and he will take 13.1 miles, or a half-marathon if you like.
The Dingle Half marathon in fact, if you like your miles undulating and awash with scenic views and friendly voices and the occasional bagpipes and bodhrans, jelly babies and wonderful volunteers handing out much valued water .
I was back, back on the peninsula and my old friend Serendipity was working overtime on my behalf. A late committer, as usual, there were no beds in Dingle when my decision was made. Inch, however, had one bed and so here i was from Dublin via Sligo to run my second Dingle Half marathon. My first, two years ago, had left me wetter than I had ever been before in my life. Rain concentrating on, rather than spreading from, the West had found me exposed along the Dingle peninsula; running but with no place to hide.
Today the sun was shining and tomorrow, race day, was promised dry, slightly cooler and calm with the wind abating – ideal running conditions to add to the ideal half marathon course. Two years ago, I reminded myself, the day before the race was a glorious sunny day with not a hint of a cloud to be seen. Tomorrows can be deceitful.
And so i went for a swim, to add the Celtic Sea to my summer splashing in the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea, leaving only the North Channel to complete the compass.
The hostel, The SeaFront @ Inch Beach, was bursting at the seams with runners; excited voices discussing previous races, the chances of netting a Personal Best the following day, comparing the number of times this race had been run, establishing bragging rights, comparing journeys – the journey to Inch and individual running journeys, tales of valour and hope.
The night passed fitfully, soft almost melodic snoring from the adjacent bunk reminding me that someone was getting a good night’s sleep. Our hosts kindly provided breakfast an hour earlier than usual, the godly hour of 7.00am so that we could be fueled before heading to Dingle.
Runners swarmed like excited bees scenting honey, buzzing through the streets of Dingle one of Ireland’s most beautiful towns. Slowly, the start line-up grew, marathoners and half-marathoners interspersed, supporters casting out words of encouragement, hugs and kisses, ‘see you soon’. Bags were dropped off, the queue for the toilets snaked around the car park, watches were synced with an overloaded satellite and the runners stretched and bounced and rubbed stiff muscles into a degree of flexibility.
And then we were off, carried on a wave of excitement.
One of the pleasures of a half-marathon is that you know you are in for the long haul, so you settle down to a comfortable pace and enjoy the craic going on around you and the wonderful views as they appear. On a clear day it seems that you could almost reach out and touch the Skellig Islands.
Many are so intoxicated by the views that they must stop and take photographs and selfies, adding to their trove of memories.
The hills appear regularly but are not threatening, at least not until somewhere close to mile 12, when you have almost exhausted your stock of resilience and have worn out your supply of silent self admonitions and encouragements which every runner carries in their armory.
But you know its mile 12 and over the fresh salty air blowing in from the Atlantic you can smell the finish line and so you dig deep and deeper still until the crest is behind you and a short downhill section allows you to recharge your batteries enough to climb the last challenge. Now you can hear the Finish Line, the music and the cheering, “Anything left in the tank?” a runner asked me as we viewed the run in and stepping on some magical supply of gas, he took off, leaving me gasping with exertion and envy.
Suddenly its over, you have crossed the Finish Line, collected your medal and top and, in my case, crashed out briefly on the Kerry grass. Food and water become the priorities as the race is transformed into a huge picnic, the chatterings interrupted by chewing and drinking and smiling, smiling everywhere, everybody is smiling. We have completed our Labour, slain those internal doubting voices, grasped the Holy Grail.
We live to run another day, perhaps another day in Dingle.
Namaste my friends, enjoy the moment and if you ever get a chance to visit Inch ……….