Dungarvan is synonymous with a big 10-mile race, named after John Treacy, but it better watch out, as it’s namesake up the road in Kilkenny will give it a run for its money. Today I took part in a lovely community organised race in rural south Co. Kilkenny. It’s a growing race, which has a reputation for being a tough test.
I signed up as a check on my way back to running fitness, ahead of the Waterford Half Marathon in 2 weeks time. A good race beats training in my books. With a €500 cash bonus for course records on offer, the start line featured Dublin City Marathon winner Gary O’Hanlon and Olympian Lizzie Lee.
As I arrived, Lizzie immediately pointed at me and asked, “what time are you running?” No messing, she was sizing up the opposition, male or female. I blurted out “57 or 58 minutes, I’m not sure”. Lizzie quickly made her prediction, “you’ll be 2nd so.” I didn’t know if she meant behind Gary, or that she’d spit me out after chasing me down.
Anyway, off we set – disappointingly by their signature bell, rather than the large shotgun that one man brought to the start line. Tis hunting season I suppose. From the gun (ok, bell) Gary took off and I found myself in 2nd, with Lizzie’s lead bike marshal behind me. That pushed me on, trying to figure out could I keep ahead of a 2:33 marathon runner.
The Stook is named after a local hill, which we’d climb, but first we had some softer inclines to warm us up. Nice quiet country roads through farmland. A beautifully sunny day, with a fresh wind. I was comfortable with my pace until we hit the Stook climb at mile 6 – 2 miles going up over 140m, so not easy. My pace dropped, but effort was high, so I was happy. No sign of Lizzie, or her bike marshal.
From the top it was 2 miles downhill to the finish. You could see the church in the distance. It was like being on a ski slope, as we hit the “flying mile.” It really was steep – dropping quickly, my feet struggled to keep the high cadence. It was fun though as I figured I had 2nd place. I pushed to get across the line in under an hour – 59:40, so 3 minutes off my P.B. but good given that tough course.
Finishing in a graveyard was a first. No “dead heats” or runners looking “dead on their feet.” A great atmosphere at the finish. With my race organisers hat on, I was impressed with the setup. Really distinctive branding for the race and local club Gowran A.C. on signage, tents and podiums. The cow bells are unique and handy for supporters. There was an eco-friendly vibe, with reusable cups rather than plastic water bottles or disposable cups (check out www.refill.ie).
There was even a “good spread” – cakes, sandwiches, drinks. All in a big tent. Nice people, nice tough course and worth the trip. Next week: onto the National Senior Cross Country Championships in Abbotstown – this test should stand to me.