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This was the third time I had donned my Athenry AC singlet. The other two times were the previous Sunday and Tuesday, for the National 10k in Navan and the first of the 5k series in Athenry. Both races resulted in personal bests - could I make it three from three at the Bay Run half-marathon in Bantry? It was a big ask. Recent illness and a lack of distance training (eh, anything over 8 miles) did not bode well for a sustained sub 7:00 pace over the 13.1 miles. Still, I felt that the pace was well within me for some future attempt, and hoped that on the day I could at least break my PB of 1:31:51 from Longford last year. The inner target of sub 1:30:00 would likely have to wait.

It was an early start - 9am at the start line in Glengarrif, be there for 8am to collect number/warm-up, so hitting the road from my Cork base at 6:45am. If nothing else, it meant I got my pre-race eating routine spot on. Three weetabix/milk, an apple and a slice of brown bread loaded with jam all ingested 3 hours before the start - ideal. Some horribly sweet sports drink kept me awake on the drive down, finished it by 8am - ideal. A banana then also. The stomach was perfect for the whole race, so all that got committed to memory for the Cork marathon next month.

I met Maurice and Conor at the start. We nearly missed it - everyone was in the "ready" position as we were jogging back from the end of a warm-up, but at least it meant I could slip in a mere row from the front. Catherina McKiernan was called to the front to start the race. (She ran it also and indeed won the women's race in 1:24.) Next thing we were off! It's an easy start to the race. You run in the opposite direction to the finish line, back through Glengarrif village in a 3 mile loop before running past the start line again in the opposite direction for the remaining 10 miles along the N71 to Bantry. Mile 1 took us into a wooded area, and at the marker Maurice and Conor were still only about 10 metres in front of me. They had been talking up each others' prospects of a 1:20 before the start, so I realised that my "slow, controlled" start was still too fast - a 6:20 to open. Calm down now! With a bit of discipline I reined in the pace for the next 2 miles, but still putting me some 38 seconds inside an overall 90 minute run.

The big test comes at mile 4. Running out of Glengarrif, the 4th mile starts exactly at the bottom of a long, winding hill, and finishes with just a small bit of incline left which makes up the start of mile 5. I knew it was important to take the hit on time in these two miles, and even more importantly, to come out of them feeling good. So, up the hill, with a shortened stride and steady pace. Two runners steamed by on my right a couple of hundred metres up - laughing and chatting about getting the hill done quickly. Never saw them again - good luck to them! Another chap came by me on the left, but his breathing was heavy and erratic while mine was relatively constant. I caught up to him soon enough as he faded rapidly. It really is a hill to sort you into your correct race position - I exchanged places with only a handful of runners after this point.

The hill was completed in 7:43, which put me about 13 seconds down on 90 minutes overall. The 5th mile was the key - no heroics, just stabilise the legs. 6:55 - perfect. We were at the summit of the course elevation now and I was able to glance to my right several times to take in the wonderful view that is Bantry bay. Connemara has nothing on a West Cork in bloom. Both are beautiful, but Connemara is desolate where Cork is luscious. The next few miles were inspired then by the scenery! The mid section of the course is also all flat or gently downhill. I picked up the pace in mile 6 and really let the legs stretch a bit in mile 7. Average 6:30 between these, and my overall time was now well inside 90 minutes again. Mile 8 further built on the lead time, and mile 9 steadied the ship with a welcome water station. The end of mile 9 brings the course back down to sea level again. The final four miles are a little up and down, but by now I had a 50 second lead on my inner target of 90 minutes. I felt sure I could maintain the pace, and there was surely no way I would throw away over 10 seconds on each remaining mile. 7:00's would do to the finish.

Mile 10 was... okay. It started with an incline and finished with an incline. I don't remember any downhill... maybe there was. I clocked 67:55 at the 10 mile split, just 15 seconds outside of my Ballycotton finish time. With a 6:54 though I felt myself slowing a little, and a group of 3 or 4 runners with whom I had been exchanging places over the previous few miles finally overtook me with purpose. As they maintained the 6:40(ish) pace I started to struggle. Mile 11 came in at 7:03, and negative thoughts started to creep into my head. What if the next one is 7:10 or 7:15? What if the legs go dead for the last mile? That 50 second margin for error had dwindled to 37 seconds. A couple of 7:10's would put me precariously close to the edge.

I dug deep in mile 12. I don't remember much of it, but I remember really making myself run. Not necessarily any faster. Just run. Don't slow down. Do not make mile 13 a desparate lunge for the finish line. Forget the other runners. They are going to run sub-89. You are not. Your target is less than 90 minutes. Once my legs were clear on this, I broke communication with them, switched off the brain and waited for the 12 mile marker.

Passed the marker with a 6:56 - good! More than 30 seconds to lose in the last mile, but with a newly positive frame of mind, this was now never going to happen. I belted along in that last mile with the sleepy-eyed locals in Bantry town cheering me on. There was a 10 second gap to the runner ahead of me and a 50 second gap to the next man behind, so I had their undivided attention in my distinctive maroon top. The final half-mile through the narrow streets of Bantry town was a little gusty, in contrast to the perfectly calm weather on the earlier peaks of the course This mattered little, however, with the exuberance of the sprint finish gushing energy to my legs. The locals surely appreciated a few fist pumps as I glanced at my watch with glee. Arms pumping, heart pounding, lungs... empty. Passed the finish in 1......... 29............ 12!

After dropping off my chip and collecting a medal/t-shirt I saw Maurice and Conor. They had finished 15th and 16th overall with a 1:22 and a 1:23 respectively. Super running! Conor "took it easy" up the hill (mile 4) with a 7:00! I placed 44th overall in the field of 916. I feel like I've come a long way since I started running two years ago but it's great to remember that there are so many more targets still to beat.

Next up: Cork marathon. Target? Just run the whole thing!

6:20

6:46

6:52

7:43

6:55

6:38

6:23

6:36

6:48

6:54

7:03

6:56

6:38

0:40

Total: 1:29:12

Lyall with finisher's T-shirt

Lyall with finisher's T-shirt
Lyall with finisher's medal

Lyall with finisher's medal

Anonymous

15 years ago

Such a hilly course, I was happy with sub 1.23, but I found mile 10 in particular, hard going. MC

jane-ann

15 years ago

guys well done, looking forward to cork. I hope you all got email re: last long run... this sunday 8.30am from craughwell community centre... through moyode,to athenry, to killtullagh, to carrabane, via meadow court hotel and back to craughwell. Aim 3 miles easy, 13miles marathon pace, 4 miles easy.
I'm writing this here for the benefit of all galway club athletes hoping to run Cork... if you want a last good session..do join us. Everyone more than welcome. Wear what you are planning to wear on the race, bring those gels and some water as now is the time to test, friction zones, bowel habits and hydaryion requirements...not June 1st.
Jane-Ann C U ALL @CRAUGHWELL 5KM