This morning I ran my first race of 2016, the Tralee Valentines 10 Miler.
I missed this race last year, and it was one of my first races when I did it the year before. I was a little wary in the days leading up to it – work commitments had meant I had done no running for the past couple of weeks, and I was dreading that it might end up being a bit of a nightmare.
The forecast for the weekend was for hailstone and freezing weather – as it turned out, the morning was beautiful and sunny, with just enough of a nip in the air to keep you cool. Someone needs to start asking questions about how Marcus Howlett always manages to have unseasonably good weather for all his races!
I joined the crowds heading to the start at the Tralee Wetlands Centre – there was certainly plenty of runners around, as the event had sold out well in advance. I met lots of my running buddies at the start, and there was a great atmosphere, helped by the expert MC’ing of Martin O’Sullivan. Quite a few runners had dressed up in fancy dress for the occasion, adding to the colour.
I lined up at the start, and we were soon underway. I started out just behind Mike Kissane, who was pacing the 1:30 group – I had no intention of attempting 1:30, and was hoping for somewhere near 1:45, so I gradually let him fade into the distance over the first few miles.
There were plenty of spectators as we headed through Tralee, up the gradual climb of Caherslee, and out towards The Spa. I met dozens of runners and spectators I knew on this stretch, and had lots of banter. I found myself out on the rural roads of The Spa before I knew it, and started to settle down to a nice enjoyable pace.
My fears of this race being a bit of a trial now appeared to have been misplaced – I was really enjoying it, and, although I could feel my lack of fitness at times, the chat and the crowds made it seem like a fun training run, rather than a race.
I was wearing my 100K finishers top, and was amazed by the number of runners who asked me about it, or offered congratulations on having done it.
I turned for the Kerries in much better shape than I usualy run this stretch of road – it is a tough enough road, with twists, turns and hills, and comes I the last few miles of both the Tralee 100K, and the old Tralee Marathon route, so I have run it in pretty bad shape a few times!
I met lots of my Born To Run teammates, and a few from Tralee Triathlon Club here, and it shortened the road a lot. I decided to push myself a bit on the last hill on the way back towards Tralee, and found I still had quite a bit in the tank.
Shortly afterwards, we began the long climb up Strand Road, heading for Cockleshell Beach, and I felt a bit of weariness in my legs for the first time. My old hamstring niggle, which hasn’t shown itself for quite a while, also began to make it’s presence felt, though it didn’t actually slow me down.
I was delighted to turn at Cockleshell, as I knew that all we had to tackle now was less than 2 miles of the Canal Towpath, and we would be back in Tralee, and heading for the finish line.
The canal was, as always, a tough ask, and it is so straight it feels like it is going on forever. The fine weather brought out swans and rowers to the canal, reminding us of why Tralee is such a wonderful town for tourists.
We were soon rounding the Brandon Hotel, and I pushed my pace as much as I could as I raced up the short section of the Neil Armstrong Way to the finish line.
There was a huge crowd at the finish, and I was amazed at the welcome I got – is there anything better than people shouting your name as you finish a race?
I glanced at the clock as I crossed the line, and was pleasantly surprised to see I was well under 1:40. (my official time was 1:37:57). I met Catherine and my boys at the finish line, and got my medal, before hanging around for a while to chat to other finishers, and cheer a few in.
Overall, this race turned out to be very different to what I had expected – I enjoyed it far more than I had thought I would, and never felt really bad at any stage. The atmosphere, the course, and the banter between the runners, and the spectators added up to a really enjoyable race – one of the most enjoyable short races I have done.
Well done to Marcus, Vivienne, and all the Run The Kingdom crew – you really put on a brilliant show, and, going by those I spoke to afterwards, everyone seemed to have a great day.
Well done to everyone who ran today – I know many of you used today to benchmark your training for the Tralee Marathon and Half Marathon, and I look forward to running with you there.