On Saturday last (9th May) I ran the MCI Cork marathon. I intended to treat this as a training run, as I had the Killarney Marathon of the Lakes coming up the following Saturday, I had run a 10k PB the previous Monday, and had done some fairly tough hill repeats two days previously.
As usual, things didn’t quite turn out that way.
I travelled the 70 miles or so down to Cork with my Born to Run clubmates Brian O’Se and Tom Foley. We left Tralee at around 5:30 am as we wanted to make the earlier 8 am start time. We arrived at the carpark of the Blackrock Castle Observatory nice and early, even having time for a coffee stop.
After chatting with some of the MCI crew, and getting course directions from Valerie, we set off. Tom had a sub-4 hour marathon in mind, so was gone like a shot, while myself and Brian set a more leisurely pace. Brian wasn’t feeling great at the start, and I was still harbouring thoughts of treating this as a training run, so we were happy to take the first few miles nice and slow. We tried a new 20/5 run/walk strategy for this, similar to what we are using in ultra training, and it seemed to work well.
The course was 5 loops of around 5 miles each, with one extra, smaller loop to be run on the first lap only. The course was really nice – the first mile was along pedestrian pathways beside Lough Mahon, with great views, and nice smooth tarmac. After this we crossed a short causeway over the water, before turning right and climbing sharply over a pedestrian bridge bringing us high over the busy North Ring Road, and then a long straight along what used to be the old Cork to Passage West railway. This was nice and shady, with high embankments on either side, and lots of old railway features, like old stone bridges, and even one of the original railway platforms still in place.
We then turned sharply right, and headed back towards Blackrock Village along the banks of the River Lee, where rowers shared space with huge cargo ships.
When we got to Blackrock village, we were faced with a steep hill, and once over that, we were back to where we started to begin the next loop.
Once we had warmed up our legs on the first loop, myself and Brian picked up the pace a little, though it never felt like we were pushing it too hard. We had the usual craic and banter and we met plenty of other runners on the route – most of whom were training for the upcoming Cork City Marathon. We only met Tom once before the finish – when he lapped us on the first loop!
I liked this route a lot – the scenery was varied enough that there was always something new to take your mind off any discomfort, the paths were nice underfoot, and, despite the steep pedestrian bridge, and the big hill in Blackrock, it never felt like a difficult route. As is usual with MCI events, the organisation was first class, with plenty of helpful marshalls, and no shortage of water and goodies.
By the fourth lap, although I was starting to feel the fatigue, I knew I was ahead of my previous PB, and we decided we’d go for beating it. From this moment on, Brian was brilliant – he worked hard to keep my mind off my tired legs, and, with a mixture of encouragement, abuse, and constant banter, he forced me to dig deep every time I wanted to slow down. I found the last two laps tough – the last lap especially so, but I never reached the stage where I felt I wouldn’t beat my best time.
The last run through Blackrock and up the hill took all my willpower, and no small amount of “gentle” encouragement from Brian, but I gave it my all, and when I glanced at my watch at the top of the hill, I knew I was going to do it. The last few hundred yards to the finish line were done on slightly wobbly legs, but I crossed the line in 4:48:51, knocking 5 minutes off my previous marathon PB. A 10k PB on Monday, followed by a marathon PB on Saturday – that’s not a bad week!
I have to give a lot of thanks to Brian for this – I’m certain I wouldn’t have done this time without him, and it was very unselfish of him to put all his efforts into helping me get a PB – a true mark of the man. Mammy O’Se can be very proud of her work.
Thanks also to Tena Griffin of Kerry Crusaders who came to my rescue with a bottle of electrolytes at the start of the last lap, and for her brilliant aid station. Great praise, as always is due to Valerie, Vincent, and all the MCI crew and marshals – they set the bar high, and reach it every time. A nicer bunch of people you will not meet.
Congratulations to Tom on coming back from injury to post a sub-4 time, and to the amazing Adolfo Garcia on running his 100th marathon.
Two runners I respect a lot – Marcus Howlett and Thomas Bubendorfer, are big proponents of hill training, and I am certainly becoming a believer myself now – I have been doing a lot of hill work in the past few weeks, and it is starting to pay dividends.
I am very happy with this run, as I have been trying to beat my previous marathon PB for a long time – I set it in Dublin back in 2013, and I had set new PB’s at every distance this year except the marathon. I’m really looking forward to next week’s Killarney Marathon of the Lakes now – who knows, I might even treat it as a training run……