Rene Magritte spoke very eloquently about this: 'The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown'.
I have fallen victim to a love of the unknown. To trying out how far I can take the love for what I do without knowing where it will take me. Both in what I do 'for a living' and in my pastime as a long distance runner.
I have discovered that adventures to the Unknown come without maps, plans, systems or processes. And if there are plans and maps, they tend to not work out as intended. Instead adventures evolve from heartstrings, intuition and self worth which allows you to focus on love, passion and a desire for truly being that guides you nearer the limits of existence.
Last weekend's adventure and journey to the Unknown started with a Friday Lunchtime trip to Tralee. Regular readers of this Blog would know that this was the second time I made a journey to the Unknown via Tralee this year. I ran my first Back to Back Marathons there in March this year.
It might be time to invest in a Portal to the Unknown somewhere near the Aquadome so reluctant adventurers are only ever one brave step removed from it.
The adventure had a name. I was to take part in the Run The Kingdom 40 Mile Ultra. The Unknown was that I had never run that far. And that if I succeeded, new Unknowns were inevitable.
Run The kingdom events are among my favourites. Why? Because they are events by runners for runners. Because Marcus Howlett, Vivienne Li and all other volunteers and organisers share the same hunger and enthusiasm for long distance running than the participants. They know what makes us tick, what we need, what we don't need and how to treat us. And they succeed each time. Friday and Saturday were no exception. Whether at Registration or Briefing on Friday. Or on Saturday with kind words, support, encouragements, jokes by the MC about my Belgian roots at the end of a difficult lap, bananas, coke, sweets. You name it. I will be back at Run The Kingdom events, that's for sure!!!!
Marcus Howlett from Run The Kingdom giving the Race briefing on Friday evening in The Rose Hotel.
Between 45 and 50 brave and determined souls gathered from about 6.30am on Saturday for a 7am start. What takes away from the pre-race nerves each time is the many familiar faces. Member from Marathon Club Ireland, Kerry Crusaders and Born To run Tralee were all there! One I will mention here is Aiden Sheridan who was running his 32th Marathon this year as part of a 52 in 52 weeks challenge in aid of Breast Cancer Ireland. You can visit Aiden's FB page to find out more on https://www.facebook.com/52marathonsin52weeks/
At the Start line of the Run The Kingdom 40 Mile Ultra with Aiden's number 32 in the middle.
We were running 10 loops of 4 miles with 2 gradual drags on each lap. Both are runnable yet if you do they turn from inclines to hills by Lap 4 and into mountains by Lap 8! Local knowledge from master Ultra runner Brian O'Se to walk the hills from lap 1 and run the rest was ignored to our peril :) I have learned to bow to your superior knowledge Brian.
Spend the first 4 or 5 laps (16-20miles) running in the excellent company of wonderful people like Mazza O'Shea, Geraldine Cawley, the aforementioned Brian, Dec Mc Donagh, Conor Cusack, Simon Hallissey and Paul Comerford. To all of you thanks for the camaraderie, laughs, stories and jokes. You make this Ultra lark way more fun.
The tiredness of weeks of long hours spent at rebranding to The Intentional Academy then hit me. It was physical tiredness so I had to slow down a bit. I played at tag running with the strong runner that is Theresa Grimes who at every time we passed each other took some time to say some encouraging words. Thank Theresa, you are a star!
I fell further back and then realised what Randall Wharton wrote about in his blog about this race earlier today. This Ultra stuff is less of a race and more a gathering of souls looking to adventure into the Unknown kind of Alone Together or Together Alone. I'm not sure which.
Examples aplenty. At lap 6 Rachel Stokes lapped me. She was first lady and 3th overall at the time. Yet Rachel slowed down to ask how I was and offered me some of her electrolyte drink. At lap 8 Vincent O'Leary lapped me for the second time. He was flying it and on his last lap. He actually stopped on one of the hills and chatted with me for about a minute enquiring if all was OK before continuing on his merry way. Eamon Egan stopped in the middle of an astonishing run passing through the Marathon mark in 4 hours again for a chat, asking how I was and running part of the downhill with me. Moments like that by gorgeous people like Rachel, Vincent and Eamon are etched in my mind. Ye are fantastic people and I feel very happy to know you.
Also memorable was a downhill (that is running downhill not feeling like it went that way) meeting on the course with the ever joyous and fun loving Mary Toomey Roche and Siobhan Dowling.
L-R: Mary Toomey Roche, Le Belge, Siobhan Dowling and Paul Comerford.
Thanks to all the above I voyaged that bit deeper into the Unknown of my limits as an ultra Runner and finished the 40 mile race with a smile, waving the Belgian flag back at the MC and receiving a beautiful glass plaque and race Tshirt. Thanks and congrats also to Catherine Costelloe. I kind of coerced Catherine into entering. She did and took 30 minutes of her PB. Thanks also for walking to the race briefing with me.
MCI running shirt and Belgian Flag
BTR singlet, Race T-shirt and plaque.
Lovely glass plaque for finishing
To top a fantastic day I received an Honorary membership of the Born To Run Tralee Marathon Club. I have been informed this honour was only bestowed so far upon the legends that are Eimear Hurley and Team Hoyt. Brian and everyone at BTR, I feel privileged and will honour the commitment that comes with this.
Proudly showing the Born To Run singlet in company of BTR Miss Ultra, the wonderful Mazza O'Shea.
I have to admit defeat. I have fallen victim. I no longer want to fight it. It has won. The Unknown is taking over. What's next? Don't know but I'll keep you posted. Next Year all going well the Unknown might reveal itself as 50 mile trails and 100k runs. Will see. I really don't know. And I don't need to. I trust the Unknown.
Miles with Smiles,