Malahide Castle was my destination – another 10k run – a trail run through the meadows and woods of the Castle – an almost perfect setting. It was the second 10k organised by Born2Run events in Dublin and i had missed the first as i hadn’t recovered from The Bay 10k in time.
My health and fitness struggles have been well documented in my recent blogs as i have suffered a summer of discomfort.
Races have been my salvation, islands of accomplishment in an ocean of struggles. I arrived early, as usual, collected my race number and took the opportunity to stroll through the gardens of the demesne. It was another outing for my trail runners shoes – who just don’t get enough exercise as most of my running is on roads.
After a short welcome and some running advice, we were off.
I started well but cautious, aware that i had at least an hour of running ahead of me. The front runners were soon nearly out of sight as we stretched our legs tentatively and sought our optimum pace. Oh, the pleasure in running through fields – if anything is capable of connecting me with my youth it is this, especially after the grass has been cut and its scent lingers in the evening air.
Soon we were passing through the woods, the coolness of the shade a pleasant boost on a humid evening. Other runners passed me out but i had no reserves to keep up with them and could only watch their shadows disappear through the woods ahead of me. The organizers had a number of ‘encouragers’ along the route with music and clapping and they certainly provided extra energy. Eventually, i was at the point of return as the course doubled back on itself. I almost took a wrong turn – tiredness obscuring my vision – but an ‘encourager’, much more alert than i, spotted me and called me back on track. It was beautiful but i was drained. This summer, more often than usual, i have felt a strong desire to walk, or even to drop out of races, due to tiredness. In this race, again, as i passed the car park where my car was, i was tempted to drop out and go home. Times like that you just have to dig deep. Don’t look for some lofty reason for running or some pride-based motive for completing the race. Don’t assume that ‘there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality’, waiting for you at the end. You are running – that is enough – and you don’t give in or give up – that is the bottom line. And so i continued. A photo taken at the Finish recorded my obvious distress.
And yet, as i crossed the Finish line, i glanced at my watch, for once i had set the timer, to see, with shock, that it had recorded 59:45 – was it possible that i had finally broken that target of a sub-1 hour 10k – and on a day i felt i was struggling more than ever.
I gratefully received my medal, mentally noting that if i was correct about my time then it would it be one of my favourite medals. The usual bananas and bottles of water were available, as were protein bars, a variety of sandwiches and a bounteous collection of donuts. i threw off my tiredness, ignored the background grumbles of my IBS and headed for the donuts – a celebration indeed.
I sat on the grass, surrounded by the elements of my feast, like an ancient lord of the manor and watched the award ceremony as the winners were called forward and received their rewards. My historic time in such historic settings was subsequently confirmed – though not before the organisers had a server problem. Oh island in the sun – indeed.
Two days later i ran my slowest 5k parkrun in almost a year – what running gives with one hand it takes with the other. Strange thing was, i didn’t even realise that i was running so slowely and felt that i had given it my all – as ever. No matter, i was still on a high from the Malahide feat – as i referred to it rather more often than my family and friends appreciated.
This last week has been momentous for reasons other than running – a new and exciting chapter in my career as an environmental geologist is beginning to unfold – and my medical examination, a safety check on my IBS, found nothing to concern me – well nothing extra than dealing with the IBS itself.
A week of island hopping indeed.
Tomorrow is a challenge of considerable significance. The Frank Duffy 10 Mile – doesn’t sound much more than a 10k until some knowledgable, matematically minded, runner pointed out that it is over 60% further than a 10k. Health and the divine willing, i will take my place at the Start Line – but more about that again.
Relish your islands my friends.