with the guys at the ReachOut office. In the end, the actual total raised was ‚ā¨5,001.20!

I’d like to say a very special thank you to all my fellow bloggers who supported and contributed to the campaign. Thanks as well to ReachOut for the opportunity and everyone (online and offline) who was involved in putting this project together; it’s been a challenging but singularly rewarding year and I’m very grateful for the experience. For anyone who needs reminding of what the funds raised from all these marathons will be going to, is a service provided by the Inspire Ireland foundation that helps young people with regard to a wide variety of mental health issues ‚Äď from drugs and alcohol to suicide and self-harm, from exam stress to bullying. If you know someone who might benefit from that service, I would urge you to please go to¬†to get more information.


Locking Up 2012: Marathon #20 of the Year

Wet, muddy and cold. That’s the only way to describe the last marathon of the year. At 8am on New Year’s Eve, myself and 32 hardy souls from around the country gathered at the Le Cheile AC clubhouse in Leixlip, whereupon we were¬†bused¬†out to Westmeath. We went through the usual pre-marathon pictures and chatted with each other about plans for 2013, before leaving Furey’s bar and trudging down towards the start-line. I knew we were going to be running alongside the Royal Canal – however, I did not realise it was going to be a “cross-country” affair…


Completely flat course they said…. it’ll be grand they said….


And so it was with some trepidation that we set off. With all the fundraising activity in December (together with your general Christmas madness) I was feeling pretty exhausted the day before. Given that was the case, I was surprised to find myself ticking along quite well for the first 15 miles, jumping over most of the gates along the pathway.


(Editor’s note: If you should find yourself¬†passing¬†through gates on a country-marathon, never ever do this…it’s not big and it’s not clever!)

As expected, the course was almost completely flat, with the only real inclines being at the road crossing points and the bridges. However, the muddy conditions underfoot significantly increased the difficulty. At best, your legs would be shredded from trying to push off without a firm footing. At worst, it became impossible to go any faster than a light jog. At about the 12 mile mark, I put my foot in a rabbit-hole and hit the ground – thankfully I wasn’t injured. All that being said, my biggest problem came from my own lack of foresight. I hadn’t ran a self-supported marathon in months, and had neglected to bring any supplies other than a few small bottles of water. From about 18 miles in, Finn O’Mara, Brian Ankers, Finn O’Mara and myself walk-jogged in a group – 4 minutes on, 30 seconds off. As you can see, by 23 miles in, I was in serious trouble. By that stage, I had very low levels of sugar and electrolytes in my system and had almost fainted twice. Apparently, Finn was somewhat concerned about me falling into the canal at one point….

As has been in the case in the past, I owe a lot to the generosity of my fellow runners. As they passed by, the guys from Le Cheile AC were generous with chocolate and energy gels, and Finn actually stayed with me through the last three miles. And then, finally (almost miraculously), it was over!


That is the smile of a guy with 20 marathons in his past, and a lot of junk food in his near future….

We’re only slightly over ‚ā¨160 short of the target of ‚ā¨5,000 for ReachOut, with a few sponsorship cards still to collect, so fingers crossed we’ll meet that goal. For my own part, I’d just like to say a very sincere thank you to everyone who helped me through the year, whether by donating, or by spreading the word about the campaign. And of course, have a great new year, hope it brings you guys health, happiness and¬†prosperity¬†(along with plenty of worn-out running shoes). ūüôā

Photos courtesy of Rory Mooney (see his original set on Flickr here), Pat O’Keefe and Eamonn Dargan.

90% of Fundraising Target Passed!

Anything more than a week away from the wild, weird world of WordPress seems like an eternity to me! Sure enough, I have loads of stuff to report on since the night of the Volunteer Ireland awards. But for the moment, the great news of the day is that Running for Reachout has raised ‚ā¨4,591.20!

We had a bagpacking event in the SuperValu in Ardee Co. Louth and had four rotating teams of volunteers who outdid themselves, raising an unbelievable ‚ā¨1456 for the Inspire foundation (! I’m pretty exhausted right now and as a result, my brain currently feels like it’s composed mainly of strawberry jam. When this effect wears off (read: when I get my morning coffee), I’ll get cracking on a proper post with all the news!

Volunteer Ireland Awards are tomorrow…

I have news! First things first, I know I’ve been promising to upload a report on the Dublin marathon for the past month. It never quite happened, but at the same time, I was putting together an article for It details the journey from the Connemara 100-miler to the Dublin marathon (and everything that transpired in between). That article is called ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’,¬†appropriately¬†enough, and it can be found here.

Another thing which I’m really excited about is being nominated for a Volunteer Ireland award. I was told about the nomination a few weeks ago, and am shortlisted in the ‘Campaigning and Awareness Raising‘ section. The presentation is in Dublin City Hall tomorrow evening, so I’ll let you guys know how it goes! In the meantime, please check out their website; there are many other nominees doing fantastic things in their communities, and they also have a great article which is very¬†pertinent¬†to the work done by Reach Out Ireland – ‘Volunteering Benefits Positive Mental Health‘.

