As I left Dunsandle it was starting to rain, but when I got to Ballyvaughan it was a truly awful morning. A big change from the 26 degrees of 2010. The plan was 4 hours, but in this weather anything could happen, even the dreaded DNF!

Keeping as positive as I could, I reached the start in good time. The

DJ was doing his best to entertain the 1000 strong crowd but it was proving hard going. On the dot of 9 we set off. Nice and handy was the race plan – pure and simple. This course could and would eat you alive if you started getting too confident.

I settled in to a nice pace and tried to relax before the first off road section at mile 4. Half way up the first incline I got a “go on Athenry” from none other than Owen in his Maroon and White and the black vested Mr. 40.01. Has he lost his Athenry vest? After a bit of banter with the two lads, they spilt off to the half marathon course at mile 6 and I turned for the full. This a lonely part of the race as the doubts set in as you see the rest of them with almost half their race ran.

Onwards and upwards I went – and I mean upwards! Miles 7 – 12 are arguably the most difficult on the course. It was a mixture of solid rock, shale, mud and water under foot. On approaching the summit at mile 12, my right leg cramped up followed closely by the other one. Now this wasn’t in the plan with less than half the race ran!

As I was trying to get them going the runner behind me in a Dublin city marathon t-shirt stopped and asked if I was ok. A pretty decent bloke I thought. I got going again slowly at first and when I was fully cleared of the cramp, picked up to my flat race pace.

Half way came at 1.50. Very happy with that, considering the day and the cramping.

Miles 14-17 were mostly back on tarred road and mostly downhill as we hit for Fanore. It was a beautiful part of the course. The pressure was taken from the backs of my legs and moved to the front part of them for the down hill – this proved a welcome relief. I could take in the breath-taking sights around me as Fanore waited for us down at sea level.

After a small off road at Fanore beach, as well as some more tarred road, it was mountains again at mile 19. This is the steepest climb of the day so it was down to a walk. The good thing all the way home from this point was that we would have the wind at our backs. Small comfort though as the rain got progressively heavier and with the mixture of water and friction, the chafting was becoming an issue.

Along the mountain top all the way home is stunning even on a day like this. The body felt great and I started to calculate my finish time. It looked like a sub 4 hours barring any mishap, but here anything could happen. I caught up with a guy just at the end of the last off road and we had a chat. He was a Kerry man and was finding it tough.

4 miles to go, we were back on tarred road and civilisation again. We soon approached where the half and full marathons meet and it was a great feeling knowing we were nearly there. I could hear the same DJ with 2 to go. It was almost as good as hearing Mary Porter in many of our races nearer to home!

On approaching the finish I couldn’t help but fist the air in delight as the clock recorded 3.51 and position 21. That’s 18 minutes off the time from last year and 7 places up the table!

The whole race was extremely organised. The committee had obviously listened to some concerns from last year and had made the appropriate improvements. Water, fruit and snacks were more readily available along the course although this year with the weather it wasn’t as critical. The end of race area had a marquee which proved useful just to dry off – although its main reason was for handing out of goodie bags!

Times were texted to each competitor that night as well as the full results up on the web. A great day out and great value at €40. Definitely a local marathon to be penned on the calendar for 2012.