The day may have dawned misty, but nothing could dampen the spirits of the intrepid band of merry runners who set out to conquer the inaugural Marconi Half Marathon in Connemara.

Comprising of a good number of participants from the locality and indeed wider Galway area, there was also a very good international entry. France, the UK, Spain, Canada, Switzerland, Poland and Germany were all represented. William 'Bill' Chittick and his wife made the trip all the way from Indiana in the USA. Joao Soares and Salvatore Cicero flew the flag for Portugal and Italy respectively, while anyone who met Yvonne Kertsch will long remember the 'flying blue kneepads' of the lady from the Czech Republic!

After collecting the race-packs and goody bags, it was time to load up the buses in Clifden and transport everyone to Gurteen Beach, just outside of Roundstone. A DJ and some cracking music were on-hand to welcome everybody to the starting line, while Alan Quin of Alan Quin Fitness in Galway lead a pre-race warmup to ensure that everyone was limber, fresh and ready to go. At 10am, the hooter sounded and off they went!

Up the Gurteen Rd., then turning right heading for Roundstone. Determined looks allied to positive demeanours. Larry Kelly was acting as pacer for a group aiming for 1hr30, Kilian Dooley led the 1hr 45 and Joanne O'Boyle had a good motley bunch with her all aiming to break the 2hr mark. Through the beautiful village of Roundstone with supporters on hand to cheer on the runners as they ran past the twin harbours. On out heading north towards the Twelve Bens, before turning onto The Old Bog Road at Mile 5. Here the race took on a real earthy feel, as mile after mile of uninterrupted communion with nature greeted the athletes, punctuated only by water stations where copious amounts of Jelly Babies were the delicacy of the day! These same bogs provided the fuel for Marconi over 100 years ago as his transmitting station in Errislannen carried the 1st commercial transatlantic communications from Glace Bay in Canada to Clifden, whereby they were then relayed on to the rest of Ireland and western Europe. A little known fact to many, but worth commemorating nonetheless. To Marconi...!

At mile 11, the bog road was exited and onto the homeward winding stretch into Clifden, crossing the Salt Lake bridge and passing by Monastery Field - the home of the Connemara Blacks rugby team. The race finish was just off the Square in the centre of town, directly opposite Gannon Sports, and a good crowd had gathered to welcome home the victorious competitors. First past the post was Oliver Mullins in a time of 1:21:11, closely followed by Gearóid Hynes of Galway City Harriers in 2nd and David Corcoran in 3rd. In the ladies race Sinead Brody took the honours in 1:29:36, with Tina Corcoran in 2nd and Eleanor Rainsford in 3rd. Medals were presented to each and every participant as they crossed the line and the joy of completing the inaugural Marconi Half Marathon was evident in the backs being clapped and high-fives going up all round... and rightly so! There were plenty of celebrations in particular when 2hr Pacer Joanne O'Boyle led home her merry crew of Rose Young, Jackie Morris-Burke, Marjorie Thibault and Michael Diamond in a time of 1:59:33. As the runners streamed across the finish line, the atmosphere was electric and a DJ kept the tunes pumping. Well deserved tea, coffee and nibbles were provided in The Alcock & Brown Hotel where old and new friends alike swapped stories of a great day out, and everything was wrapped up with the presentation of trophies and prizes to the various category winners.
A special mention must go out to Bartley Walsh, who took to the course in a Handbike and flew round in 1:08:17, and also to Pól Mac Conleitreach who was inspirational in completing the race having undergone a kidney transplant. Truly, two awesome athletes, who both epitomised the Marconi mantra "Being challenged in life is inevitable, Being defeated is optional". Hats off to them, and indeed all who took part in Marconi Half Marathon 1.0.

Roll on 2014 and here's to seeing some familiar faces again, as well as welcoming a new bunch of recruits!

Marconi Half Marathon, Connemara, Ireland

Official Results:

1st   Oliver Mullins        1:21:11
2nd Gearóid Hynes       1:21:48
3rd  David Corcoran     1:22:32

M40 Mark Walsh           1:25:53
M50 John Joyce            1:37:54
M60 Michael Greene    1:43:53

1st   Sinead Brody          1:29:36
2nd Tina Corcoran        1:43:35
3rd  Eleanor Rainsford 1:45:08

W40 Mary Molloy         1:48:29
W50 Mary Byrne           1:57:34
W60 Rose Young           1:59:30

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Courtesy of Thomas King!

Ed. Note: Congrats to MTB on finishing, more or less, in one piece!