Monday, August 31, 2015

Titanic 10k & Newry Marathon

In April, I ran the Titanic 10k for the first time and was hopeful of a sub-45 minute time. The course was relatively flat but because of the proximity to the sea, there was a quite a breeze blowing. My goal was to run even-paced and hit every km in four and a half minutes and as it turned out that is what I achieved.
The Titanic Quarter was closed to traffic for the duration of the race which meant there was plenty of space on the roads from start to finish; even the start wasn't too congested. For a change I got myself close to the front which meant I avoided the usual weaving around slower runners and got into a good rhythm early on. The first few km's took you past the Titanic visitor centre, film studios and office blocks, you then looped back on yourself and headed out to halfway. I was on target hitting 5km in around 23 minutes; I just needed to stay focussed and pick up the pace slightly. There was very slight uphill to contend with before another loop back took you towards the finish. I had a little left in my legs and sprinted over the last 200m or so and for only the second time ever got a sub-45min 10k time.
Dashing to the finish line...
My official finish time came in at 44:46, not quite a PB but very pleased with how the race had gone and it was nice to see the Park Runs (current 5k PB 21:11) and speed sessions had paid off.
One big grumble though; the organisation left a lot to be desired after you crossed the line. Water bottles were hidden around the corner and you had to help yourself whilst medals had to be collected a few minutes walk away from a shop-front. I was lucky enough to get my medal before huge queues appeared but there were plenty of runners having to wait around who were not that happy. Hopefully, this will get sorted out for next year as it certainly took the shine off what had been a well organised event.

On Sunday 24th May, I lined up for my first Newry Marathon and it was a bit of culture shock to line up at the start with only 162 other runners around me. The low key nature though made me feel more relaxed and hopeful of running a good race. I was familiar with some of the route as it also doubled up as part of the HM route, which I had run many times in the past. The weather was kind in that it stayed dry and it wasn't too warm. As is my norm these days, I wore the chicken hat and the yellow tutu.
At the start...

The first few miles out of Newry took you along the tow-path and then onto a main road towards Jerrettspass and Poyntzpass and it was here somewhere around the 5 mile mark that I came upon a runner from Monaghan Town Runners who was so taken with my outfit that he took a couple of photos (including a selfie) of me as I headed into the distance.

On through Jerrettspass and then it was tow-path all the way to Poyntzpass with a slight detour of some hilly country roads before heading back to the tow-path and the half-way point. The hills had taken me by surprise but I knew with flat tow-path ahead of me, I could get a bit of a recovery in before starting to push on towards the finish. It was a bit surreal running in a such a quiet marathon; no huge crowds around every corner and no hustle and bustle of having loads of other runners around you meant it became as much a mental challenge as a physical one. I found myself a little detached and ran alone for about 8 miles and although I was still running well, with nobody around me to either catch or keep pace with, I did find it difficult to stay focussed. The cheers at the water stations though spurred me over the last few miles and with Newry centre in sight, I was confident of at least a PB.
Still smiling...not far to go
Off the tow-path and heading into town the streets were full of supporters and cheers were ringing out for Mr Chicken and this galvanised me over the last stretch and here I am in full flight just before the turn into the finishing straight.
As I turned the corner, the clock was ticking towards 3:47 and a huge smile came across my face as after a couple of years of trying, I was going to get a new marathon PB. I'd knocked over 3 minutes off my previous best with a time of 3:46:25. As much as I love running big marathons, I have to say that the experience of a small low-key marathon was just as rewarding and I will certainly have Newry down as my 2016 Spring marathon (assuming I don't get into London). I believe the only thing that stopped me getting under 3:45 was the stretch on the tow-path where I didn't have anyone to run with but I'll learn from this and hopefully 2016 will be different.

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