A group of around 20 of us met up at Tralee Wetlands at 7am, and, with little fanfare, set off. The marathon was run on the route of the inaugural 2013 Tralee International Marathon, a route we all knew well, and one that had a reputation for being “slightly hilly”.
As this marathon was purely for training purposes, and I wanted to run it at a similar pace to what I planned for the ultra, I decided I’d be sensible for once, and aim to do it at a pace that felt comfortable – I hoped to finish somewhere in the region of 5:30 or thereabouts, but wasn’t going to push for time.
A couple of the faster guys pulled ahead quickly, but the rest of us stayed in a group as we left Tralee, and headed for Ardfert. Conditions were excellent, with warm temperatures and blue skies.
Despite the easy pace, I started to feel pain in my left hamstring after 3 or 4 miles. This had first reared it’s head last week during the Tullaroan Marathon, but I had assumed it was just a consequence of all the hills there, as I hadn’t felt it since, but it was definitely back now. I did the usual thing, and decided to ignore it and see what happened.
We had a quick aid stop in Ardfert, and then turned south-west and headed toward Barrow, and the notorious Barrow Hill. After Ardfert, I found myself pulling slightly ahead, and ended up on my own, well behind the lead runners, and ahead of the main group – I would end up running the entire marathon this way, which also reminded me of the 2013 event (though back then I was alone for the whole thing because I was so slow!).
On the road to Barrow, it started to get quite warm, and I was very grateful for the aid provided by the Born To Run members who drove around giving us food and water, and generally taking care of us.
I got to the base of Barrow Hill, around mile 11, feeling really good, and, unlike 2013, took the smart option of walking the hill to save my legs for the second half. I survived the hill ok, unlike an unfortunate badger who looked to have had a disagreement with a car halfway up. After a quick aid stop at the top, where I met most of the main group, I turned and headed down towards Churchill and Fenit, probably the most testing section of the route.
The nice slow pace meant I didn’t suffer on this section as I normally do, and I felt positively perky coming into Fenit, probably for the first time ever. After turning the end of Fenit pier, I met the main group coming down, and they all looked fresh and relaxed as well.
I wasn’t looking forward to the stretch from Fenit to Tralee, because, as I’ve written many times before, I hate this section of road, it always seems to get the better of me, but today I decided to take it nice and easy, and see how it went. This section is very exposed to the elements, as it is right on the coast, running alongside the sea, and raised above it – it can be brutal on wet and windy days, but today was the opposite – the sun was blazing, and for the first time I really began to feel the heat – I could feel my exposed ears sizzling, and had plenty of time to regret having forgotten sunscreen.
The niggle in my hamstring started to get quite bad here, and turned into a throbbing pain that worried me a little. I took two painkillers I had in my water belt, and slowed my pace even further to see if it would ease off.
By the time I got to the Oyster Tavern, the point that mentally marks the end of this section, the pain in my hamstring had subsided, and, after a quick water stop, I headed for the Kerries, and the last few hills.
The Kerries can be fairly testing – lots of undulating sections, with one big hill near the end, but today I found it fairly ok – my hamstring was now barely registering any pain, and, although tired, I knew I had more than enough in the tank to finish. After completing the Kerries, I headed up Strand Road, which brought back memories of many a hard run, especially the Tralee 100k. I got to the last water stop at Blennerville Canal Lock Gates in reasonably good condition, and after a quick chat with the crews, headed along the canal tow path for home. I glanced at my watch and saw that I had 12 minutes left if I wanted to come in at 5:30, and felt that was doable. I had forgotten however, how bloody tough the canal tow path actually is – I was soon reminded of it, and ended up coming in a couple of minutes after the 5:30 mark. It seemed to go on forever, and the gravelly surface was not the most pleasant to run on at this stage of a marathon. By the time I got to the end, I was definitely ready for the finish! I ran up the Neil Armstrong Way to the finish feeling glad it was done, but having definitely enjoyed it. I had time to reflect on difference between this finish, and the 2013 finish, my first marathon, on the same course, when I came in completely drained, feeling awful, and vowing to never run again!
I was presented with medal, identical to the one I got in 2013, by Marcus, and had a chat with the guys who had already finished. Another great day out with the Born To Run gang!
Thanks to Marcus for organising this marathon, and to the super crew who helped us along the way; Poshey, Kerry, Donna, Karen, Sean, and Conor.
Thanks to Poshey, Sean, and Niamh for the photos.
Next up for me is the Kerryhead Half Marathon – my first ever half – next weekend.