Eddie Murphy Double-Marathon

Just a short and sweet report this week – in sharp contrast to the race itself, I might add. I was running in the Eddie Murphy Memorial last Sunday – the race was to commemorate the life of an Irish runner named Eddie Murphy, who had completed 45 marathons before his untimely death in April 2011. There was a half-marathon, full marathon, a 30-mile ultra and a 52.4 mile double-marathon on the day. Between the four events, there were 100 competitors, of which 17 (including yours truly) attempted the double.

It was an absolutely miserable day in Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare from start to finish. The route was run on a one-mile loop of the village. If memory serves correctly, about one third of that loop was uphill, which was fine at the beginning but got progressively more difficult as the day wore on. We began the double at 7am and the rain began to pelt down a couple of hours later. It never stopped. About halfway through, gale-force headwinds began to push against us on the downhill portion of the route Рso much for the recovery part of the route! At one point near the end, I even saw a lightning strike in a nearby field Рthat really speaks volumes about the mentality of the competitors, lightning literally struck and nobody batted an eyelid!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I failed to finish this time. Obviously it was incredibly disappointing, firstly because that had never happened to me before and secondly, because I was only seven or eight miles from the end. However, the medical team judged that I was pretty close to hypothermia, and made a judgment call. In hindsight, it turned out to be correct, although at the time, it didn’t stop me complaining in the loudest possible language! After about an hour in the back of the ambulance, the lads dropped me off at a local B&B, where I stayed on till lunchtime the next day. I’d just like to say a quick word of thanks to them for looking after me, and getting me back to said B&B in once piece! Final stats on the day were 46 miles in just over nine and a half hours. Tomorrow morning, I’m back on the road for a marathon in the Phoenix Park. Soon after that’s done, I’ll hopefully have a full report up from the Dublin marathon from the end of October. For now, some shut-eye is definitely required…


Fundraising Passes the ‚ā¨3000 Mark!

Excellent news! Sponsorship is now just over 60% of the way towards the target of ‚ā¨5,000 by the end of December. As always, a very sincere thank you to everyone who has donated and helped out along the way. For a reminder of the why your support is so important, please check out Roisin Doolan’s guest-blog from last May – ‘Helping Young People through Tough Times’¬† Please continue to support the campaign, the next race on the list is Sunday’s 52 mile ultra-marathon in Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare!
-Ollie <<< Sponsorship Link

Dublin Marathon – Take Two

Okay for this post, I am most definitely wearing my Marathon Club hat. If there’s anyone out there who feels that one marathon in Dublin this year just wasn’t enough (and that doesn’t mind “dodging wild deer” as a bonus challenge…), make sure to sign up for the ‘West of Ireland’ series in the Phoenix Park on Saturday, November 24th.

This is the first time that the Marathon Club of Ireland has put on a ‘West of Ireland’ marathon anywhere east of County Offaly (which is great for me, since I might actually get a full night’s sleep before this one!). Our own Frank McDermott has put together a fantastic course in the Phoenix Park which takes in two short loops at the beginning, followed by five large (and hilly) loops directly afterwards. (Click on the screenshots below for more details)

In all honesty, I actually can’t wait for this one; I understand there are still a few places remaining (the places for this one are capped at 50 and there might be no on-the-morning sign-ups) so if you want to enter, go to this link at and click ‘Enter now’. The race will be starting at 9.30am, so best advice is to be there by 8.30am. And of course, if you see us don’t forget to cheer us on! ūüėČ

Serious Fun at Barretstown

I’d like to tell you guys about a wonderful place I went to in October. Spoiler alert – it has absolutely nothing to do with running for a change! Months and months ago, I sent in an application to volunteer as a cara at Barretstown Castle in Co. Kildare. ‘Cara’ is Irish for ‘friend’ and Barretstown is a Spring/Summer/Autumn camp for children that have had cancer and serious blood diseases. It’s part of the network of Hole in the Wall camps founded by the actor Paul Newman. So basically, the caras were a group of guys and girls that came in and worked alongside activity leaders who work there the whole year round, and run activities like arts and crafts, canoeing, archery, fishing and high ropes.

Fortunately I was accepted for a weekend camp beginning last October 12th at 9am. The camp itself is located on the grounds of a castle at Ballymore Eustace in Kildare, which is quite out of the way and so I was pretty late arriving; by the time I got there, the caras were leaving the breakfast hall and moving onto the¬†theater¬†for training. This weekend was a family camp where the children would arrive with their whole families and stay in a village of about 13 cottages. So our training began in the morning and went on until about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when the families began to arrive. Until then, the caras spent the day practicing camp games, songs and of course, the Chi Chi Wa dance.

