Overall - 48/341
Shoes - Brooks Pure Flow 2
I’m not sure where I came across the Dingle Marathon in my web-surfing travels. I think it was probably shortly before last year’s race (2012). This year was only its 5th in existence and with the scenic region and destination travel I’m sure it will grow quickly. There are destination races all over the world that I want to run eventually but this one stuck in my head. It’s a small race, with only 350 marathoners, 1500 half marathoners and 60 ultras (50 mile).
As it turned out the holidays I booked from work this year fell perfectly when the marathon was scheduled (unintentionally, I swear!). Leah and I had been wanting to get back to Europe for years so when I mentioned it jokingly in passing it didn’t take us long to distill it into a reality.
The plan was to fly into Dublin, check out the city for a couple of days and then rent a car and drive across the country down to Dingle in Couny Kerry. We arrived in Ireland a week before the race so it gave me lots of time to acclimatize and get over any jet lag.
We stayed in a gorgeous small village “just over the hill” from Dingle, called Cloghane (clah-hayne), at the base of Mt. Brandon. The drive was about 30 minutes and we had to go over Connor Pass, the highest mountain pass in Ireland, which is (like nearly every other road in the region) a narrow, winding, single lane road. It’s a fairly long steep pass and I was nervously seeing signs for “Marathon in progress” …fortunately it was only the 50 mile Ultra runners that would see this stretch on their route.
I had just run Squamish 50k a month previous (August 10) and my goal race was Victoria Marathon a month later (October 13) so my plan was to run this race very conservatively and just enjoy the view. Most of the course is rolling but there’s a decent hill on the course at about 34km that climbs steady for a couple km’s. It being so late in the race and not knowing the course at all, I figured I’d be taking it easy and be happy with a 3:35 – 3:40 finish.
When I woke up race morning it was overcast, windy and raining, but I’d seen the weather change quickly and dramatically throughout the day here and the forecast still looked good for the race. A BIG bowl of oatmeal with apple sauce (made the previous night by Leah from fresh Irish apples!) got me started and then we were off to Dingle.
|Start line - Broadway Run Club represent!|
I was a little concerned as I didn’t feel like I’d had taken in much water in the morning before setting out but I figured I could top up at the first water station.
It was unique that the Lord Mayor showed up with his shotgun and as we counted down to zero he fired a shot into the air and we were off! …er, like a shot!
|Lord Mayor of Dingle|
I hadn’t run in the previous week as we were travelling around and sitting a lot so I wasn’t sure how ready I was for this race but as we got going and my legs warmed up over the first 5km I found I had to really hold myself back. My plan was to hold somewhere in the range of 4:50 to 5:00 km’s but kept catching myself in the 4:30 range. I guess this will happen when the full and half marathons start at the same time… the energy and speed can be a little jacked-up.
There was a brief rain shower just after 5km but cleared up again soon. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. Running through the countryside on narrow, windy roads. Rock walls and hedges on either side. The course follows the route around the Dingle Peninsula and it’s definitely one of the most beautiful courses you’ll ever see. The course was rolling with a nice variety that kept the legs guessing. We could look out over the water and see the islands, as well as the historical landmarks and villages peppered throughout. The deep green hillsides had ancient stone walls separating the properties with lots of grazing sheep.
|(Not me). Photo courtesy of Dingle Marathon Facebook page.|
|Scenery is not too shabby at all.|
There were long sections on the back half where there would only be 2 or 3 of us within view of each other for miles as I tried to focus on picking runners off. I don’t think anyone passed me in the last 10 miles and I definitely dropped a lot of runners along the way.
Nearing 20 miles I knew the “big hill” was coming up. A section that climbs for a couple of km’s right at the time in the race you’re likely just holding it together even if it’s flat. I was still feeling strong and noticed signs saying “5 miles to go!” (Psychologically, after running Squamish 50 only a few weeks prior, 5 miles seemed like childs play!). There was a short, flat out and back, and then as you turn back on to the course it starts to climb. Fortunately it didn’t seem nearly as long or steep as I had expected. Partly because I had paced myself easy early on to be sure, but also due to some good hills during the training cycle.
It was funny as we were coming into the last kilometer the half marathoners getting dropped off were streaming along the road and not really noticing the course as well as some cars coming from the other direction, so I had to dodge a few folk on the corners as I was trying to get the last push into the finish.
I was pleasantly surprised to cross the line at a sub-3:30 when I really never intended to run the race that fast. Knowing now that I would be injured for Victoria Marathon, I should’ve just pushed it to see what I could do! Ah well, no crystal ball was handy at the time.
Overall it was a super fun race and a great way to sightsee in a Ireland.