2016 Rose of Tralee 10k

On Sunday I had my first race since my somewhat disastrous Tralee 100k, and I was looking forward to getting back on the road.

I have run this race every year since it started, and it is one of my favourite events – there is always a great atmosphere, as it coincides with the International Rose of Tralee Festival, and draws a fairly eclectic crowd, different to most races.

This year the start was slightly different, as it went from the Rose Hotel. The weather hadn’t been great, and it poured rain all morning, so I had worn a compression top inside my running top, but, at the last minute I decided to ditch it, as it got very humid – I was glad I did, as it was very warm during the race.

After the usual preliminaries, we set off, heading out the exit road of the hotel, before cutting back along the Dan Spring road towards the western edge of the town.

I had planned on taking the first half of this race easy, as the first 5 or 6k is mostly gentle climbs, while the last few k’s are mostly downhill, but I was so keen to get back on the road that my plan went out the window from the start.
I definitely wasn’t back to 100% fitness, but I felt mostly ok, though the race was much harder work than it should have been.

We had great support despite the conditions, and I heard my name being called a good few times, and met a lot of runners I knew (mostly passing me in the later stages!).

I pushed as hard as I dared on the climb up Caherslee and the long drag over Bracker O’Regan road (known to us locals as The Fat Mile), but the heat, my lack of restraint in the early part of the race, and the after effects of the Tralee 100k soon took their toll, and I slowed considerably from 5k on, as we hit the last of the climbing section on the Killeen road. I knew the next section, Oakpark, was downhill, so I wasn’t too worried. I was delighted to finally make this stretch, though by now I had nothing left in the tank, and even the downhill didn’t help me pick up the pace much.

All that was left for it was to grind out the last few kilometres, and that’s what I did. I didn’t look at my watch, but I knew coming up The Mall towards the finish line at Denny Street that I wasn’t going to do a decent time, so I just got on with it, and enjoyed the last bit. As usual, it was a fantastic feeling coming up to the finish in Denny Street, though for the fist time in this race, quite a few people passed me in the last few hundred meters – my usual sprint finish just wasn’t there.

I crossed the line just 5 seconds under the hour, which is the slowest I’ve ever done this race, and the first year I’ve run a slower time than the previous year – this says a lot about where I’m at in terms of my fitness and recovery, and points to a lot of work required before the Kerry 24 Hour in a few weeks. At least now I have a benchmark to work from.

This was another brilliant event by Run The Kingdom, and fair play to the people of Tralee, and the many visitors to the town who turned out to run and support.

Tralee parkrun July 16th

I ran another Tralee parkrun this morning, in wet and humid conditions.

My usual running buddy Lee wasn’t with me, as he had spent the last couple of days in hospital with a suspected appendicitis – fortunately it turned out to be a false alarm, and he is on the mend, but, much to his frustration, he wasn’t well enough to run today.

Catherine joined me instead. We arrived in the park to a steady drizzle, which would continue pretty much for the duration of the run.

After instructions and introductions from race director Siobhan, we set off.

I took the first lap nice and easy to test my legs. I had completed a marathon and a triathlon over the past week, as well as spending the last 48 hours cooped up in a hospital with Lee, so I wasn’t sure how enthusiastic my body would be for this.

I was joined early on by fellow Born To Run member Niamh, who was just back from sunny California, and Catherine, Sinead, and Caroline soon pulled a few hundred meters ahead of us.

Niamh and myself on Lap 1 (pic Tralee parkrun)

I felt fairly fresh by the end of this first lap, so I started to speed up a bit on lap 2. Niamh decided to stick to her pace, and I soon pulled away and started to gain on the others. I passed them on the “hill” (more of a gentle rise really) on this lap, and kept pushing as much as I felt I could.

By the time I crossed the line to start lap 3, I was starting to feel the pace, and the final lap was much harder work!

I slowed down considerably for the first half of this final lap, but by the time I hit the halfway point, I started to push on a bit again, despite really feeling the humidity, and I finished fairly strongly, passing a few more runners near the end.

Am I there yet? (pic Tralee parkrun)

My watch gave me a time of 28:32 but I’m not sure how close that it to my actual time – I forgot to start it for a few seconds, and forgot to stop it crossing the line! (UPDATE: Turns out my official time was 28:36, so not too far off!)

