Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Race Report - Dingle Marathon - Ireland 2013

Chip Time - 3:27:52
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.

Connor Pass

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!
The start line was still being set-up as we got there, but the DJ truck with live video and pumping dance tunes had already begun.  It was a little chilly standing around but the sky was clearing. The starting shoot takes up one narrow lane of the road, maybe 10 feet wide, so there could be quite a long stretch to the start line if you don’t seed yourself early.

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
It was a little chilly to start but as we completed the first few blocks the sun started to shine on our backs and it was like a super solar charger.

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.
A few miles before the halfway point I started running with a nice local guy who seemed to know everyone and was pointing out the landmarks and historical references. At the halfway point I was feeling great and setting a consistent pace. In this race the half marathon stops at the halfway mark and then they bus them back to the start. They basically veer off the main route down towards a local village for the finish and it was cool to hear all the cheering, a little boost for the halfway point.

Scenery is not too shabby at all.
After the halfway point it was very rural, not a lot of homes or anything for several miles, just gorgeous Irish scenery. The weather socked in a bit, with wind and rain coming off the Atlantic. It didn’t last long but it definitely woke you up!

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.

By the top of the hill there’s only another few miles to go. Down the other side I clocked a 4:17 kilometer heading towards the very straight and flat last section of the race. The hardest part about this section was BECAUSE it was so straight and flat as far as the eye could see towards the town. I kicked it in as best as possible, back to a 4:45-4:50 pace, and dropped several more runners heading into the home stretch.

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.


  1. Beautiful course! Now get better soon and kick ass in Seattle ;)

  2. Great report and great race. I'd love to do that one some day.... So pretty!!