Connemarathon lived up to all expectations – the sun was shining; the scenery was spectacular; the hills were like mountains and the race had a great buzz. The route was 13.1 miles from Leenane to Maam Cross, on country roads, passing houses, sheep, fields, mountains, lakes and (thankfully) water stations every 3 miles.
My goal was to run under 1hr 30mins so I set off with a group running 7 minute miles, which would get me there in 1hr 31min if I could stick the pace. It was fast enough but I felt good once I got over the first hill out of Leenane (a mile of a climb to blow out the cobwebs). It was about 18 degrees with bright blue skies – great if you’re eating ice creams or sitting with a bottle of Bulmers, not so great if you’re running along getting a cup of Lucozade every 3 miles.
The roads were pretty peaceful once everyone spread out. Over 3,000 people took part – from walkers to ultra marathon runners. Those guys are nuts – 39 miles of torture I’m sure. I’d get so bored doing that. How would an MP3 player even last that long? Winner did it in under 5 hours though.
I reached mile 9 on 63 minutes, so just enough hopefully to break 1:30. At mile 9, the 2 mile ascent begins – this is where I dropped my 7 minute mile buddies and pushed on. It actually wasn’t as draining on the legs as I’d expected. It was harder but the legs kept running. Once I got to the top I knew I could pick up time on the descent into Maam Cross.
I even got a Garda escort – or so I thought. He was on a bike and rode just ahead of me. Spectators kept clapping and my ego grew with every step. It was only after about 1/2 a mile I realised there was a girl who was obviously leading the half or full marathon who was behind me. The garda had his sights on her not me. At least I got a few claps!
Crossing the line was great – I think I just broke 1:30 by 15 seconds but results to date have me at 1hr 30 min 50 sec, but they may be revised.