Thanks to all this week’s parkrun volunteers, and I look forward to seeing you all again next week – hopefully with Lee back to his usual form!

Tralee Tri Club Sprint Triathlon

On Tuesday evening, I took part in the Tralee Triathlon Club Sprint Triathlon, which was part of the clubs mini-tri training series.

Myself and Catherine were both doing this triathlon, and I was looking forward to it, despite having slightly tired legs after a parkrun on Saturday, and a marathon on Sunday.

I took delivery of a brand new Zone3 Aspire wetsuit (thanks Zone3!) just a couple of hours before the triathlon started, and I was keen to try it out.

Once we got set up in Fenit, and received instructions from race director Niall, we set off for the walk to the slip, from where we would swim back via the buoys, to the beach.

Once in the water, we got the start signal from John, and off we went. The conditions were good, with a slight swell in places, but fairly calm overall. I loved the new wetsuit, which has excellent buoyancy, and I was surprised at how free my arms and shoulders felt. I had paired it with a new pair of Zone3 goggles, and, having had bad experiences in the past with trying out new goggles for race day, I was a bit wary. However, the goggles performed faultlessly, and, for the first time ever in a sprint swim, I didn’t have to stop once to adjust them, or leave water out!

I slogged away on the swim, but my lack of speed training soon showed, as I saw most of the pack pull well ahead of me. I eventually got to the beach, and headed straight up the ramp to transition.

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Out of the water after my first swim in the Zone3 Aspire (pic Tralee Triathlon Club)

I had a look down at the water from transition, and was pleasantly surprised to see a few swimmers still in the water – unusual for me! The new wetsuit was surprisingly easy to get off, despite this being my first time removing it – in fact, it was easier to get off than my old suit, which I’ve worn for several seasons. I grabbed my bike, and headed out on the cycle.

The cycle route was from Fenit to the roundabout in Tralee, and back again, a distance of 21 kilometres, with a few minor enough hills. I got stuck in, and I was surprised that fatigue didn’t seem to be too much of a problem. I had overtaken a couple of people in transition, and now I could see a few slower cyclists ahead, so I got stuck in to trying to pass them – I overtook one cyclist near the halfway point, and only realised afterwards that it was my sister Hazel. I caught a couple of more on the return leg, so I was very happy with my cycle – the Ribble Aero 883 possiblely has something to do with that!

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Back off the bike (pic Poshey Aherne)

I got back into transition feeling surprisingly fresh, and, a quick change of shoes (and only remembering to remove my helmet because my son shouted it to me) I headed off on the run. I had arrived into transition just when a few of my Born To Run club mates were leaving, and I was determined to catch them – I gave Fiona O’Connor a shout as she passed that I’d pass her before the end!

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Feeling unusually good heading out on the run (pic Poshey Aherne)


The run route was just over 5k, with, again, a couple of small hills included. I know this route extremely well, as, not only have I run it in training many times, but I have also run it as part of the route on 2 ultras, 4 marathons, and 2 triathlons!

Again I was pleasantly surprised by how little fatigue I felt as I set off on the run – I had expected my legs to be tired, but this was one of my freshest ever runs off the bike. Perhaps I should do a marathon as prep for a triathlon more often.

I could see a good few runners ahead of me, as pushed myself as much as I dared to try to catch up. Just before I reached the halfway point, I met Catherine, and soon after the bunch I wanted to catch.

I pushed myself hard on the return leg, and I slowly began to reel in those ahead of me. I passed a couple of runners before Fenit, and I could see Fiona grab a bottle of water from another runner. I began to sprint on the downhill into Fenit, but as soon as Fiona heard me coming, she began to push on too, and, despite getting within 10 meters of her, I couldn’t catch her before the line!

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Me, Fiona, Orla, Lee, and Catherine at the end (pic Poshey Aherne)

This was my best ever sprint tri (though to be fair, I don’t have a great record with them!), and as far as I can make out, not only did I do an overall PB, but I’m pretty sure I got PB’s in every individual leg as well.

Thanks to Sinead, Niall, and all the Tralee Triathlon Club volunteers for another fantastic event. I’m a bit more confident that I’m heading in the right direction for the Landers Tri Kingdom Come now!


