A year of running updates

It's been a very quiet year for this blog. I'm aiming to post more regularly about running locally.

As has been the case so often over the past 15 years of blogging, I’ve been very remiss in my updates. I’ve had a ton of things I want to write about, like the Waterford Greenway and how adventure/outdoor tourism could be a much bigger business here. But that’s for my holidays.

Today, as I move this blog to Hugo and GitHub Pages (what a journey it has had!), I thought I’d just give an update on my running. The last time I mentioned it, I had just finished the London Marathon. Still a life highlight for me.

The rest of 2015 was quiet from a “race” perspective. I signed up for the Dingle Marathon and then chickened out and did the Half. Very glad I did, as I’d forgotten what a tough course it is. But it is still one of the greatest routes anywhere on the planet. Even the Top Gear guys agree.

The Clon Half was delayed due to the flooding, so basically I spent most of 2015 doing short runs around the town and on the treadmill and making no impact on my weight.

So January 1st lands and we decide to really push it. We signed up for the Greater Manchester Marathon in April and kicked off training. Things went well and I particularly enjoyed my 18 mile loop from the train station in Cork out to Ballincollig and back. It beats running 3 times around Bandon!

The Clon Half was re-scheduled for February and that was as tough as ever, with the added feature of horizontal driving rain. A terribly slow time but it was fine overall.

Then on to Manchester with 3 of us heading over. The race itself was very flat but also suburban boring. I found it tough mentally but physically I was fine and I did a sprint finish. The non-alcoholic Erdinger at the finish line was a lovely touch. The multi-hour disaster of bag pickup didn’t affect me but left a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. The fact that I could walk up stairs that evening told me I really hadn’t pushed it at all.

Having done the Cork Half a few years ago, it seemed ridiculous that we hadn’t done the full Cork Marathon. So we then signed up to run that in June. A few weeks into training and again it was time for the long run. And again the thought of 3 times around Bandon filled us with dread. So, what the hell, we decided to do the Lakes Of Killarney Marathon. It’s a small event with 3 loops of the National Park. The views were incredible. The day was boiling hot. I didn’t feel great. The first loop was OK but up/down hard. Mentally I was in a baddddd place. Half way round the second loop I decided I was going to quit. So I kept going to the checkpoint, crossed the timing mat and started heading towards the barriers to leave. And then, the tannoy boomed “And here’s Conor O’Neill, about to start his third loop.”. Nooooooooooo. The only force more effective than exhaustion is shame and embarrassment for an Irish person. So I kept going for another 9 miles. Pure bloody torture. I finished 3rd last. And as always, the moment I crossed the finish line I thought “ah that was fine really”.

So we get to Cork. The third marathon in 8 weeks. What the hell are we at? I thought I’d only ever do one marathon! But I was feeling good. The cumulative effect of the training seemed to be helping. No injuries. 1.5 stone lighter than Jan 1st. But still crazily overweight. The race kicked off on Patrick Street. Within a few minutes, my friend Walter appeared and we had a good natter out towards Blackpool and then on towards the tunnel. But, despite his injury, there is no way he could run as slowly as me, so he headed off into the distance.

I’ve been experimenting with audio for runs. On short ones, I use nothing. For long ones, I’ve been using podcasts for many years. Often running podcasts too, to be very meta. But I’ve come to the conclusion that [a] I run slower when they are playing and [b] I find it hard to concentrate and overcome pain/tiredness/etc when they are playing. So for Cork I listened to a random “dance workout mix”. And it bloody worked. Despite physically finding Cork gruelling, I was in a great place mentally for the entire thing. But the hills, jesus how did I forget the relentless goddammed hills? As expected, Model Farm was the absolute nadir. My feet barely moved.

Sidebar: I’ve been on various running forums and /r/running on Reddit recently and I listen to quite a few running/ultra podcasts. And I’ve noticed a tendency for some people there to belittle very slow runners or runner/walkers. My guess is that these are mostly people in their 20s/early-30s at peak fitness who have yet to learn the real meaning of the word empathy. As their bodies age, they may start to understand. During the Cork Marathon, I passed a woman going even slower than me up Model Farm Road. As I approached, I realised from her back-bib that she was running the Half. Yes, this woman was on hour five of a Half Marathon. That’s gumption. That’s depth of character. That’s someone to look up to, rather than snarking about their age/weight/training. So the next time you see someone shuffling slowly along in their runners, do what someone did to me today as I jogged towards the Fuschia Trail on Seven Heads. Shout “Fair play to you”.

I finished Cork completely drained. That’s the shakiest I’ve ever been at the end of my six Marathons. I think it was the heat and possibly screwing up hydration. It took me over a week to feel in any way right. 10 days before I even got on the treadmill. 3 marathons in 8 weeks was maybe a bit much for someone this heavy. But I’m so glad I did them.

The last three small runs were all in the past two weeks. I was in San Francisco at Red Hat Summit and did a 7 mile loop from Crissy Fields over the Golden Gate and back. Loved every minute of it and had perfect weather to take amazing photos. Then we had the Red Hat 5K Fun Run from Moscone to Embarcadero and back. I think that gave me a 5K PB, despite all the traffic lights! And then finally today I ran from Timoleague to Courtmacsherry and round the first short loop of the Seven Heads and back to Timoleague. I can’t recommend this route highly enough. You don’t need trail runners for the Seven Heads piece but it is hard on the ankles. The plan is to try some of the longer loops soon.

So next up? Well we’re booked for Berlin and that’s going to be a PB for me if it kills me. I think we have to do Dublin too, given the year that’s in it. But to break up the training boredom we’ll probably do a Full and a Half in August. All recommendations welcome. Not too far from Cork tho. Finally, I’ll probably just do the Half in Clon in December.

And the planning has begun for an Ultra. Hopefully 2017. Hopefully I’ll be 50lbs lighter. I’ll probably start with a 50K to dip the toe in and then I’m sure I’ll be leading the pack at UTMB in 2018 ;-)

Conor O'Neill

Tech guy who likes running slowly

Bandon, Cork, Ireland http://conoroneill.com