My summer of racing has started. I ran the Irish Runner 5 Mile in the Phoenix Park in Dublin this morning, with a finishing time of 33:29 – taking 8 minutes off my previous personal best for this distance.
(You can look up your own Irish Runner 5 Mile results online too, and they’ll be printed in the Irish Independent this Monday, 30 June.)
I should explain that my only previous attempt at this distance was this same event ten years ago – my first-ever race. So, I would want to have improved since then.
I would have preferred to have improved a little bit more since my last race too. Back in April over almost the same course I ran 42:39 for 10K in the Great Ireland Run, which converts to a 5-mile time of 34:03 using the McMillan Running Calculator – so I beat that today by 30 seconds.
Well, perhaps half a minute is a decent improvement in 10 weeks, given that I started my Dublin Marathon training this week. I’m happy with my run and I learned a lot for my future races – after all, I’m playing the long game.
Anyway, how did today’s race unfold?
Overcast skies and humid air greeted the 4000 runners and their entourages arriving at the Phoenix Park – a brief shower sprinkled the course at twenty past nine but the sky was a little brighter come the 10 o’clock start. At least the sun wouldn’t be beating down on us.
Off we went. The first 2 miles were flat, so after a sharp right turn just after the start we could build up a good rhythm. I covered that first mile in around 6:36 and maintained it for mile 2 – I would have liked to keep that pace up for the whole race, but I knew a hilly stretch lay ahead.
I was surprised by how many sub-35 minute runners I ran near were wearing earphones. Were they listening to music or to GPS updates? Either way, it gives the lie to the notion that only beginners or less competitive runners wear them.
There were some other curious runners out there this morning. One guy beside me at mile two, travelling at a fair clip, seemed to be wearing three layers of clothes. Could this have been an acclimatisation technique ahead of the tropical conditions in the Dublin Marathon in October?
At the other extreme, another runner was wearing fancy, figure-hugging high-tech shorts made from some shiny, dayglo-coloured material. As we all went down the Khyber Pass in mile 2 this person’s shorts kept, um, riding up the Grand Canyon, turning them into hot pants and showing those behind a bit too much behind. Constant tugging and pulling surely scuppered this runner’s race.
And then we had the janglers. At halfway I passed two guys who each had loose coins jingling in their pockets. Was this not annoying to them? Were they not worried about losing their change and having no bus fare home? Perhaps after the race I should have done another lap of the course to gather up any windfall along the route.
Like the Great Ireland Run, the Irish Runner 5 Mile turns from the Khyber Road up to the hills on the western side of the Phoenix Park. The second half of the race has two solid climbs – maybe it’s because I know them so well by now, but I ran up these hills quite strongly.
With the toughest part of the course behind me, I was a bit disappointed to find myself fading with just half a mile to go. My mind was wandering too – I saw a perfectly good leather football lying abandoned by the side of the road and the thought flashed across my mind that I should stop to take it or even just give it a kick. This isn’t the usual mental process of a rock-hard runner closing out a race – perhaps World Cup fever had got to me.
In that last half-mile the rain started to fall – just lightly at first, like a welcome sprinkle to cool us down. When I talk about short races being excellent preparation for a marathon, this is exactly what I have in mind; rain can cause some runners to freak out or to chafe badly. I was happy while running in this light rain, though after the race I found I had a small bit of chafing despite applying my usual precautions beforehand.
Up the traditional Phoenix Park finishing straight on the Furze Road, I didn’t have any kick left in me but I was still travelling well. I knew that I was going to finish comfortably inside 35 and even 34 minutes, so I think I switched off mentally. I crossed the line for my time of 33:29 and was quite pleased.
Then the rain started falling torrentially; that humid, overcast sky had split open like a rubbish sack. Tough for those runners still on the course, but hopefully a good rainy-day marathon lesson for any novices today who had been wearing a cotton T-shirt or who hadn’t lubricated the classic chafing areas. You don’t make those mistakes twice.
(The heavy rain reminded me of the 2011 Dublin Marathon – minutes after I had finished, a thundery shower drenched everyone still out running. Later, I saw one guy walking in a wide-legged gait and a pained expression. He was wearing jeans over what were certainly chafed inner thighs.)
Such is the Irish summer of running; you must be ready for all weather. As I write, the sun is out again and you’d think there had never been rain in Dublin today.
My next race isn’t for a good while; I’ll be back in the Phoenix Park at the end of August for the Frank Duffy 10 Mile, another in the series of events leading up to the Dublin Marathon in October. Between now and then I’ll continue my marathon training and perhaps put in a couple of parkrun appearances.
Five miles down; a lot more racing to come!