MCI Tralee Marathon Race Report

On Sunday I hit a bit of a milestone – my 25th marathon (well, not exactly, it was my 18th marathon, but with my 7 ultras, it comes to 25!), and it was nice to hit that number in my hometown, with none other than my running buddy Brian O’Sé as race director.
Sunday’s marathon was the second of two back-to-back marathons over the weekend, and many of the hardy Marathon Club Ireland (MCI) members were doing both. Brian was running today as well, so MCI legend Vincent was running things from the start/finish marquee.

There were two start times, and I went for the earlier 8am start. Things looked ominous on the way in, with dark skies and driving rain. I had escaped the worst of it in yesterday’s parkrun, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t be so lucky today.

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Ready to go with the MCI crew (pic Vincent Guthrie MCI)

I arrived at the Rose Hotel in plenty of time, and got registered, had a chat with a few of my running buddies, and we were soon ready to go. The rain was relentless as we lined up at the start, and wasn’t going to get much better.

We were soon under way. The route was a 2.2 mile loop at the start, followed by 6 loops of the 4 mile course we ran a few weeks ago for the Tralee 40 Mile Ultra. Those of us who had run that race would be thoroughly sick of this loop by the end of the day – I can only imagine what those who had done that race, and the back-to-back marathons, must have felt like.

By the time the first short loop was done, I had settled into a comfortable pace with my club mates Mazza and Cilla (I can say whatever I like about Cilla, because she doesn’t read my blog 😉 ), and I have run enough marathons with Mazza at this stage to know that, as long as she is not on a push for time, her pace suits mine.

I had initially planned to run this marathon on a 25/5 run/walk pattern, but my two running mates had other ideas, so I stuck with them on a reasonably continuous run, though we did walk the two hills on most of the loops.

We escaped the rain for most of the first loop, but that was as good as it got – it poured for most of the remainder of the run. We did our best to ignore it, and I went through every pair of socks, shoes, and running tops in my bag before the end – thanks Kirsti for keeping everything dry in the car!

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This must have been early on because Cilla looks fairly relaxed…. (Pic Mary Mockett MCI)

We had some great banter on the loops – one thing you can count on the Born To Run crew for is a good laugh to take your mind off being wet, tired, and wondering where the chafing is going to start!
Myself and Maz were suffering from the usual aches and pains of multiple marathoners by the halfway point, but Cilla looked to be a bit worse for wear – she was falling behind a bit, and we knew she was in trouble when she started to go very quiet. I thought to myself that, if she’s this worn out at this point, we’ll be carrying her before the end….

We slogged on, taking advantage of the downhill bits, and walking the uphills. We got great service at the start/finish pitstop on each loop from Vincent and the MCI crew, and this helped keep our spirits up.
When we came in to the pitstop on our third lap, someone mentioned that we had “only” three laps to go. This had an astonishing effect on Cilla, who reacted like a dog that has just heard a squirrel. I have run many marathons where I got a second wind, and have seen plenty of others do the same, but I have never witnessed a recovery like Cilla’s. She left the pitstop a completely different person, practically dancing down the road. She would spend the next three laps in annoyingly good form, sprinting ahead of us and shouting at us to hurry up, running around us, and generally being far too perky. Maz and I took to persuading her that we actually had further to go than we had in an effort to curb her enthusiasm. When you are tired and bedraggled at the end of a marathon, you really don’t want to run with someone who looks like they could run the whole thing again.

On our second last lap, she actually took off with a faster runner as she got sick of waiting for us, but she soon arrived back to us. I really wish I could have that kind of energy late on in a marathon.

We kept going, and soon we were on the last lap, and none too soon – my last running top was now soaked, and the rain was getting heavier. I found to my surprise that I was very fresh on this last lap, as I had expected some residual tiredness from the excesses of the last few weeks. This is the first marathon in a very long time (maybe ever!) where I felt I could have run the last few miles fairly hard if I wanted to. I was happy to keep it at a nice leisurely pace, as knew I had a triathlon on Tuesday, and, perhaps more importantly, the Tralee 100k coming up in a few weeks.

We crossed the finish line together in around 5:32 (haven’t actually checked the results yet!).

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Me, Cilla, and Maz about to cross the finish line (pic Mary Mockett MCI)

I really enjoyed this marathon – it was fun, taken at a nice easy pace, and was run with some great friends – for me, this is what running is all about.

