The clock ticked to 39:59 and I could see the 10K finish line. Alas, I still had 400 metres to go in today’s Great Ireland Run, and I eventually ran in for a finishing time of 41:22.
(You can look up all the Great Ireland Run results on the race website.)
But that 41:22 is a new 10K personal best time for me, and on a course with a hilly second half and strong, swirling winds from start to finish. In the first kilometre we even had a shower of hail.
I wasn’t gunning for sub-40 today either, so a new PB is a good return from the race. In fact, my time today is a minute and 17 seconds faster than my time in last year’s edition. The tantalising glimpse of a world under 40 will only encourage me for future efforts.
Today’s race came only four weeks after my run in the Tralee Marathon and its pre-race chest infection, so that’s another reason I’m glad of today’s good show. I’ve been sluggish these last few weeks – and an unexpectedly tough parkrun in Tralee last Saturday, which I had hoped would blow out some cobwebs, added to my uncertain feelings.
At least the warm weather of these last few days in Dublin had cooled somewhat for race day, and there was some cloud cover to keep the sun out of our eyes. But in return we got strong westerly winds which would be blowing across us for the first stretch and into our faces for the second-half hills.
So, with some trepidation I stood at the start. The elite women set off first, and then after the surreal interlude of a priest singing a version of a Eurovision-winning song, the elite men and main field set off up the slight drag of Chesterfield Avenue, the main thoroughfare through the Phoenix Park.
No sooner had we left the shelter of the start area than that blustery shower of hail entered from stage left. Up went groans and loud sighs; this would be a hard day for us all.
Turning onto the North Road for the second kilometre, we had the wind behind us. This is the flattest and blandest part of an otherwise undulating and stimulating route, but it lets you slip into a good rhythm. Unless, though, you’re the guy just up the road from me who stopped twice to tie his left shoelace – and both times stopping in the middle of the road.
I went through kilometres two and three at a steady pace of 4:04. The fourth kilometre is downhill along the sheltered Khyber Road, so everyone should have made up a few seconds here.
Just before halfway we took a sharp right turn at the Magazine Fort – the first of three climbs in the second half of the race. And if hills weren’t enough, we were also heading into the wind. At the five-kilometre marker I went through in exactly 20:00, and while the hills and wind ahead lessened any chance of me kicking on for 40 minutes, I had the small consolation of beating by 50 seconds my time at that point in last year’s race, and by four seconds my parkrun time from the previous Saturday.
Through the S-bends of kilometre 6 a smaller runner decided to beat the wind by drafting behind me. But this runner was sticking closer to me than my shorts, so I kicked on a little to get some space. I had no joy with my own efforts at drafting – the wind seemed to swirl around even the stockiest of runners.
For most of the second half of the race I didn’t look at my watch; I knew I was somewhere between not getting under 40 minutes and still finishing comfortably under my current PB of 41:59. Into the last kilometre, I was still able to run in hard for the finish – but seeing my watch tick past 40 minutes within sight of the line took the metaphorical wind out of my sails. Happily, the literal wind was behind us on the finishing straight.
So, I came away from this year’s Great Ireland Run with a steady performance and a new personal best time. More importantly, though, I’ve got a taste of a new objective, and perhaps on a faster course and calmer day I can have a real crack at 39-something for 10K.