Sun 28th April
With just 1 week to go now until the 2019 Belfast marathon it feels like my brain has clicked into marathon mode all of a sudden and it will be very much in my thoughts over the next 7 days. Noel and myself got out for our last real training run this morning, a 9 mile spin through Ards Forest Park which we ran a touch harder than we probably should have but it was a nice run out all the same. Having the run out of the way early I then settled down to watch coverage of this years London marathon on BBC. It is one of the worlds top marathons and it makes for brilliant viewing for anybody with an interest in athletics, sport in general or even quite simply the power of the human spirit. Noel and I spoke this morning that it’s a pity RTE don’t give any sort of similar coverage to the ever growing Dublin marathon in October which would surely be well received by a good enough percentage of the viewing public.
I enjoyed all aspects of the coverage and when it was over I had good fun getting Aaron & Caolan, 2 of my young boys who watched some of it with me, to memorise the name of race winner Eliud Kipchoge, who comes from Ken…ya! The boys said they are definitely going to run it when they are older. Watching it really whetted the appetite for Belfast next Sunday and its great being so close to it now.
Noel is doing it along with me, as is Michael Harkin who will be running in his first marathon and who has done all his training on his own in a very consistent manner. He ran the Omagh half with us 3 weeks ago, running well and I’ve checked in with him a bit over his training in the last few months. I’m really looking forward to seeing him experience the magical 26.2 mile distance for the first time. He has only been running for a year and has really taken to it well and embraced the training. I love to see people getting that hard-to-explain enjoyment out of the act of running.
With 8 weeks of training after the Glenmore 10 miler which was my last race it was nice to have the Omagh half to break things up at the start of April. You just can’t beat the experience and enjoyment of a race day. I had got in a good block of training with a hill session and at least 1 steady run each week along with a long run at the weekends. This had built up to 20 miles for the 2 weekends before Omagh. My previous best for a half marathon was 1:25:56 from Dublin in 2017 and my best time in Omagh was 1:27:05 also from 2 years ago. I had been 2 minutes slower than that last year in Omagh.
It’s definitely been the best shape I’ve been in this early in the year and I felt I could well run my best time for Omagh if maybe not an all out personal best. It is a really enjoyable and well run event, with this reflected in the 2,300 entrants this year. I started off quite fast but still kept as relaxed as I could in the early miles. I even felt like pushing a bit more early on but I knew by some of the runners who were around me that this would be very costly. My best ever time for a 10k race is 39:39 from January this year and when I saw that my 10K split time for Omagh was 38:40 or so I nearly fell over! “You’re definitely gonna pay for this” I said to myself.
I just took it one mile at a time from here keeping it at the fastest pace that I could maintain and it was mostly enjoyable. I didn’t look at my watch for the rest of the race. Between 11 and 12 miles you pass the Strathroy milk factory and I remembered struggling at that point last year. This year I kept the workrate high while passing by and made it past the 12 mile mark and out towards the finish. My legs were now tying up a bit and I knew it was going to be a tough finish. After about a quarter of a mile a runner came cruising past me and I shouted to him that he was flying and to keep it going to the finish. I later found out his name was John Robinson from Ballymena runners. He told me he was just using this as a training run for Belfast and had been holding back in the early miles. “You make me feel like stopping” I joked to him. He asked me what time I was hoping for and I told him what my personal best was as well as my best time for Omagh. He told me I hadn’t far to go and if I stayed with him I would definitely run my best Omagh time and maybe even hit a pb. He surged ahead and somehow I found the legs to go with him. It’s amazing what the mind can do and all I did was keep the head down and focus on his heels. He encouraged me the whole way and we were really moving and passed a good few runners on the run in. As we came onto the track for the last few hundered metres he was shouting at me to keep it going and I couldn’t believe it when I came onto the home straight and saw 1 hour 24 on the clock. I came home in 68th place in a time of 1:24:26 and I don’t know if me or him were more delighted at the end! I was so thankful to him for taking me with him like that. I might never have a race that works out so well again.
My legs were very sore afterwards but doing a good time like that gives you a bit of confidence. 3 days later there was a 5k race in Ramelton that I wanted to support as it was a fundraiser for Kieran Murray who competes for Ireland in the transplant games. Darren and his brother Shaun and myself headed down to it and we met Michael there who also said he would run it to get Omagh out of the system. Darren is taking part in the 555 cycle race around Donegal in June so he is concentrating on 2 wheels at the minute and is not running Belfast with us. Dale Hutchinson who is married to Sarah’s sister Lisa aslo came down to run in Ramelton and having had a kidney transplant himself in the last year it’s an event that is close to his heart. Dale and Lisa are also taking part in the Belfast marathon as part of a relay team and it will be great to see them up there on the day as well. Dale is a real inspiration the way he has responded to the transplant and all that goes with it.
I hadn’t ran a 5k at all in 2018 so even though the legs were still a bit tender it was nice to give them a blast around the course. I ran it in 17:52 for 4th place which I was well happy with. Another man that I was delighted to see taking part was my cousin Paul McBride who has also taken up running and he ran very well. I’m sure it will encourage him to keep at it.
A bit of a mixed couple of weeks training since Omagh has left me unsure of what to expect in Belfast but I am now really looking forward to it. A very easy last week of training ahead to stay fresh is also quite welcome. Its always hard to know what kind of time to hope for and I really think this is a marathon where anything is possible. My pb is 3:15:09 from Dublin last year and on a perfect day I could sneak under this as the new course for Belfast this year is said to be favourable enough. It’s also possible I wont even get within 10 minutes of this time though depending on my pacing and how I feel but I will just aim to do as well as I can and enjoy the day of course. Once you run beyond 20 miles you really don’t know what the outcome will be but I suppose that’s why we do it!