14 April 2016

Connemara Half Marathon 2016 by David

On Sunday 10 April 2016, four of our club members made it to the starting line of the Connemara International Marathon. In less than perfect weather conditions all four finished this event and some of their experiences are shared below.

David view on Connemara Half Marathon 2016.

This was to be my first half marathon since Dingle last September and I had set myself a target of getting a good personal best. Previously my best time had been set Dingle and (1:50:34), for this race I was hoping to get 1:49:30.
Since that race in Dingle I have trained for and completed a marathon, worked my way through a knee niggle for six months but managed to continued to run during that time. And since the turn of the year I have been training consistently 3-4 times a week, also racing well breaking my PBs in 5K, 5mile, 10K and 10 mile distances so my confidence is high.
Leaving Kerry on Saturday morning with Artur, Cathy and Margaret we arrived to Connemara on Saturday afternoon and met our hosts for the night, a very nice couple who couldn’t have done more for us including dropping us to the start line. There was talk of possible challenging weather conditions, with snow and freezing conditions the other side of hills. What can you do with this only hope for the best and bring enough clothes for the worst! The next morning we thankfully had the advantage of the warmth of a car until a short time before the race and I suspect it helped me at least to avoid being cold before the race started.

I was taking part in the half marathon whilst my clubmates were going to be running the full marathon, each will have their own story to tell also!
The start line for the half marathon was in Leenane, a small little village beside a large lake and plenty of space for the wind to whip around. The race route would have a good climb out of Leenane for a mile or so with the next 8 miles of some ups and downs. After that was the notorious Hell of the West climb, a mile and a half steady climb out of the valley and finally a flat two miles to finish. A challenging 13.1 miles in any weather condition but today we to be regarded as exceptionally bad by the talk of the people who had experienced the event before. As the half marathon started we were being beaten by wind and hail stones, it was actually hard to see for the first few minutes of the race and I thought this is going to be fun. My first mile was slower than I hoped but things picked up then and I was running well, by the end of mile four I was bang on target for what I was aiming for. Conditions on the weather front were tough still, with the wind coming in from the side and sometimes feeling like coming from all sides but you keep going as best you can. At some point we got to see some top marathoners glide through the half marathon pack, these guys were like machines with their strength and motion considering when we saw them they’d 15-20 tough miles done at that stage. Saw a few ultra runners as well who seemed to be having a tough time of it on their 39.3 mile route.
As I reached the Hell of the West climb in Mile 10 I was about 50 seconds ahead of my planned target for the day. I had a plan for that big hill, as we’d seen some of it on the drive into the area the previous day you could see spots of where it levelled so you would get a breather here and there over the climb. I reduced my stride length but maintained my cadence and worked my way at a decent pace up the hill and didn’t lose much time at all. I passed quite a few people on the climb and that felt good that I was racing that well.
Once we got the top then it was just two miles to go, I was wondering how my legs would feel but everything seemed okay for the final push. The wind was picking up then and also some rain had set in, so put back on my hat...unfortunately my gloves were soaked right through along with the rest of me but least my head would be dry! The last two miles were as fast I could go really, getting down to what would be my 5/10K pace. I passed a few more people and just started to count down the minutes to go. You could hear the sounds of the finishing area but yet it seemed far away. Finally I saw it and gave a final push through to end and then I glanced down and saw my watch....1:48:39. Absolutely delighted as I’d beaten my target for the day which had me both doing my fastest ever half marathon time and going sub 1:50 for the first time ever.
It was a great race and one I intend to return to in time...it would be nice to see the great views in better weather but the cold weather worked out well for me this time! It was great to catch up with my clubmates after the race to hear how they got and we had plenty of chat about the race on an enjoyable trip home.
Many thanks to Artur for suggesting the race and arranging accommodation plus transporting us!

Half Marathon results HERE.


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