March 15th was the third running of the Tralee International Marathon, and it was my third time running it. The first running of this was also my first marathon, and it is also my hometown marathon, so is the most important one of the year for me. I have a chequered history with this race, and yesterday added to it! The first time I ran it, I was fat, unfit, and suffering from a knee injury, last year I was much better prepared, but suffered an undiagnosed hip dislocation during training a couple of weeks before, and ended up suffering terribly – though I did finish! This year I was in the best shape I’ve been since I started running, have gotten PB’s over nearly every training distance I’ve run over the past few months, and had no injuries coming in to it – I planned on doing it in 4:30, which would be a big PB for me.
I got up nice and early yesterday morning, and took my time getting ready. I felt fantastic – ready to rumble. I met my sister Hazel, who was also running this for the third time, and we went to Tralee to meet up with the Born To Run gang. Everyone was in great spirits, and conditions were perfect – cold but dry, and with the promise of sun later in the day. We all walked to the start line, and, after the usual formalities, set off. Due to a football match between Kerry and Donegal, the start and finish lines of the marathon had been moved slightly, and it meant we ran the first mile or so through Tralee town – it was a nice start, and there was great fun and banter as we ran through the streets of Tralee.
Once we left Tralee, we headed out towards Ardfert, on a long, relatively straight, and mostly slightly climbing road. I enjoyed this section a lot – the banter with my clubmates continued, and I was comfortable sticking with Paddy, the 4:30 pacer.
When we got to Ardfert at mile 6, there was a great crowd of supporters, many of them from the local St. Brendans Athletic Club, and they gave us lots of cheers (and jelly beans) as we passed through the village. Here the route has been changed from previous years, when we would turn west in Ardfert, as this year we went straight on north towards Ballyheigue for another 2.5 miles or so, and then turned off for Banna, on what is a section of the Tralee 100K course. At Banna, we took the coast road towards Ardfert.
I found the coast road from mile 9 to mile 11 tough enough – there was a strong breeze blowing straight in our faces, and it made hard work of keeping to the 4:30 pace for me – in hindsight, I might have been better dropping my pace on this section.
At mile 12, we took a sharp turn south-west, about half a mile before we would have reached Ardfert village again. Here we met up with the Half Marathon runners, who had started an hour and a half after us. I began to struggle a bit here, as temperatures rose, and I dropped my pace a little. This section seemed to slow quite a few people down, and, although I dropped back from the pacer, I was still with a few of the group that had been running with him. As we went from mile 12 to 15, I really started to drop back – I felt fit and strong, but my legs were definitely getting heavy. I decided I’d take it a bit easier until Fenit at mile 18, and try to push hard for home from there. There are some tough hilly sections in the 3 or 4 miles before Fenit, and I decided I’d conserve as much energy as I could on those. A great plan in theory, but not as easy when you’re in the middle of it! I found those hills tough, especially the last hill before Fenit, and I was surprised at how tired my legs were.
At the Fenit turnaround, I get some water, electrolytes, and encouragement, and made the turn for home. I was surprised at the number of people I thought had been far ahead of me, that I met here, and this gave me some added impetus. However, I found the section out of Fenit very tough – as I have said before, I don’t like the Fenit to Spa road, and this time it hit me with a vengeance. I suffered a lot coming in here, and my pace really dropped a lot. I think I’m going to have to get psychological counselling (or perhaps a blindfold) to help me get over my fear of this road!
I felt a little better one I got off the main road and turned up the Kerries at mile 23 – the mental boost of knowing you’re on the last stretch (especially this year, when the finish was straight into town) was huge, and gave me the impetus to finish reasonably strong. The feeling rounding the corner of High Street and heading up the Mall towards the finish line was fantastic, and finishing right in the centre of town was brilliant.
I finished in 4:57:11, which was disappointing – I had hoped to break 4:30, but I simply didn’t have the legs for it in the second half – not sure why, my training had been going really well, my nutrition worked out fine, conditions were good, and I know the route like the back of my hand. Perhaps the marathon in Limerick 2 weeks ago had left some residual soreness? I don’t know, and I’m not going to worry too much about it – I really enjoyed the day, as I have every running of the Tralee Marathon, and, as usual, I had a great time with my Born To Run club mates. It was brilliant seeing some of the guys and girls I’ve trained with over the past few months finish their first marathon, and seeing one of them in particular, Danny, cross the line to the waiting arms of his family was a memory I’ll hold for a long time.
As usual, Tralee was a brilliant day out – congrats to all the organising team, Marcus, Vivienne, Jim, and everyone else – especially considering the last-minute rejigging that had to be done after Marcus fell ill. I can’t wait until next year! Well done again guys.
Thanks to everyone I ran with, who encouraged me, joked and laughed with me, helped me get going when I was struggling (especially Marilyn and Eoin!), to the stewards and marshalls, to Martin the MC, and to everyone else who makes Tralee such a great marathon, see you all again next year!
Two days after the marathon, all the runners from Born To Run participated in our now-traditional march in the Tralee Saint Patricks Day Parade. As usual, we had brilliant fun!
Next up for me is the MCI Listowel Marathon on April 18th – hopefully that will get me back on track!