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I'd heard a lot about the first running of the Elverys-sponsored Maree 8KM Charity Road Race last year from Ann Carter & Mark and Grainne Breen. I made it my business to be there for the second running, yesterday, Sunday 15 February 2009 @ 1:00 PM.

Rolled into Maree, with Martin Keane in tow, just after 12:00 PM to a splash of colour and a frenzy of activity. Always a good sign for a road race! There were literally already 100s of people milling around the place. The weather was fine, the banners were up and there were people already out testing the many little hills and valleys of the course. There were also at least 15 other Athenry ACers limbering up, chatting and joking with each other, old and now, experienced and novice.

Quickly signed up; time was moving along as I was delayed getting to Maree. Togged out but was still feeling very rough after a late Saturday evening 12.8M jaunt in sub-1:40. Very rough indeed. Was carrying a very rare blister in my right instep too, which needed a lather of Vaseline and a goodly amount of wide and thick insulating tape before the discomfort disappeared.

Fergal O'Neill said his few words and we were soon off down the road to the first corner, sans much of a warm-up on my part. I quickly found my place in the scheme of things, behind people I should be behind, early doors, and in front of the usual targets, some of them eyeing up my progress with interest, probably not knowing that I was already carrying two very heavy legs. I like to go into races with a few days' rest, which wasn't going to be the case here. More lessons to be learnt, always the hard way!

Got to the first KM quickly enough, but was feeling stressed already. The second KM was difficult as it was mostly up-hill along quite a mucky boreen. The slightest slip or mis-step and I could have been toast, especially considering my penchant for skipping across the central green-grassed medians of such roads at speed. Got to three KM and had slowed down a little more but wasn't been passed by many of the usuals, probably because they had already passed me much earlier. It's always a very bad sign when Brian Geraghty (GCH) imperially glides by me in a race. It usually doesn't happen until about 5KM but it was less than 2KM today. It was going to be a long day at the office, seeing my good friend slide quickly into the distance so early...

Got to four KM but was struggling badly. The previous day's miles were starting to mount up in my legs. I was gasping for air and was probably sweating for Ireland too. The wind was off-shore and niggled away at us the whole time as we proceeded outwards towards the turning point of the race, a well marshalled position just after 4.5KM. By this stage, we had been passed by the front-runners on their way back in, with our own Mick Rice in a very comfortable third position, eyeing up the second place runner menacingly. Ann Carter, also Athenry AC, back after a long injury layoff, was well in control of the women's race. I was just trying to find the turnaround point and keep the ever-increasing sweat away from my over-worked brow. Black smoke was already coming out of the exhaust, more so when I spied my only in-race split of the day, the five KM one, in 21:04. Shocking!

Derek Conerney was also moving away from me, usually a fair marker of my progress during recent years' Galway 5KM Series races.

And then 'That Hill', as we turned off onto a new part of the course, after 5.5KM. The locals probably have a pet/ancient name for that steep incline but my words for it are not printable here. At this stage, myself and a Loughrea AC runner who I don't know had begun preliminary skirmishes for 44th place. At the turnaround one KM back the road, I could see that there was no one else behind me for upwards of 150 metres so it was unlikely, unless I literally stopped or totally blew up, that no one else would pass me for the rest of the race. There was also a Craughwell AC runner just up ahead too, another chap I didn't know, struggling away. That was going to be my world for the next painful 12 minutes, seeing whether I could hang onto these two lads and perhaps, just perhaps, squeeze past them near the finish.

I held on, held on, held on. Past 6KM. Up and down still more little inclines. The Loughrea lad was good on hills but I'd claw back all the advantage on the declines, which surprised me as I'm usually a very poor downhill runner, even though I've a very long stride. The Craughwell lad wasn't getting away from us either, which added to the fun. No one was else was in the frame, either ahead, or behind us, that I could sense.

I wanted to stop but pride was preventing me from doing so, never having stopped in a race shorter than a marathon before. If it were a training run, I'd have given up already. That's real pain, mental and physical. And the niggling hills kept on coming thick and fast, with the KM markers very much slower to show themselves, especially the 7th, which felt like an age before revealing itself, on the side of another stiff little incline...

My forlorn hopes that the last KM would be all downhill were dashed. The Loughrea lad (Paul Keane) put on what looked like a sprint to me but which was more like a slight quickening of the pace to get ahead of me definitively just before we turned to go up the finishing straight, while the Craughwell lad (Liam Nolan) had "eased" away from the two of us a little further back.

I finished in a lather, with my good friend John O'Connor, high-powered camera in hand and fiendish grin on his face, awaiting me at the end of the chute. I was certainly an image to behold. I was just outside 34 minute pace - 16:38 out, 17:37 in.

How much the previous day's exertions took out of me is hard to know but it certainly didn't help! Those sorts of lessons are hard learnt, as I said earlier. I knew it wasn't going to be a day for personal PBs, but wasn't sure whether it was going to be as difficult as it turned out, even though I had predicted a time of around 34 on the start line. I may have gone out too hard but it was a pace I should have been able to hold onto in normal circumstances, given a 5KM PB of 19:28 and an 8KM PB of 31:32.

