I’d signed up for the Sandymount Night 10k, thinking that as it fell between my first two half-marathons of the year, it would be a useful ‘recovery’ run. I hadn’t factored in Storm Ewan but kept a close eye on accuweather.com – that was my second mistake. The weather site forecast the last of the winter showers hitting Dublin about 17.00 hours and then a clean break for a few hours – perfect i thought – my fairweather running and training predilections being well described at this stage.
Now i was a little worried because my heartrate monitor on my new Tomtom watch, my first such piece of electronic equipment, had recorded surges up to and over 200bpm during the half marathon at the weekend – not good, not good at all.
Maybe it was the watch.
I arrived in the middle of a squally stormy shower of biting cold rain – never mind i consoled myself – the forecast is just a bit out, that will be the last shower of the evening. The control centre and starting point was Clanna Gael GAA club in Sandymount, an oasis of friendliness, warmth, free coffee and doughnuts. Hundreds of people milling around, talking, changing, dropping their pins, depositing their bags and getting ready to venture out into the storm which hadn’t paid much attention to accuweather.com’s predictions.
And so we ventured out.
There was a 5k and a 10k option – the 10k being two laps. I remembered my early days of running when the two lap options were just not possible. In fact it is just over five years since i ran my first ever race, 25 February 2012, an Urban Trail Series race in Marlay Park – the location of many a run since then. That was in the pre-parkrun days and i actually came first in the 4k – in the section for men of my particular vintage and won a mug and a beanie. Rumours that i was the only male in that particular age-group have never been verified, nor properly discredited either. I used to watch the two-lappers in those races and wonder how they had the stamina and the mental toughness to run around twice!!
I hadn’t read the instructions properly and assumed it was a street run through the urban village of Sandymount – i couldn’t have been more wrong. We started off in the football pitch, cut through a short section of what is best described as a floodpath and then onto the beach – yes the beach, in the dark – what a wonderful idea. Out we ran along the beach and then back again, around the football pitch and safely home for the 5kers, while we, hardy individuals, did it all over again!
The gale force wind was blowing from the east, on our backs on the way out and holding us back on the way in again. The worse of the icy showers waited until we had turned around and were facing east – twice – jumping in the sea would not have made me any wetter and might even have been a few degrees warmer.
I finished in 1:01:03 – very happy with that all things considered including the unknown behaviour of my heart beat rate and proud to have finished on such a night.
Turns out we weren’t alone in proudly crossing the Sandymount beach. Stephen Dedulus, in Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ had famously, fictionally, marched there before us and i thought of a few words of his as i battled the wind and rain, “His feet marched in sudden proud rhythm over the sand furrows, along by the boulders of the south wall.”
Not running but walking into literary history
” He lifted his feet up from the suck and turned back by the mole of boulders.”
A very interesting article on Stephen’s proud stroll across the beach is available at http://www.jjon.org/joyce-s-environs/sandymount which, most interestingly includes an attempt at figuring out just where Stephen fictionally marched and even includes a map!
Now shortly after Stephen’s time, large-scale infilling of Dublin Bay took place and the area where Clanna Gael GAA have their pitches and sanctuary of a clubhouse was created. Stephen’s walk is shown on a modern Google map of the area.
As you can see, Stephen wouldn’t make it onto the beach today but he does loop the Clanna Gael playing fields, much as we did, though he then heads off to Ringstend rather than along the beach.
If i’d known i was running in his footsteps i would have enjoyed it all the more – though it might have affected my heart beat which, it turned out, didn’t do anything too excessive on the night.
And we got a medal, and yogurt and chia seed oil capsules, bananas and water and more sanctuary.
How good was that?
Opinion though on social media afterwards was polarised from the absolute best, most fun race ever to an ill-conceived, dangerous, wet, cold and dark disaster. I guess you can’t keep them all happy.
Though it does tend to be dark at night-time.
And i did rather enjoy it.
Stay safe my friends.