Monday, 14 June 2010

Mourne Way Marathon 2010

They say you should get a good nights sleep in two nights before you're event, but I don’t usually follow sensible advice, and last week was no different. Sleep the night before was fitful at best, that is after packing again and again and making sure I hadn't forgotten anything. As with most things of this nature, I was up well before my alarm went off and decided to just get moving. Beans and toast consumed, it was time to race down to Kilbroney Park in Rosstrevor.

Driving through Rathfriland the morning light made most of the Mourne’s, and it would be one of many fine views I would get before the day was out.

I had left way too early and had a couple hours to kill before the busses left for Donard Park, and the start. After registering and having a wee walk round Rosstrevor, there was nothing left to do but read the Times, eat flapjacks and crisps, keeping the fluids up and some how losing my racing number, at least I still had my championchip!

The bus journey round was rather uneventful, other than listening to the Newry City Runners’ banter and trying not to get too nervous. Eventually we spilled out at Donard Park and made our way to the start point, and mid point for the Ultra runners who had started their epic 52 miles before I had even left my bed. Every now and then an ultra runner would come though to a small round of applause, quietly admin themselves and then head back into the forest for the second half of their race, pure madmen.

Twenty minutes was spent lounging in the sun, devouring more flapjacks and downing a bottle of Powerade before we lined up for the start. After a couple words from the organiser the klaxon sounded and it was time to set off.

I decided to start near the back presuming that everyone else would be in far better shape than myself, however I soon wished I hadn’t as some people were moving so slowly. I knew it was only the beginning of a 26 mile course, and I had never ran a marathon before, but part of me felt like it was dying inside being stuck behind people moving so slowly. This wasn’t helped by the first major ascent coinciding with the forest road diminishing to a tight trail that slowed everyone to nothing more than a dander.

At the end of the climb we emerged out of the forest with a stunning view of Newcastle and the Mourne’s below. In front of us was half a mile of descent which I thought would allow the rather tight field to stretch out and some sort of rhythm be gained, but there was clearly quite a few runners who had never left tarmac and I became a bit frustrated. I ended up being quite cheeky and just passing people where they were being pusillanimous with small obstacles or running off the path to get in front of them. Eventually we entered the outskirts of Tollymore Forest and the wide forest roads were a welcome change, even if it was on a descent.

Passing a water pump station of some description we left the forest road and returned to a thin grassy trail. Once again passing those in front wasn’t an option, but the pace was far more agreeable. We finally descended onto the actual Ulster Way and the route I had walked with Ryan two weeks previous. Returning to forest roads we climbed again, running the flatter sections and walking the steeper ones while replacing fluids/eating jelly babies.

Descending down to the valley of Tollymore forest and crossed the Shimna River I dipped my cap for the first time of many, before following it for the next mile or two and making our way to the first feed station at the Trassey Track. Eight miles in I was feeling pretty fresh, stopping for a cup of water and half a banana before heading upwards and onwards. Once reaching the wall it was a nice run on the relatively level grass all the way past Fofanny Dam Reservoir to Slievenaman Road, and the start of the largest road running section.

Climbing up to the road, past a small forest, we were greeted by another feed station and the first Championchip station. It was the half way point and I had come in at 02:09:18. With another half banana and a fill of water it was off up the road passing the Ott Mountain Car Park and starting the descent from hell, one which I hadn't expected as it was the alternate Mourne Way route.

This descent was probably the least pleasant section of the whole race and by the end of it I really wished I had taken a more cushioning pair of shoes with me than the Mudroc 290’s. We finally left the road and descended to a footbridge that crossed the Bann, I stopped to freshen my cap in the river and loosened off my quads that had just taken a bit of a pounding.

The next mile was one of the sections I was worried about going off course on but the boys of 26extreme had done a good job of marking it with bamboo canes and mine tape (in fact the entire course was extremely well marked, between spray paint on the ground to mine tape and arrow markers).

The trail undulated a bit but was again mainly on the flat, and after crossing a stream and following one of the many stone walls I was at the third feed station and the start of Hen Track, 17 miles done 9 to go. My legs were certainly starting to feel a bit lethargic and after downing some water, having another half banana and trying an energy gel (rash, won’t be trying them again), I decided a quick stretch was in order.

The climb up Hen Track was rather slow with the flattest sections being ran before giving into walking, however I seemed to be in good company and I think most were doing the same. I was very thankful to finally reach the end of the track, or as far as we had to go and the following descent beside Rowan Tree River via a thin trail was a nice change of pace.

Crossing over Rocky Water via a footbridge the last major climb across the Rocky Mountain and Tormarock saddle was in my sights. The climb was slow and hard, but soon enough the struggle up was replace with the concentration of the descent, with the next feed station in sight.

I was now on the final leg of the marathon, with 20 miles covered in 03:34:20. After another cup of water and banana it was time to set off again Thinking back I must have been looking pretty rough as one of the guys manning the station asked if I was running the ultra!

The last six miles were by far the hardest of the entire race, even though there was little in the way of ascent. I was struggling to keep running and seemingly constantly walking. I suppose this is what many would refer to as the wall, but I’ll just say I was pretty wrecked! I was expecting it to happen as I hadn’t done enough training; I knew that, so I just kept pushing on and ran as much as I could. Even the smallest ascents were now an excuse to walk.

The last feed station left 3 miles to the finish and was a welcome break, another half banana and cup of water. My lower back now started to become sore from time to time, probably from the waist belt, but there wasn’t much more to go.

The further I descended the more I couldn’t wait to finish and that was really the driving force to keep running, to make it end! Descending through the forest, glimpses of Carlingford Lough came into sight, and soon some sort of settlement could be made out. Longing for it to end I eventually came across a marshal in a high vis vest and after passing round a corner I could see the finish across Kilbroney Park. A final descent through Kilbroney Park and I was running through the streamers and crossing the finish.

View Mourne Way Marathon 2010 in a larger map

4:36:11, more than chuffed!

After picking up the medal, buff and goodie bag, lying down for a bit was high on the priority list, before climbing into the Ice pools that were loaned from the University of Ulster. Ice pools are the absolute unit! If you’re ever doing anything strenuous jump in the nearest river or Ice pool if they are on hand, they are responsible for me being able to walk and drive home!

There was a great feel to the event and a strange camaraderie that is built up while running and bumping into the same guys over and over again usually swapping no more than a couple words, but still. I wish I had the time to stick about for the nights festivities, but alas I had other fish to fry.

It’s probably the toughest thing I’ve done yet, but I’m definitely going to be back next year for another run and hopefully go sub 4 hour with the time. I think I’ll also be sticking about in Rosstrevor for the after party which I’m sure would be more than worthwhile!

What’s next then? I think the Causeway half or full marathon has to be seriously looked at, the Mourne Mountain Marathon will definitely be visited if I can get a partner again, and maybe I’ll take a trip down to Dublin for the marathon there?

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3 comment(s) so far, add your thoughts -->>here<<--:

sbrt said...

Well done Keith

Dan said...

Wonderful. What a great photos. Your camera was truly blessed to capture such incredible scenes. I commend you for such great work.

Andrew said...

Great post keith. I am toying with the idea of doing the Mourne Way Marathon next year but with only one marathon under my belt I dont think it is wise.
I will be running in Rostrevor tonight in a 10km trail run which should be interesting. :)