I’m not a great one for detailed mile-by-mile race reports so I’ve bundled a bunch of them together.
MCI Marathon Ballina
We joined the Marathon Club of Ireland last year and I’ve been very impressed by the number of events they organise. They have so many amazing athletes who have done 25, 50, 100 and even 200+ marathons.
On the 25th of February, they arranged 3 Marathons in 2 days in Mayo. We picked the early Saturday one and arrived on Friday evening after a lonnnnng drive from Bandon.
We awoke before dawn and headed up to the local pitch to get our bibs. 61 of us took off in the dark at 7am.
Unfortunately, I thought it was going to be mostly forest trails and wore my Altra Lone Peak 3.0 trail runners. In reality, more than half of each of the 5 loops was on the road. My toes were in a rough state by the end but not too bad.
The loop itself was lovely and the views of the river as you ran through the forest were gorgeous. I thought I’d struggle with doing loops but it was fine, particularly on the second-last loop, as I was able to prep myself mentally for the next one.
I enjoyed mixing in with the parkrun people too.
For the first time ever, I managed to pass my wife and beat her by 30 seconds for a personal best time. Then it was into the clubhouse for sambos and hot drinks.
This is a really great marathon and you should join the MCI to take part in these low-key, inexpensive community events that happen all over the country.
The presentation to the woman who had just done her 50th marathon really touched me.
The woman who talked to my wife about how she was doing all three marathons over the two days, whilst toing-and-froing from Northern Ireland, blew my mind.
Kilmacsimon Rowing Club 10k fun run
Absolutely brilliant fun. Lots of hills but nice and short. If you are looking to dip your toe in, give this a try next year.
Castledonovan Loop in Drimoleague
Oh dear, we really screwed the pooch on this one.
Drimoleague does a superb job of promoting various looped walks near the town. Unfortunately most of them are on roads which is a no-no in my book. Speaking of books, the book with all the detailed info about the routes is as rare as hens teeth and we had to drive to the Centra in Drimoleague to get a copy on the day we wanted to do a run. The Castledonovan Loop seemed ideal since it was only partially on roads and they were very remote.
We drove up some twisty bits for a few minutes and parked just opposite the old broken down castle. Luckily most of the route has the usual arrows on posts. You just have to follow the right colour.
The first part was up some pretty steep roads with only 2 cars encountered and both moving slowly. It was good energetic running. It then switched to a small forest which was exactly the terrain we were seeking.
Then we got to the “trail” bit. Or more accurately the bog bit. When the real fun began.
The day was rainy and foggy and they had lots of signs about not attempting it in bad weather unless you were experienced mountain walkers. We decided to be those people who ignore such signs. “How bad can it be?” I asked. We had a phone with offline maps, an actual map, the guide book, a compass, rainproofs, water and trail runners. The only bit we were missing was the experience :-) I figured being in the Scouts 35 years ago should have us covered.
We proceeded to stagger through horrendous mucky bog in reasonably thick fog for 1.5 hours. At no point could we run. I realised I was one of those assholes who might need mountain rescue to come get them. But in reality I was able to find each waymarker with no problem. If the fog had come down very thick, it might have been a different story.
This brilliant sign did make us laugh. Here’s an idea - maybe put the grid reference or GPS co-ordinates on a plastic plate so people might know where they actually are.
Finally we came across a gorgeous lake and then a proper track. We were finally able to start running again and that was great fun. The fog burned off and the views were fabulous. We got back to the car after a full 2 hour loop (the book quoted 4 hours for walking).
I can’t recommend this route at all for running unless it dries out massively during the summer. It was the same horrible bog I encountered in Gougane Barra before Christmas. Fine for hiking, rotten for running.
On a positive note, I think my navigation skills came on a long way!
Ballyhoura and Seefin
We spent a couple of days with the kids in the lovely Ballyhoura Forest Luxury Homes. The views as you drive in from Mitchelstown are just fabulous. We got a good deal on Pigsback for a big house and really can’t fault it. Shops are a few miles away but there is plenty for smaller kids to do on location. They also have decent wifi and Sky TV if the weather is bad.
The 15 yo and I checked out the forest path that leads from the estate. It eventually comes out on the main road which didn’t seem to be pedestrian friendly. Another big miss by Cork CoCo. This whole area is a mecca for active tourists, but as always, only cars are considered. As I keep saying over and over: join the dots.
We then drove up to the forest with the Mountain Biking Centre and Trails to try out some of the walking trails they had there. Wow what a fantastic setup for mountain bikers! The shorter walking routes were nice but the whole area is more focused on the cyclists.
It seemed a shame to come here and not try something harder. So once again the 15yo and I set out. This time my wife drove us up the back of the mountain biking area until the road became too tough for a non-SUV. We then took off on foot with our maps and compass. He was fully decked out in proper hiking gear, including gaiters. I just had trail running gear with long tights etc. We missed the turn for the “official route” and had to double back, but since it was on a forest road it was fine.
