On Saturday, April 18th, I ran the inaugural MCI Listowel Marathon. I was looking forward to this, as it ticked all the boxes for what I like in a marathon; Near to home, small numbers, low cost, flat course, and I knew lots of the other runners.
After travelling the 17 miles or so to Listowel with some of my Born To Run club mates, we registered and picked up our numbers at the community centre, a handy 50 yards from the start line. There was a great atmosphere at the start, with the local Kerry Crusaders running club out in force, and plenty of MCI members who had travelled for the event as well.
There were two start times, 8am, and 9:30am, and we set off with the 8am starters, as the weather forecast had indicated very warm conditions, and we wanted to be home before it got too hot. We set off through the town park, and I was a little worried when I saw what looked like a steep hill straight away – however, this turned out to be small enough, and was probably the only hill on the course!
The course consisted of a 7 mile loop to be run 3 times, with an extra, smaller loop of 5.2 miles to be completed on the first lap only.
I ignored my watch, and ran at a comfortable pace for the first loop, and I soon fell in with other runners on the course. One thing you can say for Marathon Club Ireland events, you are never short of company, as they are about as friendly a bunch as you are likely to meet.
I hadn’t decided beforehand if I was going to treat this as an easy training run, or go for a PB, and at mile 5, I still hadn’t decided. I was running at a very good pace – well ahead of a PB – but wasn’t sure if I could keep that pace up. I was running with two much faster runners at this stage, and I decided I stay with them for a few miles to see how I felt.
I did a quick review of how I was feeling at mile 8, and I knew that, if I kept this pace up, I was going to suffer – although I was in good shape, I was starting to feel the heat, and I was aware that I was running at a faster than comfortable pace. At this stage, I decided to drop my pace a little, and see how I felt at the halfway point, in terms of a PB.
The course was an interesting mix of rural and town – we travelled out to scenic countryside on the outward side of the loop, and then came back right through the centre of Listowel town, before heading out on the main Listowel-Tralee road, before cutting out into the countryside again. The course was nice and flat, and the organisation was absolutely first-class – there were plenty of aid stations, with nice, cold water, coke, oranges, bananas, sweets etc. The marshalls were excellent, and on several occasions took my water bottle and filled it for me before I got a chance to! Everyone I met was friendly and considerate, and always seemed to know what you needed. I have to say that this was a masterclass in how a marathon should be organised, and was an absolute credit to everyone involved. Both the MCI and Crusaders should be very proud of how this event went.
Back to the running, and by the time I got to the halfway point, I knew a PB was probably not going to be possible – despite the flat course, I just felt that I didn’t have it in the legs, and the temperature wasn’t helping. I did feel that I would do sub-5 hours though, and I was well on course for that.
By the time I finished my second loop, and headed out on my third and final lap, around mile 19, I started to flag a bit – I was feeling very tired, and I had begun to develop a cramp in my right calf. I started to alternate running and walking, but it wasn’t helping much. At this stage, my club mates and friends Brian and Marilyn caught up with me, and basically forced me to keep going. My calf was getting worse, and I was well and truly exhausted now. The pushed me, encouraged me, and gave me quite a few laughs to raise my spirit over the next few miles. Approaching the last 3 miles, I was in a lot of trouble – I was feeling nauseous, the cramp was quite bad, and all I wanted to do was stop. We met a few more of the Born To Run gang who were doing the half marathon, and they gave me another boost that was enough to get me to drag myself to the finish. I was in a bad way for the last half mile or so, and was sure I was going to get sick before I made the finish line. I held on however, and crossed the line in 5:02. I was very light-headed and ill after crossing the line, and couldn’t even stay standing. My friends helped me (actually Ashley practically carried me!) to the community centre, where there was soup, sandwiches, tea, coffee, and lots more. I wasn’t in any state to eat, but the tea helped bring me round a bit, and I was soon feeling a lot better.
Overall I’m a little disappointed by how I faded so badly in the last few miles – this has happened me a few times now, and I will have to sort it before the summer or I have a lot of suffering to do. I intend to do a lot of hilly long runs over the next few months to see if this helps my stamina – I would consider myself a tough runner, so I’m unhappy with how quickly I fell apart at the end. At least I haven’t long to find out if I’ve sorted it – I’ve two more marathons coming up in the next few weeks!
Everyone involved with the organisation and operation of this marathon deserves praise – it really is difficult to see any way they could have done it better, and I will definitely be back next year.
Well done to Kerry Crusaders, Brian and Julie Byrne-Hilliard, MCI, and all the stewards, helpers, and everyone involved in this great event.
Thanks to all the Born To Run crew, especially Brian, Mazza, and Ashley for dragging my sorry ass to the finish line, and to Ann, Danny, Sandra, Jim, Stephen, Conor, and everyone else who chatted, laughed, and supported me and others through to the end.
See you all at the MCI Cork marathon in a few weeks!