This was the only version I could find on¬†YouTube; there were a bunch of other songs and dances we practiced by Glee, Olly Murs, Justin Bieber… basically the sort of stuff I listen to all the time anyway ūüėÄ There were also a lot of games which involved introducing ourselves to each other in silly and creative ways, which in hindsight was great because by the time the families arrived, we all felt like we knew each other really well and could just jump into this experience straightaway. And it also did a total 180 on your mindset; there were more than a few awkward looks when we¬†realized¬†we’d be dancing around doing the chicken-legs with our¬†tongues¬†out; a few people were probably scanning the room for hidden cameras recording us making fools of ourselves! By the end of training, everybody was just relaxed and ready to make sure the kids were having fun and their families were enjoying themselves also. It was really a very short weekend for the families, lasting from about 4pm on Friday until 2pm on Sunday.

We spent that first evening getting to know our families through free flow activities such as balloon animals, arts & crafts and face-painting Рeach family was assigned enough caras so that there would always be two adults per child at all times. Dinner was a big event every evening; this was where all the dance-training was put to good use.

One of the funny things was that on the first night, only the kids would want to do the dancing before dinner; by the end the mums and dads would be up as well, getting into costumes and all sorts of craziness. It was a lot of fun.

On the Saturday morning, we had blocks of group games. Our group went into the drawing room in the actual castle and we did a bunch of silly games with the younger kids like putting a big red flag on a rope, getting everybody in a circle, and passing it around as quickly as we could until it was passed back to the first person. (In case you were wondering, our time was 19 seconds. A Barretstown record, or so we were told!) Later that morning was canoeing; where the activities leaders really came into their own, making up hilarious games to get the kids to put on their safety gear, playing tag in the canoes, throwing rubber ducks into the lake for them to collect – the biggest compliment I can pay the activity leaders is that our work, as caras, didn’t feel like work at all. Everyone was just having a blast.

If you ask anyone who has been to Barretstown, they will probably tell you about the New Heights. Just look at this!

There is very little I can add to that; there’s nothing quite as humbling, as satisfying or as wonderful¬†as watching a kid, who has spent a long time¬†hospitalized¬†and in a lot of pain with a serious life-threatening condition – and now they’re climbing a 40 foot tower, jumping through the air, grabbing a trapeze – and they’re loving every second of it. Then it’s their parents’ turn to climb and their turn to do the cheering, which is equally fun. We lucked out as Saturday was gloriously sunny so we got a great two-hour session and every child and parent had the time to do whatever they wanted on the high ropes.

Also every evening after dinner, there would be an evening program in the¬†theater; the first night was just a¬†free-flow¬†of fun activities – karaoke,¬†face-painting, giant Connect4, getting some unfortunate activity-leader in the stocks and pelting wet sponges at them… The second night was something closer to a¬†pantomime/scavenger hunt where one of the three little pigs had gone missing and we took the kids off in groups all over the castle looking for clues as to where the swine was hiding! I really don’t feel like I could possibly do the place justice – Barretstown was quite simply the most fun I’ve ever had. There is an element of¬†responsibility¬†insofar as you are looking after a group of children who have been through a really tough time. But honestly, the full-time staff are so good at their jobs, and the children were having so much fun as well, that it really does not feel like work at all. Quick example, one of the girls in our family (all of nine years old) was speculating at dinner-time about how much easier it would be if spaghetti was a fruit that grew on trees. Her dad and I both responded¬†immediately¬†that of course there are spaghetti trees and they only grow at Barretstown! This became something of a running joke that the rest of the caras got in on; every time she’d say something like “There’s no spaghetti trees really…. right?” we’d give a deadpan response “Oh yeah definitely, there are loads of them here.” By the last day, our insistence was no longer enough, solid evidence was required. So just a few minutes before the last dinner, we threw together a totally convincing “baby spaghetti tree”.

Like I said, TOTALLY convincing!

To get serious for just a second, I would really¬†recommend¬†to anyone reading that you get involved with Barretstown or one of the other Hole in the Wall camps in some way. ¬†The therapeutic recreation program is widely endorsed by medical professionals as having great benefits in rebuilding the confidence and self-esteem of children who’ve suffered with cancer and serious blood diseases, aiding their recovery and helping them acquire new skills. If you have children who would be eligible to take part, or know a family who could attend these camps, please check out the Parents & Families section of the Barretstown website for more information. Barretstown put on almost twenty camps throughout the whole year, and because Barretstown cover the costs of travel,¬†accommodation, food, medical care and activities for all the families and children, their annual costings come to about ‚ā¨4.5 million. If you can help out with fundraising in any way, please go to the How You Can Help¬†section of the website. Finally, if you’re considering volunteering your time as a cara, stop considering it and just do it! I only wish I’d kept a journal or at least written this post as soon as I got home because I’ve left out so much. It is quite simply the most fun and rewarding time you’ll ever have; I can promise you won’t regret it.

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