2005 AAI 10KM Road Championship - 24 April 2005

Mad Cows in Limerick

Peter Delmer

A day of high adventure started on the outskirts of Limerick

city yesterday. As I slowed the car approaching the Little

Chef roundabout on the way into the city, I sensed something

unusual then heard a rattle; stopped the car and the air was

filled with that lovely smell of burning that says ' this is

gonna spoil your day!'. Got the car off the road and spent

the obligatory 2mins under the bonnet pretending I had some

idea what was going on. Forget that, out with the mobile

phone to start making arrangements.

I dispatched my wife, Karen, off to Hospital, Co. Limerick

where she was heading to visit 'the cousin home from America'.

This was achieved by waking the said cousin from his Sunday

morning hangover to come and collect her. I then sat on the

side of the road to await the arrival of the rest of the

Athenry gang on route to Bilboa, East Limerick for the AAI 10k

Road Championship of Ireland. Squashed into the back seat of

Dave's car with James Lundon is not the greatest way to fine

tune the mental preparation for such an important race but the

conversation was lively ranging from food poisoning, to

Johnnie's late(!), to diahorea, to we're late(!!), to James'

intimate knowledge of the various affairs of everybody who

lived in a three mile radius of The Pit in Bilboa, to 'hurry

up Dave, we really are late'(!!!). This was James's


Our green-faced chauffer decided that numerous trips to the

bathroom that morning after a meal out in one of Galway's

favourite pizza restaurants the previous night was enough

exercise for the day. Casualty number one - Dave Dunne was a

DNS. As we negotiated the last two miles to Bilboa, weaving in

and out of athletes going through their warm-ups, the phone

rang and Johnny is in Ennis with 20mins to the start looking

for directions!!! DNS number two. At least we had two

supporters. One more casualty and the team was down to

two-thirds strength - no sign of Liam. (Liam where are you?)

Mad dash to get changed, sort out race numbers, a few laps of

the soccer pitch, no time for stretching and we're on the

start line. I bet it was never like this for Sonia. Sure

what were we worrying about? Long after we had rushed to the

start line to take up positions, eager athletes were strolling

up the hill to the start line. Sure what's the rush?

Off we go. Down the hill. The first mile is a mad dash of

running. Pounding feet. Breathing. Downhill buzz. Very

crowded. Don't trip. There's a gap. Brakes on. Now go. Wow

there's the first mile marker already. Oh no 5mins and 15

secs! Too fast. I had never ran a 5:15 mile in my life

before and I still had 5.2 miles to go. Time to slow down.

I had passed Mick on the downhill and found myself in familiar

company. TJ Whyte from Tuam, Martin McEvilly of GCH and

Martin Corcoran from Loughrea- all experienced campaigners -

and all able to beat me on the day. Now was the time to

settle in behind them and cruise for a bit. The second mile

marker flashed by in a 5:33 split! Not again! What am I

doing? Way too fast. The plan had been to hit 5:50 in the

second mile - this was suicidal. But somehow I felt ok.

Only in Ireland will you find a National Championship 10k race

which is marked out in miles. We may be all breaking

kilometre speed limits as we drive the roads but by God we run

miles in East Limerick! The third mile went by in 5:51 - on

the correct pace at last. Got a sheepish grin from Johnnie

who was stationed close to the three mile marker - that was as

close as he got to the start of the race. Beside him Dave was

looking much healthier and had changed from green to a pale


Only in Ireland will an elderly woman you never saw before

stand beside you - as happened Dave - to inform you proudly

that her son was out there racing today - "and wasn't it hard

for them". James' mother had made her entrance.

Now the race began as we hit the foothills of the big two-mile

climb that lay ahead. I knew I was going to slow down on the

hills, but I hoped it wouldn't be too bad. 6:22 for the

fourth mile. Splits all over the place. I was feeling ok but

the legs were growing heavy. At this stage I was gone by TJ

Whyte and Martin McEvilly so I felt I was going well. Martin

Corcoran was still ahead of me but within sight at least. At

this stage I heard a familiar footstep on my shoulder and

within seconds Mick pulled up alongside me. He had started

conservatively and was running well on the hills. On the next

upward push I tried but failed to stay with him. A gap opened

up but I was determined not to lose touch.

