Monday, May 28, 2012

Burren Marathon Challenge

Camping Heaven
Glamorous Petra
On the 26th of May I ran my first marathon. This was held in the Burren in County Clare and based in the lovely little village of Ballyvaughan. I had run the Fanore half marathon last August and enjoyed it immensely so I knew what to expect terrain wise but was not sure how I would react to the distance involved in the full marathon. Ambrose Flynn told me that a friend of his Petra Toralova needed a drive to the race so I arranged to meet her in Limerick. I set off on Friday afternoon on a glorious sunny day and collected Petra and headed for the same camping spot I discovered last year. It is a wonderful spot by the sea in rugged and wild surroundings. We spent some time chatting and exploring our surroundings and after a bite to eat we retired to our tents early to ensure we got as much sleep as possible before the race. Petra was doing the Half marathon. Both events were starting at the same time 9am, so we set our alarms for 06.15. A decent nights sleep ensued.


A stiff breeze meant there was a chill in the air when we rose the following morning. I had as big a breakfast as I dare to ensure I would have a good store of energy for the long run ahead. We broke camp and set off for Ballyvaughan at 07.20. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the day promised to be a hot one despite the breeze. We were in good time and initially there didn't seem to be many about. We were directed to our parking and once sorted we returned to the start to register. People were pouring in and we saw that in total there was an entry of over 1000. Over 500 entries for the Half marathon and over 200 for the Full marathon. Soon enough the start approached and the DJ did his stuff and by the off we were buzzing.

Beautiful cottage in Ballyvaughan
The first few miles were along the road and provided a nice gentle start. Then we turned left onto a rough track and we gradually climbed out onto open hillside, and the wonderful expansive views of the unique landscape that is the Burren were a constant and pleasing distraction from the effort. Soon the junction where the half marathon separated from the route of the full one arrived. I was very briefly tempted to swing onto the shorter route but stayed on course. I was actually enjoying myself. I tried not to think too much about how far I had to go and instead concentrated on my surroundings and how I was feeling. A steep pull on to the hill behind Fanore gave way to one of the highlights of the route. A long run along the plateau afforded one uninterrupted views across the sea to the Aran Islands. A long gentle descent on the road followed and we arrived in Fanore and the sixteen mile mark.
Petra after her run

I earned that
 I was still feeling OK but when we went off road again and turned into the wind things started to feel tough. We crossed the road and the ground again became steeper so I had to walk for a short while. The track soon became a "green road" and this contoured around and above Black Head and was so beautiful that it distracted me from the rigours of the run and made the section from 19miles to 22miles very bearable. Then came the final section on the road. I guess you could say I hit the wall. I felt like time slowed and the mile markers seemed to take forever to come. After I passed the 24mile marker I had to walk a few times but this felt just as difficult so I shuffled on. Eventually I could see the finish and Petra was there and she ran the last hundred meters with me cheering and clapping. I got a great reception at the finish and I think I was actually quite emotional. I had done it, and even though I was exhausted I was elated as well. I didn't know whether to sit or stand and walk about so I did a bit of both. Petra fussed about me and distracted me from my aches. Pretty soon I was reasonably recovered and I walked back to the car and had a wash and got changed.

I finished in 3 hours 50 minutes and was in 15th place. I was delighted and astonished. I'm not sure whether I will do another one but you never know. It was also a delight to meet Petra. Her radiant smile and personality certainly added to the experience. I'm sure we will have other adventures in the future.
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