As with Drimoleague, then the real fun began. We started the trail up Seefin and immediately the kid sank up to his crotch in the bog. Much laughing ensued. His hiking gear proved a brilliant move as he wasn’t wet at all.
The route remained boggy as hell but more defined than Drimoleague. It then got so bad, they’ve had to put down “sleepers” which basically float on the bog and allow you to get across. The views from the top of Seefin are jaw-dropping.
The route down was much easier on a rocky track and finally we made it to a small road and broke into a trot. This brought us back to the same big road I mentioned before. I didn’t feel safe attempting to walk on it, so I called my wife and she collected us.
I was going to say that it’s not the best route for running but then I discovered that it makes up part of the Ballyhoura Marathon which was on last weekend! I’m aiming to do at least the half next year, and possibly the full.
As my new employers are HQed in Tramore, I’m spending a lot of time there. I had no idea what a superb running town it is. I’ve been doing some enjoyable loops starting with the flat promenade, then to the tracks near the back-strand and then up onto the cliff road and up near the Metalman. The mix of flat and hills is ideal and I intend to go further and further afield as time permits.
There is a lovely route from Ford of Ling down towards Rosslare Strand and all the way down past the driving range to the smaller beach. Part of this makes up the annual Easter 10k but I just love the stretch as you get away from the dense housing area. It’s mostly flat and you can do some of it on the beach if you wish. One to remember if you ever want to stretch your legs in Wexford.
The Brighton Marathon was our big race for Q1 2017 and all training was really centred on doing it well. A weight loss of 1.5 stone was a good start in Jan/Feb/March and the switch to Skechers GoRun 5 really helped with my speed.
The day was predicted to be hot but everyone underestimated just how hot. 21C might not seem too bad to non-Paddies but that is scorching for us. It was the worst runner carnage I’ve ever seen in my 10 marathons. People were dropping like flies and being carted off by the medics. I made sure to stay very hydrated but by mile twenty I was really suffering with the heat. It didn’t help that the low point was down in a horrible industrial estate loop.
But that’s the bad stuff. The good and great is that most of the route is lovely and along the promenade. The support of the locals is amazing. Brighton is just gorgeous. And being able to walk straight into the sea at the end of 26.2 miles is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Despite the heat and my head not being in the game, I still managed personal bests for both the Half Marathon and Full Marathon.
Brighton is definitely in the “one to consider” category for British marathons. My top tips:  Make all your restaurant bookings weeks ahead of time. We struggled to even get pizza.  You can get amazing AirBnBs only a few yards from the prom  Uber was £40 from Gatwick but was £70 on the way back due to traffic. The train is only £10.  We went from 21C to freezing fog in the space of a few hours.
Dromkeen Woods Innishannon
Whilst Dromkeen woods have been around since 1740, I only noticed the Coillte sign near the bridge recently. I knew it was tiny but I decided to give it a go last weekend. The main path loop is very short and has two good steep bits. But the real fun is to be had on the upper trail which is knotty and gnarly and all over the place. The bluebells at this time of year are also lovely. Doing all of those bits is only a couple of miles but a few loops would make for a good intense off-road workout. As always, watch out for the morons with their dogs off leashes.
The fact that this forest is standalone and not connected to Kilmacsimon, the Clare O’Leary Walk or Graham Norton Walk really shows the complete lack of vision for active tourism, health and recreation in Cork County Council.
Great Railway Run
We were considering a couple a marathons for last weekend despite it only being 2 weeks since Brighton but some of my shorter runs proved that I still needed more recovery time. Then I read about the Great Railway Run and figured 25K was very doable. As my buddy Walter said “it’s a very civilised distance”.
The weather conditions were perfect - cool but no rain. We drove to Carrigaline and took the shuttle bus to Centre Park road. For some reason I was nervous at the start line.
The route is just fantastic and I think I’ll be using it in future for my training long runs. You obviously follow a lot of the old railway route and you hug the coast for most of it. The first chunk is also part of the Cork Marathon.
Then it’s out towards Rochestown and Passage West, on to Raffeen, out towards Ringaskiddy for a bit and then on the back road into Carrigaline.
I found the entire thing mentally very hard despite the flatness but was thrilled to find I’d a new Half Marathon Personal Best!
Definitely one to put in your diary for next year.
And as I said in my post about the Cork Marathon last year, I continue to be inspired by the gumption of people shuffling along in their first 5K or 10K. I’m going to go all Facebookey now and do an inspirational quote from the brilliant Pre, Steve Prefontaine. “A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts.”
Next up is the Cork City Marathon and then we have to find a few more to fill the summer befor we get into the usual Autumn and Winter season of races. My guess is there’ll be a few MCI ones which will fit the bill. I also want to do my first decent length trail race, ideally 50K.
Next year I’m 50. I’ve decided I want to do 50 by 50. So a 50 miler before May 2018. Now I just need to figure out where, and lose 50 pounds!