Another March and another trip down to West Cork and the Ballycotton 10. This is a classic road race that has been going for 29 years, and has increased in size from the 30 brave souls who competed back in the 70's to yesterdays 4000 entrants (although only 2800 completed the course).
It was a cold spring day when I left Dublin at 7 am to drive the 175 miles down to Cork, and clear roads meant I made the journey in little over 3 hours, beating the road closures around the small coastal village of Ballycotton, and making the local car park. The race wasn't due off until 1:30, so plenty of time to meet up with friends and take in the coastal air before warming up and stripping down a good hour before the start so as to ensure a good starting position. With narrow roads, and over 4000 entrants, we are all felt it wise to get as near to the front as possible.
The race start was delayed by 15 minutes to account for the numbers, and despite a few youngsters being up front with us, we were all in good spirit. The marshall who shepherded the youngsters to the sidelines with a couple of minutes to go before the start deserves credit for diplomacy and avoiding the sight of young kids getting trampled when the gun went.
Now, at the start of the year I was aiming at running 80 minutes for this race, given where I was at Xmas, but a good race last month over 5 miles, clocking 36 minutes, saw me changing my goal and looking nearer 75 minutes as a target.
To this event I started off, knowing that the first two miles are downhill, and as this is an out and back course, the last two miles are uphill. So, try and go off steady, hold the middle of the race, saving something for the finish - at least that was the plan!
The first mile was good, ran 7:05, a little fast maybe, but the good positioning at the start line meant little weaving was required, and I maintained this pace thru 2 miles, clocking 7:09 for mile 2. Now this was too fast and I knew I needed to reign back a little, as I didn't want to blow up, so I consciously slowed down, no doubt causing others to wonder what was up, and probably cursing me, but I checked right back running around 8 minutes for Mile 3, and allowing others to pull ahead. I have to confess I wasn't pressing my watch each mile, so the splits are from memory (I wrote them down as best I could recall not long after finishing), but there were clocks at many of the mile markers and timekeepers calling the times at each mile. Mile 3 was actually my slowest mile.
I was around 10 seconds faster for each of the next 4 miles, and feeling good at this pace, around 7:50 and with 3 miles to go I was checking my body out and by now was running alongside a young woman. I'm not sure if I was pulling her along, or she was pushing me, but we were certainly running together. We never spoke but we ran in tandem for most of the second half of the race, and although she wouldn't know it she certainly helped me out, keeping my pace - Thank you..
Knowing that the last mile and a half were up hill, I was ready and raring to take on the challenge. Myself and my new found running partner were pushing up the first climb, passing people, and I was feeling confident. A check of the watch saw that at Mile 9 I would almost have to run sub 7 on the last climb to break 76 minutes, a time I didn't feel comfortable in achieving. But I got my head down, and pushed. I lost my partner, but continued to push hard, passing many runners, and targeting a woman runner I had seen at Mile 1, who was well ahead of me.
Well, I didn't quite catch my woman runner, but I caught everyone else and my last mile was 6:56 seeing me home at 1:15:50 and a new M45 PR. Sadly the official results have me down as 1:16:08 which I know to be wrong, but I hear tonight that the official time clocks went down during the race so they were left with hand timing, but I know what I ran and am pleased with my run. Connemara and the Marathon in 3 weeks is next - I'll keep you posted!