Pat Staunton and I travelled up from Westport in the morning arriving at the start/finish area at 7.20. The start/finish area was in a car park, it was very well set up with registration,  support tables, music (blaring at 7.30am the organisers must get on well with their neighbours), and the start/finish gantry all set up. The runners did a lap of the car park before passing the start/finish and heading out again. This all culminated in a great atmosphere, and a great boost for runners. Pat was doing the ultra so they headed off at 8am, the marathon was starting at 10am so I got a coffee, chatted with other competitors and got ready for my start.

At 10am with the first of the Ultra runners passing through after their first loop, we headed off. After passing a few of the Ultra runners and settling into a pace I was pretty much on my own from the start. There were two men ahead of me and there was a man and woman ahead of them running together. I could see that they were wearing Donadea Signlets and I guessed that they were the husband and wife team Charlotte and Oliver Kearney, having seen them running the relay in the Belfast 24hr event last July.  I was slowly gaining on the first two men ahead of me but I didn’t want to push it this early on, so I just concentrated on my own race and pace. I had a finger of Twix at around 7km and at the 6 mile water station I took a bottle and put a Zym electrolyte tabled into it.

The first 11km is rolling hills but nothing too challenging, but from approx. 11km for 4km there is a really hilly section. Coming up on the first of these hills I passed the first man that was ahead of me, and about the same time I passed Pat on his second loop, who filled me in on some of the course ahead. Getting over the hilly section there was a small out and back section of approximately a mile. This allowed to see who was ahead and who was coming up behind! After a 360 degree turnaround and a slight up hill, it was pretty much downhill for 7km and the finish of the first half marathon.

Coming through the finish of the first loop gave a good boost, I grabbed a bottle of Locozade Sport carrying this for the first 2 miles drinking just over half a bottle. At this stage it had started to rain heavily and I got soaked from head to toe and with no runners around it was a bit of a lonely road, but I just kept the head down and pushed on.

Coming up on the hilly section for the second time, I passed another marathon runner. I passed the 6 mile water station and forgot to grab a bottle of water, but luckily there was a marshal about a mile later with water, so I got a bottle here and put another Zym tablet into it. I caught another ultra-runner going up one of the big hills and ahead I could see that the Charlotte and Oliver that were running together had split up and that Oliver looked to be struggling. Passing him just as we were going over a hill I asked if he was doing ok, gave him some of my Zym/water but he really looked to be struggling and he told me I was now 3rd man, I could not believe it but straight away I knew I was going to do everything in power to hold that position. After getting over the hilly section and turning around at the out and back section I could see that Oliver had falling more behind and I also caught Charlotte, who had slowed to give Oliver some encouragement.

From here I knew there was only 7km to go so I decided to hammer it home, because I was still not sure if anyone was coming up behind me, every so often I would think I hear footsteps coming behind me and not wanting to look behind, I wasn’t sure, but I think it was my mind playing tricks with me. I also took my second gel of the race just to see me home.

The finish line seemed to take forever to come but it always does!! Crossing the line in 3hrs 13mins 33sec, 4th overall and 3rd male.

Overall average pace of 4:35 min/km (7:23 mins/mi)

I covered the last 7km in just under 31mins which was approx 4:25min/km, so close to sub 3hr marathon pace and a good sign going forward to Dublin!

Great event and well organised. Special thanks to the physios and the guys dishing out pots of soup and rolls after. Will definitely be back.

David Noone (Athenry AC).

Fill result is located here.