After a quick chat with some of the usual suspects, I hobbled back to my car to tog back in. I then adjourned back to the hall for two very sustaining cups of tea and three scones topped with strawberry jam. Relief.

Mick had come second, as I had a feeling he would, through sweat-soaked eyes out the country. Ann Carter had capped her return to competitive action with the senior women's victory. While our own Miriam Wall had beaten off fierce competition from Jane Campbell (GCH) for third place in the women's race. To say that Miriam was excited at the prospect of picking up a senior prize would be putting things mildly!!!!! She was elated, as it proved to be the case. Surely worth a report on its own, Miriam? Martin Keane finished in good form, just under 42 minutes. He is sure he can find those two required minutes with some more spring training before his May trip to Copenhagen... Brian Geraghty dipped under 33:00.

Overall, Maree put on a superb show. It's another valuable addition to the running scene in Galway, and at a good time of the year too, when things are usually quiet enough in the county. Over 320 people finished the race yesterday, with another 100+ in the fun run/jog/walk an hour later. Congratulations to the organisers on their organisation and efforts on the day. Where else would you get such entertainment for E15?

James A. Lundon.

P.S. How could I forget the special 'welcoming committee' that awaited the front runners around 6.5KM. Let's just say that it got a more than a little taste of my 10.5UK for its troubles.

Mick Rice

15 years 4 months ago

A really good read James. It sounds like that one didn't come easy to you. As you say the race was a credit to the organisers. Well mashalled and a nice route. I'll be back...!

Tony

15 years 4 months ago

A good read James but it quite wore me out just reading it! The nearest I got to Athletics was on my first visit to New Zealand in 1993 to visit the family. My brother-in law is a keen runner and a member of the Auckland Joggers. They arrange an annual fun run in Auckland called ' Round The Bays' and is I think 10k and regularly attracts 60,000 runners!!!! As the name suggests, the race takes in the lovely bays of Auckland, tracking the coastline along it's route. WE had only been in NZ for two days, and still jet -lagged when Terry announced that he had jobs for us on the day and that was to help to set up the course on the day before and then to act as marshals on the day. Setting up the course included driving posts into the ground over the last K and attaching plastic fencing to keep the expected large crowd in order and also to set up the finishing gates. There were six of these and the idea was to funell the runners down a fan shaped finishing straight to be timed through one of the gates. To say that we were worn out at the end of a long day of work we dragged ourselves home to prepare for the race day. Race day was beautiful with warm but not hot sun and a magnificent blue sky. I was positioned at the entrance to the fan shaped finishing Area and had others to my right and left. The idea was to encourage the runners to be prepared for the finish shouting at them 'DONT FORGET YOUR TAGS' as they passed. Each starter had been given a tag and they had to hand this to a finishing marshal at the gate as they ran through. First of all, we were to expect the wheel-chair competitors and just before they were due to appear, I noticed several large tree roots protruding from the ground and realised that if they hit one, there might be a disaster and reported this to the chief marshal. His response was that I'd seen them and so I had better ake sure that nobody did hit them so I moved into the centre of the roots to wave the athletes away from them. Then they came quickly into view. I successfully managed to keep them away from the trouble and they were gone, some 10 of them. Then the runners started to appear, firtly the true athletes then the fun runners dressed in some amazing costumes. I must have shouted 'DON'T FORGET YOUR TAGS - HAVE 'EM READY' thousands of times that day and couldn't talk next day as a result! We'd never done anything like this before or since and have never forgotten it. A few weeks later, flying back home and watching the inflight screens, we saw a report on the race and saw ouselves on the film! A Scottish couple sitting next to us saw our excitment and I explained that we were marshals at the race. They replied that they had run it!!

seamuspcoyne@gā€¦

15 years 4 months ago

Top-drawer reporting James of your "race within a race" (or was that a "race within a race, within a race"?). It's easy to pour forth on the good days - not so easy when things are tough. Well done for hanging in there and not giving into the heavy legs, blisters, etc. You'll be back to collect PBs at this and the other distances yet!

Kristin

15 years 4 months ago

I'm so glad you said that...I thought I was just being whingey about the hills on that course. :) Well done to everyone who made it out (and back!)

Anonymous

15 years 4 months ago

james as always a man of figures...congrats on the race and the report...i know there is no reason those legs of yours cant do a few more BPs!
Conrats to everyone on finishing and to the people of Maree for a great race...ill be there next year.
P.S Im taking this oppurtunity to remind people of the long run sunday morning 9a.m starting at car park beside pitches/church in oranmore...all welcome. We're hoping to have 2 groups...so if your interested please email ( [email protected]).I am aware there is a Fit 4 life 5km in Craughwell on the sunday too but nothing like a good old long run first thing to prepare you for a dash around Craughwell at lunch... :-)

Catherine

15 years 4 months ago

Good God I feel like I ran the race myself........surprised it wasn't raining cats & dogs...........have to give you credit for staying in the game........at the very least it make for good reading after......

Michael Tobin

15 years 3 months ago

Great report James!

Re: "Black smoke was already coming out of the exhaust ...."

Is that a polite way of describing some rude noises you were making on the way around? :-)