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Me and the girls with their “suck it up buttercups” (pic Mary Mockett MCI)

Well done to Vincent and all the MCI crew who helped us get it done, to Kirsti for storing my gear, JJ for helping me put on those awkward fancy socks, and Ash for all the help (but especially for the killer combination of sausage rolls and Neurofen, the breakfast of champions). Well done to Brian on his first RD job, and to everyone who ran this race. Can’t wait to see you all on the road again.

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Mazza, Me, Cilla, and Vincent (pic Mary Mockett MCI)

Tralee parkrun July 9th

Myself and Lee did another Tralee parkrun this morning, despite terrible weather conditions. It was windy and raining heavily on the way in, and I wasn’t terribly keen, but Lee was determined to do it, so off we went.

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Sheltering from the rain before the start (pic Tralee parkrun)

Once we got under way, conditions improved a bit, as they often seem to do for parkrun! It ended up being slightly damp, and quite humid for the run. I decided to take it fairly easy, as I am doing the MCI Tralee Marathon tomorrow, but Lee was gunning for a PB after overshooting the finish line and missing out on one last week.

After the usual preliminaries from race director Tony, we got going. I took the first lap nice and easy, while Lee took off – I had a feeling Lee was going to crash and burn before the end based on his early pace….

The first lap was uneventful for me – the hardest part was keeping myself from pushing on and suffering the consequences tomorrow.

By lap 2 I was into my stride, and felt good, with no pre-marathon niggles, and, although I had planned on keeping my pace to around 10 min/miles, I looked at my watch at the end of this lap and found I had averaged 9:12. I could see Lee ahead visibly slowing, and, as I had suspected, in his determination to hit a PB he had burnt himself out.

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Halfway there (pic Tralee parkrun)

I caught up to him early in the last lap, and he was out on his feet, so I got him to walk a little, and recover. We trotted most of this lap at a fairly easy pace, until Lee got finish line fever near the end, and we both took off in a mad sprint for the last few hundred meters. Lee beat me in by a single second, crossing the line in 30:34 – a slightly disappointing time for him, and well off his best – he’ll hopefully learn in time to pace himself a little better – or else his stamina will improve!

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Racing for the line! (pic Tralee parkrun)

Well done to all the volunteers who made this weeks Tralee parkrun possible – hopefully I will see you again next week!

Meanwhile for me, it’s a marathon tomorrow, and, just to keep the legs moving, a triathlon with Tralee Tri Club on Tuesday!

Tralee parkrun July 2nd

This morning I continued my recovery from the last couple of weeks madness by taking part in another Tralee parkrun.

I travelled to Tralee Town Park with Catherine and Lee in very heavy rain showers, but as soon as we got there, the skies cleared, and it turned into a sunny, if breezy morning.

We met lots of our club mates there, including husband and wife team Brian and Lorna White, and my frequent running partner Brian O’Sè.

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Brian, myself, Lee, Tracy, and Catherine getting in a pre-run stretch (pic Tralee parkrun)

After instructions and introductions from race director Mary, we set off.

Myself and Brian fell into step, and took it at a fairly leisurely pace – this was down to me, as I definitely didn’t have a pep in my step, and I still have some recovery to do.

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Getting there (pic Tralee parkrun)

Lee took off fairly quickly, with Catherine not far behind.
The first couple of laps were fairly uneventful, other than one rain shower, but I certainly felt every lap. I think I’ll need a bit of TLC on my legs before next weekends marathon.

As we approached the final lap, we briefly caught up to Catherine, but, when she kicked off  a third of the way through the final lap, I had to let her go, as there was no way I was keeping up. Brian stuck with me, and I struggled in to cross the line in 29:29.

Catherine was a little before us on 28:57, but Lee had a bit of a mishap – he ran a storming last lap, including a sub 5 minute kilometre and passed the line in a new PB – however he literally passed the line, and headed off on an extra lap before realising his mistake! He turned after a few hundred meters, and came back to finish in a very respectable official time of 26:51, though he is very annoyed he missed out on a PB – I think he’ll blast his PB to bits the next time!

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Crossing the line (pic Tralee parkrun)

We went for Coffee with Lorna and the two Brians afterwards, before heading home.

Well done to all the volunteers who make the parkrun possible, I look forward to the next one.

