On Saturday February 28th, I ran the MCI (Marathon Club Ireland) Lough Derg Trail Marathon. This was day 1 of a back-to-back event, though one day was plenty for me! I intended to run this marathon at a fairly comfortable pace, and use it as a training run for the Tralee Marathon in two weeks time.
I travelled up to the University of Limerick with fellow Born To Run member Brian O’Se who was also running this in preparation for Tralee. We arrived at the University Rowing Club boathouse in plenty of time to register (incidentally, in a previous life, I worked as an M&E Project Manager on this very boathouse when it was built!), and met lots of the members of the MCI, a nice, friendly bunch.
After receiving instructions on the slightly complex looped course, the marathon got underway at 9:30am, and we set off through the University campus. After a mile or so of winding tarmac paths, we looped around behind the boathouse where we had started, and set off along a wet and muddy path along the banks of the Shannon. Another mile or so brought us over a bridge across a canal, along more tarmac paths through the Shannon Fields, then a turnaround brought us back to the canal, which we followed along one bank for a while, crossed over on some cobblestone paths and a bridge, then along a short road section, and back up the other side of the canal, until we got back to where we started again. The loop was just over 6.5 miles in total, and we would be doing it 4 times.
Myself and Brian stayed together for the first couple of loops, but I knew after the first loop that the pace was higher than what I planned to run this marathon at. I felt comfortable enough, but I knew that I would suffer later on if I kept this pace up. At around mile 11, I decided I needed to pull back, and I began to slow up a little. The course was relatively flat, with just a few mild inclines, and a few humpback pedestrian bridges. However, I found the frequent changes in surface, from tarmac, to gravel, to mud, to tarmac again, with some cobblestone thrown in for good measure, to be hard on my lower legs and feet – it probably wasn’t helped by the need to jump or swerve to avoid the occassional large puddles in some of the paths! I would imagine that someone used to running trails would cope better with this, but I’ve run all my marathons to date on tarmac, and definitely found a difference running on trails. If, as I intend, I run the Kerry Way Ultra in September, I now realise I am going to have to do a LOT of training on trails!
I had hoped to run this marathon in something between 4:45 and 5 hours, but, at the halfway point, I knew that I would struggle to stay under 5 hours. However, I was happy with how I was going, and didn’t want to put myself under any pressure with Tralee so close.
I found the last loop (mile 19.5 to the finish) quite tough, and had quite a bit of muscle pain in my knees, calves, and feet. I saw a lot of the other runners walking at this stage, but I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to walk any of this, and I didn’t, though I did slow down a lot!
In the end I came in at 5:03, and I have to say, for a marathon that I was not pushing myself too hard in, that was a decent enough time for me. It gives me some good, hard miles before Tralee, as well as a few pointers for things to improve on. Among these are not forgetting to bring electrolytes (as I did here!), and the new shorts I was trying out may not be a good idea – major chaffing issues (ouch!).
Overall, I enjoyed this a lot – it was very different to the marathons I’ve run to date, and was my first MCI event. I will definitely be adding more MCI events to my running calendar.
Thanks to all the MCI crew for a great event, and thanks to Valerie for the lift back to the car park, when the legs were really tired! Thanks also to Brian for the lift up and back, and for the company for the first 10 or 11 miles – and for the magic chaffing cream afterwards! Well done to everyone who did this marathon, especially the hardy souls who returned on Sunday to do it again – you’re tougher than I am!