Having set a PB on the Athenry 10k course in 2005, I was looking forward all year to St Stephens Day 2006. It’s the closest race to home and a nice one to prevent overdoing the turkey and wine on Christmas Day/Night. Having spent the autumn however struggling with injuries, I wasn’t looking for a PB this time around – happy to complete it in a reasonable time. I ran the Port Tunnel race 2 weeks previously in just over 37 minutes and had only managed 1 training session since then – so anything in and around the 37 minutes would do. Initially I had planned to make it a family day with us all travelling down to Athenry but a few sick kids put paid to that idea and I travelled alone.

 Got to Athenry about an hour before the race and already the Pres grounds were thronged with runners. Popped into the check-in area to collect my number from Race Grand Marshal James Lundon. A few Craughwell AC runners had already got there before me. The new race HQ and facilities seemed much better than other years – definitely nice to be starting in the town. Warmed up with a few Craughwell colleagues and changed into the racers as the start time approached. The start was at the back of the train station, with a short uphill.

My impression of the Athenry 10k from previous years was of a pretty level or slightly downhill first 5km as we went into town and then a slight uphill for the 2nd 5k. With the 2 halves reversed because of the new course layout, it would be interesting to see if the uphill/downhill seemed the same. I lined up a row back from the start line, just behind Darragh O’Brien from Loughrea. Myself and Darragh had a good few battles since this time last year. I had beaten Darragh for the first time in any race at this event last year and in the first 6 months of the year, repeated that on a few occasions – however, he had definitely gone beyond my level in the last few months, clocking some great times and looking in good shape for today. Normally, I’d endeavour to stay with Darragh – this time I didn’t even consider it.

After a few words from Mick Rice, Oliver Geraghty got the race underway. It went off at a fast pace and I managed to maintain a good early pace. Mark Davis, who had recently returned from injury and ran a good Tunnel race, hared off and looked like he was on for another good time.  Towards the end of the first mile, Ray Glynn, Ian Egan, Martin McEvilly and TJ Whyte glided past me – I was already feeling the pace a little so didn’t try to respond. The miles passed by ok – at the 3 mile mark my watch showed 18 minutes so I was happy enough with my pace. I was feeling confident for the 2nd half of the race and hoped to go under 37 minutes as I had the impression of a long downhill into the town. However, that impression was shattered once we passed the GAA pitch where the old race start used to be. Over the following miles, hills appeared out of nowhere – knocking my time back slowly. Clearly a hill is not a hill when you meet it early in a race as I had never noticed these hills last year.

As I got back into the town, and reached the turn for the arch, I glanced at the watch. It shows 36 something so I put the foot down to try to get under 37 – unfortunately that wasn’t to be and I finished in 37.12. Still, possibly my best paced race ever –  6 min/mile for first and second halves. I was happy enough to have completed it as I hadn’t much training done for it. Great performance from Darragh O’Brien, going way under 36 minutes – definitely out of my league now! Some great performances also from my Craughwell AC buddies, with many making significant improvements on their times of last year.

Craughwell AC's pride of place has to go to Kathleen Waters and Tom Callanan on over 7 minute improvements on last year! Although this was eclipsed by the club's first time to feature at the top of an individual award category when Brian Murphy claimed first place in the men's O50 category with a superb 40.04. Talking to Brian after the race (and before he got his prize), he seemed dissappointed with not breaking 40. I asked him when he had last broken it ... and he responded that it was over 15 years ago! Fastest race in 15 years ... not a bad achievement at all!

Details of Craughwell AC's improvers over last year in this race:- 

Mary Prendergast00:02
Diarmuid Quill00:10
Gabriel Gardiner00:41
Anne Kelly01:36
Wally Walsh02:24
Tony Nevin03:26
Sharon Raftery05:51
Tom Callanan07:38
Kathleen Waters07:43

  Interesting to look back over the previous years from Craughwell AC runners – well done everyone: 

Name20062005200420032002
Alison Finn 1:06:34   
Anne Kelly53:0054:36   
Anthony Fitzpatrick49:4948:40   
Bill Doran 46:07   
Brendan Davey54:52    
Brian Murphy40:04    
Carmel Callanan 1:30:00   
Darren Callanan52:20    
Dervilla D'Arcy52:48    
Diarmuid Quill46:4346:53   
Gabriel Gardiner44:5245:3347:3545:19 
Gerry Fahy39:15  41:2740:27
Helen Hallinan58:1255:41 55:21 
John Raftery53:01    
Kathleen Waters59:031:06:46   
Maeve Roche 1:30:00   
Maria Lane1:02:21    
Mark Davis36:3735:3941:12  
Mary Prendergast59:0959:11   
Michael Tobin37:1236:4645:32  
Noel Gorman1:00:07    
Nuala Keady 1:03:24   
Pat Reidy58:0752:59   
Patrick Kelly 1:03:10   
Sharon Raftery58:321:04:23   
Sheila Cannon1:01:34    
Suzanne Joyce1:03:32    
Tom Callanan55:451:03:23   
Tony Nevin41:5545:21   
Tony O'Callaghan49:35    
Triona Coppinger52:49    
Val Fogarty50:27    
Wally Walsh39:1641:4040:4643:26 

And congratulations to Athenry AC on hosting a great event. Looking forward to next year and maybe a PB if I can get my injuries sorted out and get back to 10 miles training a week J

Saturday the 17th. .