Monday, June 19, 2017


The lead up to the marathon had been trouble-free but then a week before summer arrived early and the sun was out most days and the humidity was rising. This set alarm bells off...I had trained in the cold, damp, wind, snow and ice; yet marathon day could be a scorcher! OK I couldn't control the weather but I knew fitness wise I was in good shape and confident of a good run.
So, the day before was quiet and relaxed and the only important thing to do was collect my race number...thanks Patricia for being on hand at the registration desk.
My wife and I had stayed overnight in Newry and I probably went overboard with breakfast; porridge, yoghurt and fruit but it was 2 hours before the start so I was hopeful I wouldn't have any stomach issues. The rain had stayed away, there was little wind and it was overcast BUT there was a muggy feeling to the air.
The marathon is only one element to the running festival and most people enter the HM or 10k; so on the start line there was probably around 200 of us; including Andrea, a running buddy from Dromore AC.
I had trained with 8:30 pace in mind and a 3:45 finish BUT on the start line I had no definitive plan; I just wanted to run by feel and see how the race panned out.
9am as the gun sounded and I latched onto the group following the 3:45 pacer but after a mile I felt confident enough to move ahead and run the way I wanted to. At the first water station, I got a huge cheer and I noticed that a friend of mine was helping pass out the water; that cheer gave me a real lift as we headed out onto the road. Oddly, the runners ahead of me had moved over to the far side when typically we would stay running into the traffic; of course I followed suit. Miles 6 - 12 were fairly uneventful except for the undulations which were quite testing in the warming conditions. High point was the herd of cows leaning over a wall and mooing as we passed...of course I mooed back!
Nearing halfway I was still ahead of the 3:45 pacer, although by this point Andrea had passed me...maybe I should have kept pace with her? Now at this point last year, my knee started to play up and my marathon started to fall apart but this year I was still running a sub 8:30 pace and feeling good. The only thing that was concerning me was my inability to take on my jelly beans and energy bar - I was trying to fuel every 4 miles but even my jelly beans weren't agreeing with me; to make up for this I made sure I took on plenty of water.
My first time check was at halfway - approx. 1:51 and this meant I was on target for a sub 3:45 time. The second half in theory is easier as it is along the flat towpath but there was now the added problem of the sun coming out and the rising temperature. I like the long stretches down by the canal as it allows you to relax, take in the scenery and get into a good rhythm . Whilst I was feeling confident, I didn't get ahead of myself and ran the next few miles at roughly the same pace BUT the heat and lack of solid fuel was beginning to take its toll; I was stopping at each water station so I could fill up my water bottle and throw cold water down the back of my neck.
More runners were passing me and Andrea was getting further ahead of me BUT no sign of the 3:45 pacer; physically I still felt good but mentally I was beginning to fall apart - loads of negative thoughts were going through my head - but at mile 20, my time of 2:50 showed I was still on target but my pace really started to slow at this point and whilst I accepted that I was unlikely to get a sub 3:45 time; I did start to doubt myself and whether all the effort of training for a marathon was worth it. The hammer blow was the 3:45 pacer passing me with ease...BUT then all the negativity seemed to fall away and I was filled with happiness and a desire to get to the finish was the only emotion I felt. The last 5 miles whilst not particularly quick were enjoyable as I didn't put any unnecessary pressure on myself. Of course, i was still smiling for the cameras...
My last time check was at mile 25 - 3:39, so a quick calculation meant a finish of aroud 3:50 was on the cards. The crowds were out in force over the last half mile and Mr Chicken got plenty of cheers and unlike last year, I was able to sprint to the finish...
I crossed the line with a huge smile on my face and my official finish time was 3:50:27 and this was my third quickest marathon. It was great to catch up with a few running friends at the end and share stories and grab a few more photos...
It's easy with hindsight to over-analyse a performance but some of my immediate questions were -
Should I have paced myself better and tried to run a negative split?
Should I have stayed with the 3:45 pacer?
Could I have kept with pace with Andrea from halfway?
Was I over-confident?
BUT in the clear light of day, I was really pleased with what I had achieved and I still believe a 3.45 time is achievable. It was the most mentally challenging race I have run and never before had I taken on so much water during a marathon.
Huge thank-you to all the organisers and the volunteers and I will see you in 2018.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A year of running: May 2016 - May 2017

It's hard to believe that I haven't posted anything since June 2016; to make up, I thought I'd give you a whistle-stop tour of the last 12 months.
So, despite getting injured during the 2016 Newry Marathon, I wasn't out of action for too long and was soon training for the Monaghan Phoenix Marathon. Along the way, I ran the Monaghan Town 10 miler and the Belfast City Half Marathon.

Monaghan 10:
Another brilliant summer afternoon in Monaghan and whilst I didn't record a sub-75 minute time; I was still very happy to come in at 1:15:24 (Pace 7:32)
Along the way, I got to 8 miles in under an hour; which is now my benchmark for running good 10 milers and half marathons. As ever, the event was impeccably run by Monaghan Town Runners and we were rewarded with a big feed afterwards.

Belfast City HM
I was in good form as I lined for this HM in late September; having got my really long runs under my belt, I was feeling confident of at least running a sub 1:40 time. Started off further back than I had planned but didn't panic and I soon caught the 1:45 pacer and went past him. Went through 8 miles in 58 mins and then 10 miles in 73 mins - ahead of schedule. With a nice flat half mile run in to the finish, a sprint finish was on the cards and I didn't disappoint and was over the moon when I saw the clock show 1:38 as I hit the chip mat. My official time was 1:37:34 (7:24 pace). A PB by 19 secs.

Monaghan Marathon

With no niggles and a brilliant HM only 2 weeks before; I was looking forward to my second Monaghan Marathon (road and forest park route). I was more prepared this year and my plan was not to go off too quick and try and run each of the 5 'laps' even paced. Unlike last year, I didn't feel I faded over the second half and even had enough left in my legs to sprint to the finish. I got a course PB of 3:55:10 (8:58 pace). I'll let these pictures do the talking...

Omagh HM

First race of 2017 and I was feeling quietely confident as I had run this the previous two years and my HM times had been getting quicker and quicker over recent races. The weather didn't disappoint with sun, wind and heavy rain and around halfway the headwind really made things difficult; but I got to mile 8 in an hour and knew the last mile was slightly downhill, so was really hopeful of a good time. I was passing more runners the closer I got to the finish and whilst I didn't get a HM PB, I did get a course PB by 2 mins - 1:39:03 (7:33 pace). Another good day at the office but not the most flattering finish photo...

This brings me to Newry Marathon 2017 and that will be a post in its own right.