Published in Reports on 3rd April 2012
To begin our tales of joy and woe, Jane Mangan has sent in the following race report of her day out in a very sunny Connemara.
Stepping off the bus in Leenane I had a strange sense of calm. It was a beautiful day, Connemara was spectacular and everyone was in good form. Wanting to conserve my energy for what lay ahead, I lay low and found a quiet corner, sat down and chilled out –90 minutes to go. The next hour seemed to fly by and before I knew it, it was time to leave off my bag. Final check – gum, ipod, gels – I was good to go!
On route to the bag drop I spotted the familiar maroon and white of my fellow Athenry club members – we huddled together at the starting line, exchanging game plans (or lack of!) and nervous energy started to flow. I knew what I wanted- average 10 minute miles and to get up THAT hill. The starter sounded and we were off! We were through Leenane and heading up hill no 1. It was crowded and in my head I could hear Tomas saying “ignore your watch for the first hill- take your time” I hung back and tried to relax. As the hill levelled out I peeked at my watch, 10:30..a bit to catch up but I tried not to panic. As I warmed up I started to feel good and my pace improved. By mile 3 I was averaging 9:45 and felt mighty! I can honestly say I quite enjoyed the next 5 miles. I had allowed myself to walk while taking my gel at 4 miles and yet was still around the 9:45 pace. It was feeling great to be part of such an iconic event and again Connemara was stunning under the clear blue sky. By this stage several of the Athenry marathon runners had passed by -thanks for the words of encouragement as you seemed to glide by.
Mile 9 and things were heating up. All the slopes up were starting to feel like hills and with the sun beating down I was running to the shade at every opportunity. Turning right to Maam Cross and a crowd of well wishers had gathered. It seemed to spark a bit of life back into me and I was off again…but I knew what lay ahead.
And then, there it was –“the hell of the west” I could see the spiral of runners ahead of me and it looked like it would go on forever. At this point tiredness hit (or maybe it was the wall), I tried to play mental games – I was Frodo Baggins trying to get up Mount Doom on my way to saving middle Earth (this will mean nothing unless you’re a Lord of the Rings fan!) but nothing could lift me out of this feeling of exhaustion. I was now gasping for air and my heart was thumping – I was slowing to average 9:50 … then 9:55. I was getting nowhere. There was no way I was going to be able to run up that hill …not on this day. As my average hit 10:00 and I still had a mile of the hill to go, it was time for plan B. I had to give in and catch my breath. I started walking – well it was a bit of a march (we Northerners are good at that!). My time continued to slide but I had no time to feel sorry for myself. A marshal shouted that we were near the top – it was time to get going again. I prayed that my legs would still work and at least I could breathe again. And so it was up and over the top. I could see that there was a decent incline so I gave it my all. Amazingly the next mile felt good and was sub 9 minutes. I was so grateful to the shouts of encouragement from the people who had come to watch. I heard a familiar voice – Sinead Reilly and then another – Mairead Blake. (Guys you have no idea, how great it was to see you there!). I could see Peacock’s in the distance, but it was starting to hurt again. At this stage I was afraid I wouldn’t make it but I had to keep going. The final kilometre seemed to take forever.. I could see the word “finish” but it couldn’t come fast enough for me. Where the hell were the mats and when could I stop. It finally came and it was over. Not what I had planned but I’ll take the 2:13:15. Connemara is over ….the battle for Limerick city has begun!