The Race: East Cork Harbour Marathon. The place : Aghada, County Cork. The race is organised by members of Aghada GAA club with the support of Aghada AC.
Aghada GAA is the club of former Football All Star Conor Counihan. In the neighbouring village of Cloyne you can see the statue of the infamous Christy Ring outside the Cloyne GAA ground. There is a very strong GAA background here.
Christy Ring statue in Cloyne!
Arrived the night before the race and stayed in a B&B in Shanagarry. To get there we had to drive passed the gates of the infamous Ballymaloe House and Cookery School. Once we found the B&B and settled in we set of to Aghada GAA for the number collection. This went smoothly and was accompanied by a big welcome and even bigger smile.
This demeanour was a constant for the duration of the race on Saturday. Scores upon scores of marshals and volunteers all with big smiles and matching attitudes. This alone will make you want to come back. A huge, big thank you to all at Aghada GAA and the organisers for such a fantastic event held in great spirit.
Then on Friday evening things got a bit hairy. Setting off for Dinner in Garryvoe Hotel 1.5 miles from the B&B the weather turned within minutes. By the time we arrived at the promenade in Garryvoe the waves were literally crashing over the rocks onto the promenade flooding it and some of the roads around the Hotel instantly. Got to the Hotel and had a nice Dinner during which the weather became even more inclement. The walk back ensured being soaked to the core.
Yet this is Ireland. So when waking up at 6.30am for breakfast the skies were blue and free of clouds! There was a 10K and Half Marathon at 10am and the Full Marathon at 9am. We had separate car parks that were a good walk away from the Start and even further from the Finish. I suppose you can only use the space you have :)
As usual the Marathon Club Ireland gang where there in full force. Great chats were had pre race with wonderful people who travel the length and breadth of Ireland nearly weekly to do what they love most. Inspirational people they are; like Collette O'Hagan, Eimear Hurley, Ann Moloney, Catherine Guthrie, Gerard Fay, Derek Mackessy, Adolfo Garcia, Brian O'Se, Jim McNeice, Simon Hallissey, Conor Cusack and so many more!!
You can watch their official Video of the races here https://www.facebook.com/EastCorkHarbourMarathon/videos/512480955622447/
I also spotted another familiar face in the crowd. I hadn't seen Noel McCarthy at a race for a while. This is the man with whom I ran the second Half of the Limerick leg of his 6 Marathons in 6 Days in 6 Munster counties for Bumbleance exactly 1 year ago. It was great to meet up again Noel and thanks for the excellent company during the first 10 miles (and no I don't know where the 7 mile marker went either :) )!
Here's picture of Noel and myself after finishing Day 2 of his 6 in 6 last year!
As for the race I felt great throughout on Saturday. I'm running more often during the week again and that is the secret for me to feel better during races. Nearly 0 tapering, just 6 to 8 milers during the week beforehand. I'm not asking you to try this at home, just like the 3 pints of Smithwicks the night before a race this just works for me ;)
Though I don't run on times anymore as regular readers might know, I effortlessly moved from the 4.45 pacers to the 4.30 group and at mile 14 was about to tag along with the 4.15 crowd when we took a left turn up a hill. It might be my imagination but we climbed all the way to mile 22 (there was a few downhill sections but they were tiny compared to the uphill sections). This made for a very interesting, challenging section which I thoroughly enjoyed albeit at a slower pace.
At Mile 14 just before the 'hilly' section!
Just as the hills were starting to take their toll a vision appeared. A white car. With a hand sticking out. Holding Jaffa Cakes. And a voice shouting 'Look what I have for you Patrick!'. Add to that an ice cold energy drink and I owe a massive debt of gratitude to Dolores Duffy, the angel in the white car! Your generosity is remembered and you came at exactly the right time as I was being caught by the 4.30 gang again. And you helped so many others too. Thanks so much Dolores!
After that boost came a downhill and a straight few miles to the Finish line. It was on that straight I met Philip from Waterford. Philip was running his 5th Marathon, his first in 2 years. We started chatting and easily ran ahead of the 4.30 pacers, reeling in a few runners as well. Thanks Philip Knox for the company Mile 22-26!
Finish East Cork Harbour Marathon with Philip Knox!
At the Finish Line we got personal congratulations from the Race Director, a nice t-shirt, medal and burger with Ballymaloe relish!! There were plenty of activities at the GAA pitch for all ages and tables in tents with all kind of goodies too.
This was their inaugural Marathon and for a first it was very well organised and the friendly faces and great energy were infectious. I recommend this race and will try to come back myself!
To top off a wonderful Saturday for my 51st Marathon, I also received the 50th Marathon medal of Marathon Club Ireland from an absolute legend in long distance running; Collette O'Hagan. I have immense respect for Collette and she is my number 1 running inspiration. To get the medal from her made it extra special for me. Thanks Collette!!
Getting the 50th Marathon medal from Collette!
What's next?? In 4 days I'm running Craughwell AC Marathon in yes you guessed it Craughwell, County Galway. It is my 2nd time doing this race, I'll let you know next week how number 52 went!!
Miles with Smiles!!