It was somewhere around this point that the cow story

happened. (I told you it was a day of high adventure).

Unbeknownst to me, a herd of cattle were getting very agitated

in their roadside pasture as 250+ runners streamed by in

colourful singlets. There were various reports around the

finish line of the herd running around the field 'with' the

runners - something I have experienced a few times with both

horses and cattle on various training runs. However the cows

of East Limerick are a special breed and were not content to

watch from a distance. Over the ditch they came to take part

in the AAI 10k Road Championship of Ireland. James Lundon saw

them, but TJ Beatty of Loughrea got up close and personal with

them. TJ said afterwards that they frightened the life out of

him. He more or less said 'feck this' and jogged the rest of

the way home. The story goes that two cows ran a full mile

down the road but at least they didn't get by me.

The hill climb continued. I noticed that Mick had opened a

gap but was not pushing further on. I was maintaining the

distance between us. I wasn't very proud that he was ahead of

me because, although he is running out of his skin at the

moment, he had just completed three races in recent weeks and

should have been a bit tired for God's sake. A forty mile

ultra marathon, a 10k and a 2:50 marathon in London in the

space of five weeks should have tired him out a bit, but he

was still ahead of me.

Up we went and I clocked another 6:22 at the five mile point.

At least I wasn't slowing. A mile and a bit to go now and

although tired I was feeling ok. Anther push uphill and then

a half-mile downhill rush to the finish lay ahead of me. I

started to give a bit extra and overtook a Rathfarnham man on

the last few meters of climb. Turned the ninety degree turn at

the top of the hill and at last the downhill started. I just

went for it!

Steep downhill first. Travelling at full tilt. I managed to

pull up to and then go by Mick. He urged me on to catch

Martin Corcoran who was twenty meters ahead. I don't think

I've ever beaten Martin before so I knew this was a chance. I

was flat out but the gap closed pretty quickly. We hit a bit

of flat running and I pulled up behind Martin to 'rest in' a

bit. I don't remember too much but we were passing other

bodies too. I was focused only on his back. I got boxed in a

little but just as we hit another downhill stretch a gap

opened and I pushed. About 500m from home I wondered if I

could sustain it to the line but the decision was made now.

Martin spotted my singlet and pushed with me but I managed to

pull away and instinctively knew I had him. Punched the watch

at the six mile marker, but didn't look at it (5:35), gasped,

spluttered and prayed for the finishing chute to appear soon.

Very fast now, but couldn't catch a breath. And there it was

- the line.

Through a haze of exhaustion I heard that our team-mate Paul

McNamara had just earned his first ever senior road race

All-Ireland title in 30:56. It was a close-cut thing as an

Achilles worry meant that he was still unsure whether to race

or not right up to warm-up time. He came through in style

though and it was a proud moment for the Athenry club when he

collected gold.

Mick stormed in just two places and six seconds behind me, and

we edged our way up the road to look for our fourth scorer.

Around the bend came Ray O'Conner with James Lundon hot on his

tail. These two had raced in each other's sights all the way

with James closing up to Ray three or four times but never

getting ahead. Ray held him off all the way to the line in

42:06 - three seconds separating them.

James Corbett came racing down the hill about 60 seconds later

and sprinted through the finish line completing the Athenry

line up in 43:10.

36:01 on my watch. 36:04 officially. A new personal best for

me and I had taken a few scalps on the way. I was buzzing.

Paul had just won the race but I was acting like I had!

Forced myself to run a few warmdown laps of the soccer pitch

to cool off.

This report is way too long already, so I'll leave it to

another day to tell the full story of what happened next.

Johnny and I were welcomed into the Lundon farm home. Suffice

it to say that the tea flowed from a never ending pot and the

conversation was intriguing. Mrs London waxed eloquently on

her theory of what happened to the Kerry Babies back in the

early eighties, her husband tucked into a half a cow with some

bread 'n butter, we learned (and then forgot) the name of the

biggest flower on earth; we talked rugby, Mayo football,

running, fat frogs (don't ask!) and syphilis - all in the

space of 20minutes.

My car was towed a half mile and abandoned outside a garage in

Limerick and home we went. A few pints of Guinness finished

off an adventurous day. Sleep came quickly.


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