Belleek Marathon Challenge this weekend was one of those. It joins this year's Portumna 50K, Connemara Ultra and Tralee 40 Mile in races I will never forget.
My sincere thanks and congratulations to Cezary Lubinski and Daria Lubinska for what was a marvelous, beautiful and friendly running weekend. A lot of races could learn from people like you. Your personal touch, friendliness, calm approach and attention to detail made it one of my favourite running events. I really hope to be back soon. To anyone reading this who hasn't been to their races and likes old school Marathon running. Go! On my recommendation. You'll thank me for it.
2 days, 2 different courses, 2 Marathons, 1 wonderful event!!
Those of you that may know me a bit know I love listening to music and though I'm a rocker at heart I have quite an eclectic taste. On the bus home to Limerick from Ballina yesterday I put on YouTube and headphones to stop having to listen to 2 students sitting behind me loudly devouring the contents of 2 massive bags of crisps.
One of the first songs that came on was Van Morrison's 'Days Like This'. It struck me as an appropriate way to celebrate the weekend just gone.
'When you don't need to worry there'll be days like this
When no one's in a hurry there'll be days like this
When all the parts of the puzzle start to look like they fit
Then I must remember there'll be days like this'
When arriving on Friday evening for the weekend's Back to Back Marathons I settled into the Ballina Manor Hotel, laid out the gear for the 2 days and had dinner in the Hotel Bar. The food was of a higher standard than you would expect from a 3 star hotel. Off to bed soon after for a 6.30 am rise and 7 am breakfast.
I really love my running family. Nothing is an issue when it comes to helping each other. I had just checked in to the Hotel on Facebook (I know, tech nerd) when I got a message from Sheila Masterson saying she would pick me up at 8am and give me a lift to the start. Sheila would run the Marathon on Day 1 and also act as support at the food and drink table on Day 2. Thanks so much Sheila, I really appreciate it!!
You also make new friends at these events. This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Shannon and Donna Owens. Both hail from Omagh. Richard gave me a lift back to the Hotel on Saturday evening and to the start on Sunday morning. Donna took lots of pics of us all and shared them on Social Media. She also made for wonderful dinner conversation on Saturday night. Nice to meet with both you and see you on the roads soon! Thanks!
Donna Owens from Omagh who took these pics and was 1st Female on Sunday!
Sunday morning happy bunch with Angela Murphy, Suzy Taylor, Paula Wright, Finn O'Mara, Jill Mc Cann, Donna Owens and Patrick Roche.
Look at the smiles after the Back to Back with Paul Comerford and Donna Owens.
When we arrived at the Ballina Soccer Club grounds on Saturday I spotted many familiar faces. Lots of MCI members and other regular Marathon runners. There was a Full Marathon, Half Marathon and Relay Marathon and about 140 people turned up. We had our usual relaxing pre-race banter and after a race briefing by Cezary Lubinski we went on our way.
We were completing 8 laps of 5.3 Km. For the first 2 and a bit kilometers we followed paths alongside the River Moy in Belleek Forest. It was peaceful, beautiful and relaxing to run the path covered with fallen leaves giving the Autumnal feel of this race a distinct natural colour. Then we would take a left turn into the Forest for the remainder of the lap. The course is fully trail here with many twists, turns and little yet sharp inclines and descents. You have to keep your wits and I found that relaxing into this section was the best way to deal with it. It allowed me to stay running at a natural pace which seemed appropriate in these beautiful forest surroundings.
4 hrs 47 later I ran through the Finish line feeling a bit sorry this was over. I thoroughly enjoyed running the trails. Richard gave me the lift back to the Hotel. As this was my 4th Back to Back I know what works for me to recover. I spent 3 hours or so with the legs up in bed resting and devouring recovery food and drinks. Then I got a message from running legend Collette O'Hagan that about 10 runners were meeting for a meal in town that evening. I met with them in 'The Broken Jug' and had a really nice meal there. That's 2 for 2 in Ballina, is this a secret foodie town?? :)
I love listening to people at these gatherings. What a wealth of positivity and running knowledge we had around the table. In front of me was Collette O'Hagan with 400+ Marathons, to my left Dave Brady with 600+. We were also joined by the organisers Cezary and Daria and another bunch of multiple Marathon runners. After a wonderful meal it was back to the Hotel where I met with Anne and Brendan O'Mahony. We stayed for 1 more bit of chat in the Hotel Bar. Thanks for the company!
Sunday morning we headed back to the same start line for Day 2. 31 runners turned up for this Full Marathon on a 1,522 meter loop which meant 28 loops were to be covered. Most there were B2B runners but we also had some new faces on the course including Paula Wright who was my running partner at my first ever Back to Back in Tralee. We ran away from the start line then took a left turn up a hill for a couple of hundred meters into a stiff breeze before heading downhill around the rugby and soccer pitches. I settled into a rhythm that I felt comfortable with and after 5 laps (the time to start loosening up from the previous day) started picking up the pace a bit again.
The medals, t-shirt, buff, sticker and hat from Belleek Marathon Challenge.
Conquered the 2 day 52.4 mile challenge!
Theresa Grimes from Kerry Crusaders and with my BTR Tralee top I ran in on Sunday.
I have known for a while that I have a preference these short loops of 1.5 to 5 K. It is either that or a full 26.2 or more loop. I ran the first 10 loops and then decided to walk the last 100 yards of the hill on each lap. Doing this only slowed my pace by 10-15 seconds per lap yet I was able to keep up the tempo all the way to the end and finish strong in 4h17 or 30 minutes faster than the previous day. And all this without a watch or taking too much notion of the clock.
I really, really enjoyed day 2. This reinforces the mindset that I am an endurance runner rather than someone going for times. I am planning to get into more multiple day events and ultra's next year.
The medals, goodies and food we got from Daria and Cezary are absolutely first class. (I'm serious about the food in this place. The Chicken Curry sandwiches after the race on Day 2 were gorgeous!!). These people are passionate about their sport and it shows. They know what runners want and need because they are runners. Thanks again for a wonderful weekend. As mentioned I hope to make it back on February 25th and 26th for your 3 in 2 event. Thanks also to the volunteers, marshals, the Galway Cow, the fellow runners and my ever present friends of Marathon Club Ireland.
What's next? Next Sunday. On a 1 mile loop through Sixmilebridge County Clare. 30 laps, 30 miles. The annual Eddie Murphy Memorial in the Bridge!! Bring it on! :)
30 miles, 30 loops next Sunday!
Miles with smiles,