Couch to 5km, 10km, 10miles oh go on so Noel sign me up for the half marathon!

So I started out running 2 years ago, which was 6 months after having my daughter, on a cold January evening at the track in Craughwell. I had heard about Craughwell athletic through a friend and was sceptical but thought I’d give it a go. The fit for life did exactly what it said on the tin. I started out on that cold first January night with layers to beat the band. We ran for 1 minute on and 1 minute off. As I watched some of the seniors whizzing by I thought I’d never get to that stage but as the weeks rolled by and the minutes kept going up I surprised myself, quietly. The layers started to come off and soon we were at laps rather than minutes.  The first term ended and I knew I was hooked, I continued on through the summer meeting up with a couple of the girls that I started with and we became good friends.

Then the competitive streak came out in me and I started to up the miles, I did my first 5 km race along the Ballymore route (a run that would I would become very familiar with) and made it home in just under 30 mins. I went on to do the streets of Galway 8km and loved it. It was a run that gave me a great sense of achievement as I chose to raise money for a cause very close to home. ACT for meningitis is a group that provide support for families that are affected by Meningitis and they were there for my best friend when her sister passed away from the disease. The memories and the emotional significance of that run will always stay with me and doing that run for such a good cause brought me over the line in 44 minutes. I was delighted and ready for more.

I went on to do a couple of more runs and then back to training with the club. I felt I was able for more but wasn’t sure how to go about it. I chatted with a couple of the mentors and found out how to do it right. I set myself up to do the Craughwell 10 a feat that seemed way beyond my capabilities.  The third day of training each week was tough, getting up early on a Sunday morning, donning the hat, gloves and the base layers (it was damn cold that winter). But it was worth it. The Craughwell 10 was my first big race, it was the longest distance that I had ever attempted it was my Everest. The morning of the race I was nervous, anxious and excited. I arrived at the school and picked up my number, I remember trying to pin the number to my club singlet but my hands were actually shaking too much, I found Lynda and she pinned it on and gave me the reassurance that only another runner knows how to give. I suppose the race held a lot of significance for me, it was the start of something that made me feel happy, healthy and energised. The distance wasn’t easy; it was a route I had practised on several times before, so I knew every hill, most potholes and nearly every bend in the road. On the day of the run none of that really mattered. It started out pretty good I kept a decent pace and I knew I’d need to save myself for the long stretch home. The support all along the route was great. There were kids with sweets, water stations and this strangely familiar voice coming from a fella on a motorbike telling me I was doing great (who I later found out was Tony). It was a race but the feeling from fellow runners was one of support and not competition. We kept each other going on the up hills and relaxed and chatted on the flats. On the turn for home I got a new burst of energy and I came in at 1 hr 29mins. The feeling was great and the whole club were congratulating me. Onwards and upwards.

Another summer of training and I had an aim in mind. I signed up for the streets of Galway but I had a bit of a set back with an injury and ended up pulling out of the race. There was a great turn out and I watched a few club mates do PBs. Sticking to my training plan the Craughwell 5km was coming up and this fit in nicely. The full and half marathons also happened to be on the same day. A couple of days before the race I got an email from Noel to say the 5km was called off, with a little hint to say that the half marathon was on. My rubber arm was twisted. Sign me up Noel. 

Not totally prepared for the half marathon but having done distances close to the 13.1 miles I told myself I’d give it a go and not stress about the time (all the while hoping to do it under 2 hours). The four loops of the Ballymore route seemed like torture to me but there was no backing out now. So I set off at a steady pace and saw a lot of the club pass me by, I stuck to my pace and ran through the familiar route. One lap down and I felt good. On the second lap I began to loosen up and ran a bit faster than normal but I paid for it on the third, it was my slowest but not the hardest. Every hill and every turn seemed to take forever. I thought it would never end. The last loop finally came and I knew I had time to make up. My relaxed attitude towards time was out the window and I now I really wanted to get in under the 2 hours. As I rounded the corner and up the hill past Rafterys I surprised myself by picking up the pace. It wasn’t enough I made it over the line at 2.01hours. Still happy at having completed my first half marathon in that time I knew I was in a good position for my ultimate goal – the Galway bay run on the 3rd of October.

The Galway bay run came up fast, the training plan that I had been following fit in with a lot of what the club had been doing with regards to the speed work and building up strength through a core class once a week. I had been increasing the distances slowly while trying to mind my old injury. The Race day was upon me and I had a strange sense of calm about me (not normal at all, especially for a race day).  I found some familiar faces from Craughwell AC and was told it was a lovely day for a run. Conditions were good. As we all lined up for the start it was evident this was a very big run, I stuck myself in behind the 2 hour marker and the plan was to stay close and then make my move in the last mile. It started out well and I had my sights very closely kept on that orange balloon. As I made my way down the prom after the loop of the Claddagh, the sea air felt good and I was keeping a good pace. The turn at the end of the road was harsh, really tight and slowed everyone down. Then down around by the caravan park and out by the diving boards. It was actually turning out to be a nice run. The second loop was a different story. Somewhere along the line I had lost sight of the 2 hour marker balloon and was disappointed. I had to find it, but the legs were beginning to tire. Some familiar faces from Craughwell Athletic were a welcome encouragement and a group pushing a modified wheelchair (with marathon colours on) were all that I needed to push me on. I decided, way too early that if I really wanted to finish under the 2 hours that I’d have to go now. I began to push it and was making up the time but still no 2 hour marker to be seen. The early push was starting to hurt now but I didn’t care – I think my actual words were “shut up legs” (an actual title of a run). I was going to make do it if it killed me. As I rounded the Claddagh and down the home straight I could hear words of encouragement as I pushed with everything I had. I looked up and saw 2.00.21. DEVASTATED. My head fell, my heart sank I leant up against the railing and a few precious tears rolled down my face. I slunk into the tent and got my medal. I couldn’t even put it around my neck.  I didn’t feel like I deserved it. After all my hard work it hadn’t paid off. 21 seconds over. 

I got home that evening feeling very sorry for myself and slunk down on the couch. Then the text came in. Red Tag Timing chip time 1.59.25. I was delighted, I jumped off the couch and I turned to my significant other and told him the time, to which he replied “there I knew you could do it”. My 3 year old was slightly confused by all the commotion and said “you won the race Mummy”. To which I replied ya I won the race, the one in my head, the long lonely run that builds up to race day, the one that wants a fitter healthier and happier person. The race that never ends. Step one was done and there will be many more. Ive already signed up for the next one.

So it’s been a year of ups and downs but some great running with the support of great club mates. I couldn’t have done it without you Craughwell Athletic.

Saturday the 17th. .