Tralee 40 Mile Ultra Marathon Race Report

After last weeks shenanigans in the 102k ultra, I wasn’t exactly full of enthusiasm for dragging my aching legs out on another ultra this week, but I did it anyway.

I ran this race last year, and was determined to complete it again, especially as I am getting close to qualifying for my Marathon Club of Ireland 25 marathon bronze medal, and this race would leave me with just two more to go (hopefully they will be the MCI Tralee Marathon, and the Tralee 100k).

I had only gotten in one training session between last weeks ultra and this – a short swim/run brick session, and I definitely wasn’t fully recovered – my feet were still a bit tender, and my hamstrings were still tight.

On the morning of the race, I got to the start/finish line at the Rose Hotel, and got my drop box set up, and met the other runners. There were four of us that ran last week that were doing this as well, and there were lots of runners from Born To Run and Kerry Crusaders.

Myself, Mazza, and Brian on our second ultra in a week! (Pic by The Kerryman)

After the usual formalities, Marcus from Run The Kingdom set us on our way. The course consisted of 10 laps of a 4 mile route, which consisted mainly of public road, with some riverside walkways, and a small section through a public park. The route was very slightly under 4 miles, so there was a small loop around the hotel to do on the last lap. There were 2 long slow hills in the route, divided fairly equally along its length.

I set off at a nice slow, comfortable pace, knowing that I probably didn’t have an easy day ahead of me. My plan was to keep the pace slow, walk the two hills, and try to come in under 10 hours. I’d done it in just over 9 hours last year, but I’d had a lot more training miles in my legs, and hadn’t done a 102k the week before!

I had lots of company for my first two laps, but I knew I wouldn’t have them for long – I intended to stick to my slow pace no matter what, as I knew any effort to push on would end in disaster with my tired legs. I had a lot of stiffness in my legs for the first few miles – my feet especially, felt like they were ready to seize up.

By lap 3 I had settled into a bit of a groove. Weather conditions were surprisingly good – it had rained heavily the day and night before, and it had been very cloudy, but one we got going it was sunshine all the way. It was actually quite warm for the whole race, and I was very glad of my Elivar Hydrate Plus. I definitely felt last week in my legs as the mileage racked up – I was just weary, and the little reserves of energy you always find in an ultra just weren’t there. Every incline felt like a mountain.

The leaders lapped me for the first time on this lap, and one incident stands out in my mind, that pretty much epitomised this race, and my experience of ultra running in general. The two leading runners passed me, neck and neck, just before the mid-point water stop. The flew in to the stop and grabbed bottles of water. One of them looked back at me, noticed I had veered across the road to head for the water stop, and bent down to grab a second bottle of water. He then ran the few paces back to me, handed me the water, and took off again. This was a guy fighting for first place. You won’t see that in a 10k. Ultra running is tough, brutal, painful and not for the faint-hearted. It’s bloody brilliant though.

Every single time, without exception, that a faster runner lapped me, they said something encouraging. Many took the time to ask me how I was, congratulate me on last week, or engage in a bit of friendly slagging. I don’t know whether ultrarunning attracts exceptional people, or whether running ultras makes people exceptional, but either way, it’s cool.

My Tralee Triathlon Club and Born To Run teammate Poshey joined me for lap 4, and his naturally upbeat personality definitely helped shorten the road. We had a funny experience near the end of this lap when we were running along the riverside walkway (known to local runners as dogshit alley) when we nearly ran straight into a guy who had decided, at a very inopportune moment, to trim some of the trees overhanging the path. He had cut down one tree and completely blocked our way – blocking me wasn’t too bad, as I looked on it as a chance to rest my legs for a few seconds, but as we stopped, Rachel Stokes, who was leading the women’s race, came flying around the bend and nearly went straight through it. In fairness to her, she took it in better spirits than I might have had if I was leading, and we were soon on our way again. You need to be prepared for every eventuality in an ultra!

By the halfway point, on lap 5, my legs were gone awol. I was now finding the first section of each lap very tough, both because most of the climbing was in the first section, but also, I think, because I was finding it mentally tough leaving the start/finish line each time, and heading out to do another lap. It took all my willpower to keep going, but I was determined to finish.

