With Dublin Marathon behind me and a few weeks rest, I prepared myself for the last race of 2014 - Seeley Cup 10k. I felt I was in good shape and hopeful of a sub-45' time but on the day itself as I lined up I felt quite lethargic and not that focussed. I never got into a good rhythm and struggled over the first half of the race. I did pick up the pace slightly over the last 5k and finished in a respectable time of 46:57. I suppose the marathon would have still been in my legs but I always feel a little disappointed when a race doesn't go to plan.
In early 2015, I made the decision that over the next 12 months I would enter races I had never run before whilst revisiting a few favourites. I wanted some new challenges rather than stick to familiar races that I knew like the back of my hand. 2015 would be the year of races like Omagh Half Marathon, Newry Marathon, Titanic 10k and maybe the odd race in the South of Ireland. The plan was to train smarter and avoid over-training and running just for the sake of running. The Newry Marathon takes place at the end of May so my marathon training didn't start until mid-January and I aimed to follow the same schedule that got me to start line in Dublin. I have ensured that my training included a variety of sessions - long Sunday runs, tempo runs, hills and regular attendance at a local Park Run. Although, I have only been running the 5k Park Run every 3 weeks, I have seen my times get quicker and have brought my time down from 22:26 to 22:00.
OMAGH HALF MARATHON 28th March 2015
My training from January to early March had gone really well and with a trial 13.1 mile run under my belt (1:48:00), I felt confident of running a good race at my first Omagh HM. Come the day though, there was pouring rain and howling winds; hardly ideal particularly on a course that had a few hills. Thankfully, as start time approached, the rain had cleared away but the wind was still blowing a gale. I should mention at this point, that as a matter of course, I always wear a yellow tutu during my HM's.
The start line was packed not only with HM runners but also fun runners and walkers; this made the start quite tricky as you had to navigate past people who were taking things very steady and some with pushchairs too. Why oh why can't organisers get the fun runners and walkers to start 10 minutes after the main runners have set off?
As this was my first Omagh HM, I didn't really know what to expect from the course, so I didn't really have a goal in mind other than to get close to 1:45:00. I got myself fairly close to the front and as the gun sounded realised I wasn't that far behind the 1:45:00 pacers. Without really pushing myself too hard, I was on the heels of these pacers within 2 miles and this filled me with confidence. I kept pace for 5 minutes or so but soon realised that I was going quicker than the group of runners, so rather than just stick with them, I pushed on and found myself amongst a group of 20 or so runners whose pace was more to my liking. The next couple of miles flew by and the sun even made a brief appearance but it was the wind that was the problem; I tried hard to position myself behind some taller runners in the hope they would act as some sort of windbreak.
Around mile 5, I dropped my gloves and then through mile 6, I took on some energy in the form of jelly beans BUT one decided to get stuck in my throat and for a moment I found myself choking but a mouthful of water cleared the blockage and I was able to continue without any lasting damage.
Spotted early on, running through Omagh town centre...
Once out of the town centre, the route took you down quiet country roads and these reminded me of the long runs I did back in Donaghcloney. I kept tabs with a number of runners from Milford AC and Newry City and even when they forged ahead, I didn't panic and slowly got back on their heels. I wanted to run my own race and not worry if people overtook me or if gaps started appearing. Despite the wind, I felt I was running very even paced and confident of getting under 1:45:00 and even the hills didn't seem that steep. The tutu was getting a few admiring glances and I received a lovely compliment from Patricia (Newry City) as she passed me around mile 9. At this point in the race, the rain started falling quite heavily and the last 4 miles were into a headwind. Thankfully, the last half mile was downhill and the final 0.1 mile was run on the gravel running track at the leisure centre. Round the last bend, I could see the clock in the distance and I was on course for a sub 1:43:00 finish. I was overjoyed, I had executed an almost perfect HM and had enjoyed every moment of it. My chip time was confirmed as 1:42:14 a PB and I think if conditions had been kinder, I could have got close to 1:40:00. I will definitely be running Omagh HM in 2016 and now I know the course, would be hopeful of running a quicker time. Now to focus on the Titanic 10k on Sunday 12th April.
The T-shirt to show I was there...