Today was Paris Marathon day. For 8 years this was my local race and I ran it three times. But today I was back home in Ireland, watching on television over breakfast as Kenenisa Bekele ran a fantastic 2:05:04 to break the course record in his marathon debut.
Today was also Connemara Marathon day. This west of Ireland classic might be one of the most scenic marathons in the country; it’s certainly one of the hardest, as it takes in some fairly punishing hills.
Instead of these two august races, I ran the Great Ireland Run in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. It didn’t have Kenenisa Bekele – he won the previous two men’s competitions but, as we saw above, was otherwise engaged today in Paris. But it had some stiff hills along the western edge of the Park, in the second half of the race.
And I had a great race. Not only did I finish in 42:39 for a new 10K personal best, but en route I clocked up 20:50 for the first half – an unofficial new 5K personal best too.
(Check out your Great Ireland Run 2014 results online or in today’s Irish Independent.)
Before the race, personal bests were less of a consideration than merely finishing in one piece. This morning the Phoenix Park was swept with heavy showers and swirling winds, which slightly dampened the junior and men’s mile races and threatened to lash the exposed hill of the Military Road at kilometre 5 of the main event.
But only half an hour before the start, the sun broke through, the winds abated and temperatures rose; the day seemed to have vaulted from winter into summer.
Weather worries dispelled, my only slight concern in the start area was that we were starting at half past one in the afternoon – almost five hours after I had my breakfast, with only half a fruit-and-nut bar between then and race time. This was my first ever afternoon race; would I be starving for my lunch before I reached the finish line?
Off we went, then.
I found the first kilometre up Chesterfield Avenue quite hard work but covered it in 4:15, close to my pre-race plan. Just after the 1K marker I saw a small MP3 player lying on the ground; some earphone-wearing runner was in for a hard day – or perhaps a revelatory experience.
The first half of the race revealed to me that I was in good shape. I relaxed and travelled smoothly. Turning off the Khyber Road, I ran strongly up the first of the day’s hills and passed the 5K marker in 20:50 – five seconds faster than the 5K personal best I set at the Marlay parkrun in January. (The little fella I took down in that race tore through the junior race earlier.)
But the succession of long climbs, punctuated by only brief downhill stretches, took a toll on me. I kept running solidly but let my mind drift off on a few occasions. The short descent to the Glen lake in kilometre eight allowed me to husband a little energy for the run-in.
Whatever about their difficulty, the hills had broken up the course quite well – I came to kilometre 9 a little sooner than I had visualised before the race. Now we were on the Furze Road, the traditional finishing straight for races in the Phoenix Park and a stretch of road I know well. I didn’t have much of a kick for the last few hundred metres, and I felt a few worrying stomach rumbles for lack of lunch, but I still ran in strongly to cross the line.
Only well after the finish of the race did I realise that I had run a new personal best time.
So, I’m happy with my time and with how comfortably I ran a faster pace in the first half of the race. I dropped around 40 seconds in the hilly second half, but that’s not such a bad return on a difficult few kilometres. In fact, fading slightly but still running in for a P.B. is quite reassuring.
Added to that, I saw myself on television when we watched our recording of the live race coverage after returning home from the Park. (I was crossing the start line and setting my retro digital watch.)
Personal best, medal, goodie bag, fine weather, a good hard race and a TV appearance too – I had a great Great Ireland Run!