The last 4 laps were fairly grim at times, and I went through a fair bit of pain. I was kept going by the encouragement of the other runners, and the supporters. Catherine and Lee came out and gave out ice lollys (if you have never eaten a Calypo during a hot ultra, then you have missed one of life’s great pleasures!), Ashley set up an aid station with Coke and sweets, and lots of others helped with drinks, bananas, and encouragement.

At the start/finish line for my second last lap, I had to stop to stretch my hamstrings, as they were locking up badly, and thanks are due to Vinny from Crusaders, who had finished second, and who did a great stretching job for me. I slogged through the second last lap, and I knew then that I would survive. I got a great cheer coming in and leaving the start/finish area before my last lap, and I set off to get it done. I was last at this stage, and, although I could see a few others not far ahead of me, I had no intention of even trying to catch them. I was on course for sub 10 hours, and I was uninjured, and I intended to keep it that way.My sister Gill (and cliff the dog) came out to encourage me through the last lap, and, with the prospect of the finish line to come, I got through it without drama. As I approached the end, I had a few moments of worry, as my legs started to get very wobbly, and I willed them not to give out before the the finish line. One I got to within a few hundred meters of it, I took the view that if my legs did go, I’d just crawl the rest of it.

As it happened, it didn’t come to that, though it wasn’t far off. I came in to the finish zone, had to do a lap of the hotel, and came back around. As I headed the last stretch to the finish, a young woman standing on the footpath decided to cross the road in front of me, and, lacking the reflexes at this stage to avoid her, I ran straight into her. If she knew ultra runners, she would have known that, with 70 or 80 meters to the finish line, we would go through a brick wall without flinching, and I could’t do anything other than keep running in a straight line. I think she was ok.

I crossed the line to a great cheer from the runners and spectators, and I can tell you I was very, very happy to finish. I found a nice patch of grass and hit the deck. I had done it under my 10 hour target.

A happy bunch at the end!

Another ultra under the belt (my 7th ultramarathon), and a step closer to my big goal for the year, the 24 hour.

Thanks to Marcus and the Run The Kingdom team for another fantastic event. If you are contemplating an ultra, especially a first ultra, I couldn’t recommend this event more – it is friendly, compact, well organised, and well supported.

Thanks to all the other runners, whose sense of sportsmanship, camaraderie, and mutual support, is fantastic to see, and be a part of. Thanks also to everyone who came out to support, encourage, and help. Well done to the winners, Denis Keane and Rachel Stokes, and to everyone who ran, especially those completing their first ever ultra – may it be the first of many.

Well done to my many friends and club mates who completed Ironman distance this weekend – you know who you all are!

A special mention for my youngest son Lee, who joined the parkrun Junior 10 Club, with his 10th parkrun.

My next event is the Tralee Triathlon Club mini Tri on Tuesday night, which I think may be done VERY slowly. I’ll be getting my first chance there to test out my new Ribble Aero 883.

Well done Lee!
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Another one for the collection.




Global Running Day 5k

My family and I celebrated Global Running Day by taking part in the Run The Kingdom 5k in Tralee. The event was organised by Marcus Howlett and the Run The Kingdom crew, and there was a great turnout for both the 5k and the 3k, with runners of all ages, on a fantastic sunny evening. Well done to the organisers, and to sponsors Radar Sports.

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Global Running Day

Wednesday June 1st is Global Running Day, an initiative to celebrate the joys of running, and inspire others to get involved. There will be events held all over the world where people will get together to run.

I will be participating in the Run The Kingdom event in Tralee, organised by Marcus Howlett, starting from the Aquadome at 7pm – if you are in the area, come along – there are 3k and 5k options, with medals for all participants, and it is completely free.

Enjoy your run tomorrow, wherever in the world you do it!

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Darkness into Light Walk for Pieta House

The annual Darkness into Light 5k Walk, which raises funds for Pieta House, is coming to Tralee this Saturday, May 7th. The walk, which crosses the line just as dawn is breaking, is held at over 100 venues, on four continents, and attracted well over 100,000 people last year. The funds raised helped Pieta House assist those who are in suicidal distress, or engaging in self harm.

The Tralee event is the work of the tireless Colin Ahern, who last year organised the Walk for Life. Colin (or Poshey as he is known to most people) has put in a huge amount of work to the event, and deserves enormous credit.

There is still time to register for the Tralee event, and the registration details are below. I hope to see you there!

DiL registration dates

DiL Walk Map