Published in Reports on 9th September 2012
by Peter Delmer
The Declan Hayes Doonbeg Half Marathon and 10k took place on Saturday in ideal conditions in the County Clare countryside – ok it was a little windy at times, but pretty ideal for a coastal route.
From the start this event had that unique feel of a community coming together to make things happen. With high-vis jackets everywhere you looked, I think that half of Doonbeg and its hinterland was helping out. The other half were pinning race numbers to chests and stretching hams and calf muscles. The community hall was filled with trestle tables weighed-down under mountains of buttered scones and fruit cake.
Forsaking the goodies in the hall, I toed the line with a field of almost 500. Starting in the village, the route headed south on the coast road towards Kilkee before turning right towards the Atlantic and then over a challenging hill before descending back into the village and the end of the 10k. Half marathoners ran on, now northward on the coast road, in a second loop that passed the imposing Doonbeg Lodge before returning to the finish line close to those stressed trestle tables.
Accurate mile markers all along the route, hordes of stewards at every junction (including the guy who marshalled with his highly-visible back turned to the runners as he petted the donkeys in the field), and a water station outside every second house along the route. Doonbeg was out in force.
I was very pleased with my race. Running comfortably enough over the tough first loop, I was in fifth place as I approached the eight mile mark and began to feel the first aches of tiredness. I had averaged 6:15 pace to that point which was a bit faster than my 6:20 pace target. The lactate building in my legs at this point made me focus on getting to ten-miles without slowing. Pancake flat roads helped and I managed a 6:21 and a 6:12 effort to hit ten. During this time I became aware of the runner about 150m ahead of me. He was travelling strongly and I didn’t see much opportunity of catching him – I resolved that my job was to maintain pace and see what happens.
Ten to Eleven was a twisting, turning, zigzagging mile as we wound our way through the grounds of the Doonbeg Lodge and Golf Course and turned back towards the village. I recorded a 6:13 split and decided at that point to put all my energy into getting quickly to the 12 mile mark. I knew that the last mile would look after itself and if I was to have any chance of catching the man ahead of me I would need to work now. I pushed hard and recorded a 6:16 split against a fair headwind. The good news was that I noticed at the 12 mile marker that the gap had reduced a little to my target ahead. I pushed on towards home and managed to sneak into fourth place with the village in sight. The fear of being caught drove me on to a 6:02 last mile and I stretched the tired legs on to the finish line for 1:21:37.
Although I was back in fourth place I was welcomed over the line like a celebrity by the who’s who of Doonbeg. DJ Carey was on hand to dish out the medals although I’m not sure what the DJ-Doonbeg link is. Dympna and my three kids were there too and that’s the best welcome home you can get. All hope of a proper warm-down was dashed by the thoughts of buttered scones, so a slow jog around the hall would have to suffice.
This race was a reminder of all that is good with local races. The effort made by the local community, the atmosphere in the hall, the appearance of Davy Fitz and DJ, the great charitable causes, the fashionably late (ok, very-late) start, and the fact that the whole event is organised to commemorate a local sportsman, Declan Hayes who was tragically killed two years ago. However my moment of the day goes to the lady working at one of the early water stations. In typical Doonbeg spirits the table was laden to the hilt with plastic cups of water, so that when the guy in front of me grabbed a cup at full race-speed, he knocked over about six. The conscientious water-lady ran around the table to collect the cups and re-stock the table … right into my path. All I could do was brake to a halt, grab a cup (careful not to knock another cup or the water-lady), say thanks and negotiate my way around her with a smile on my face.
Well done Doonbeg.
Full results are here and attached.