Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Clare Burren Marathon 2013

Well today I did my third marathon. Last year this event was my first ever and even though I hadn't done any  quality training for it this year due to injury etc I was determined to have a go again this year. It is a run that spends most of its length on trails or green roads and the remainder is split between gorgeous country lanes and finally on a reasonably busy road. I finished in 3 hours 59 minutes and so reached my target of staying under four hours. It was a you would expect tough and I had to did deep to keep going over the final six miles but at the end there is a great sense of achievement and satisfaction.

Camping heaven
I went up on Friday evening and headed to my favorite wildcamp spot in the country. This is an area about five kilometers south of Fanore where you can park your car and pitch your tent on good ground that is perched above some cliffs where you can sit and watch the sunset and the view across to the Aran Islands is superb. That is to ignore the stunning views across Galway Bay towards the mountains of Connemara that promise great future days out. I like to take a wander and explore the the unique landscape that is The Burren. Limestone paves the entire landscape and is criss-crossed by cracks and fissures where rare alpine plants like Gentians sit side by side with Orchids and Primulas. I have a passing interest in flora and being here is too good a chance to spurn the opportunity to explore this garden landscape. I did of course also enjoy a nice sunset and also enjoy the advent of a full moon. It would have been even better if I hadn't arrived without my sleeping bag. I was warm enough to start with but as the night wore on the chill set in and lets just say I slept fitfully at best. I would say live and learn but it seems sometimes that I never will.

Across Galway Bay to Connemara

Looking towards the cliffs of Moher

Great rock climbing

The Twelve Bens

Spot the rock climbers

The view on one side 

The view the other

I got up before six and walked about a bit to get the blood circulating again and had a fine breakfast of porridge and a sandwich after. This was still over two hours before the race start so I felt it was okay to eat a big meal. I had to be in Ballyvaughan before 8 am to register so in the end I couldn't tarry and I busied myself breaking camp and getting stowed. By the time I arrived, a good number had already arrived and many more were pouring in as well. Parking was organised with military like precision and even the side of the lane you walked to the start was preordained. Eventually the appointed start time 9 am neared and everybody was ushered behind the start line to ready for the off. Whoever thought it was a good idea to have an aerobics instructor try to get people who were quashed in to a tight space do warm up moves needs a good talking to, but thankfully she eventually gave up and we were off. Another niggle was the number of walkers who were at the front of the crowd and this made making progress difficult to say the least. Still things soon settled down and everybody was able to settle into their chosen rhythm.

 Out of the village and soon we were on a little country road for a few miles before we turned onto a green road which rose gradually and afforded stunning views over the gorgeous scenery. Eventually we were back on another little lane before entering another green road and again climb to another plateau where the views just kept on going. Down again along a lane to the village of Fanore and shortly thereafter we were running along a trail near the beach. Then follows the highlight where you run up another trail that runs for a few miles about 300 ft above the ocean where all you can see in the limestone pavement sweeping from above all the way to the shore, this runs right around Black Head and you can see right across the bay,stunning. Unfortunately by now after over twenty miles it is a little difficult to fully appreciate it but it nevertheless a most welcome distraction. All good things must end and we arrived back on the busy road for the last three and a half miles. Now there is nothing for it but to put the head down and grimace and bear it. The end seems an eternity in coming but when it does it is all the sweeter. Sitting here now I can feel the aches and pains but I know they will fade but already I am thinking of doing another, but not yet. A big thank you to all involved for their courtesy, wonderful stewarding and organisation. I really hope to be back next year.

The following are a number of pictures of the route taken last year by Pat O'Keeffe of the Marathon Club of Ireland. Thanks Pat, I think the pictures show just what this wonderful event is all about.

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