Running Blog

19 March 2011 – Larne Half Marathon

Another season of road races kicked off today with my third time competing in the Larne Half Marathon.

The idea was simple – use this as a training run for the London Marathon, which takes place in four weeks time, so I didn’t want to go out and attempt to get a PB and risk injury so close to my goal for Spring 2011.

The weather was ideal, 7c with a South Westerly 6mph wind with humidity sitting at 68%. The sun was out and the roads were dry – perfect conditions.

We set off at 1pm and I tried to hold back for the first mile, covering it in 7:55. As we made our way out the breathtaking scenery of the Antrim coast road with the wind on the backs of the 1239 half marathon competitors, miles two to five passed by in 7:28 (a tad quick!), 7:38, 7:49 and 7:44. At this point we reached the village of Ballgalley, where we turned left and started the climb up Croft Road, passing mile six in 7:56. I crossed the half way point in 50:58 and kept climbing up Ballymullock Road. Mile seven was covered in 8:06 and all was still good. With all the climbing now done, we entered Cairncastle and turned right down the steep descent of Cairncastle Road back into Ballygalley, marking off mile eight along the way in 7:48.

The run home now commenced, back along the coast road to Larne, via Drain’s Bay. Although we had a head wind now, I pressed on and covered miles nine to eleven in 7:29, 7:49 and 7:40. We passed under the famous arch with a mile and a half to go and knew the end wasn’t too far away. Mile twelve took 7:32 and mile thirteen was quickly covered in 7:15. I felt very strong during the second half of this race – just goes to show that starting easy is the way to go! I crossed the finish line in 1h41m09s, averaging 7:41 per mile, giving a second half split of 50:11 – a good negative split! I finished 365th out of 1239 and 61st from 163 finishers in my age category.

This event was expertly run, from registration to finish, with bottled water along the route and coffee and sandwiches at the finish! The scenery is outstanding and I can only recommend it to everyone as a must do run.

Saturday 08 January 2011
Northern Ireland and Ulster Cross Country Championships at Stormont, Belfast
Distance 8km

Today, we had a Springwell Running Club outing to the home of politics in Northern Ireland - up to the "house in the hill" at Stormont. This was my second outing into cross country running and I didn't pick a low profile event to dip my toes into, as this was the setting for the Northern Ireland XC Veteran Championships. In other words, there weren't any fun runners, but the cream of male over 35 club runners in Ulster.

As my main focus for the early part of this year is the London Marathon in April, I did not want to injure myself so I was prepared to run a steady race and enjoy myself - if that can be possible!

The race was held over 4 and a bit laps in the wooded area to the left of the famous driveway up to Parliament buildings. My lap splits were 9:12 (this being just over one lap), 8:42, 8:59 and 8:48, bringing me home in 35:40 for the 8km. This gave me an average for the 5 miles of 7:08, which I'm very happy with, considering I'm more at home on asphalt! My laps were quite consistent and having started at the back of the field, I was also happy that only one runner passed me during the race, apart from the first four finishers who lapped me on the home straight as I was about to start my last lap!

That's the first race of 2011 over and we can now give the "big house" back to the politicians. I may have finished 78th out of 90 finishers overall and 32nd out of 36 finishers in the over 40 category, but I survived and am injury-free and that was the main aim for the day.

21 August 2010 - Bridges of Hope Cross Country 8.8km – Stranocum

The last time I ran ‘cross country’ was at school, over 25 years ago. I didn’t particularly like it then, probably because it was always held in the depths of winter, when we were sent out on a run whenever the rugby pitches were waterlogged, or frozen. Today was different though – it’s summer, no one was forcing me to do it and this race isn’t really cross country. It was billed to be approximately 10k – in the end it was 8.8k.

It was a new race to the local running calendar, organised by the family of a young boy, James Elliott, who lost his life one year ago in the River Bush, whilst attempting to rescue his dog, who had fallen into the fast flowing river following a period of heavy rain.

The first half of the race was to be on roads and the second half along the banks of the River Bush between Dervock and Stranocum. I mistakenly thought we would be running along a beaten track at the side of the river, more like a trail run – how wrong that turned out to be!

The race started shortly after the published start time of 11:00 on a perfect August morning, with a bright, blue sky overhead and a temperature of 18c. There was quite a brisk westerly breeze, which was head-on on the road section, but pushed us along the river on the run home. We set off, up the steep, yes, steep, Main Street. In the Dervock Half Marathon, we run down Stranocum Main Street, but the strange thing is, it doesn’t feel steep when running downhill! Through the first kilometre in 4:41 – off to a steady start then. The next 4km whizzed by on my familiar terrain of asphalt, completing them in 4:14, 4:17, 4:34 and 4:28, following the Kirk, Bellisle, Bush and Stroan Roads.

Just after we crossed the Stroan Bridge, we were marshalled off the road into a field of long grass. “This isn’t right”, I thought, as it wasn’t the nice riverside path I had envisaged. This was proper cross country, dodging cow pats and ruts and holes made by cattle which had obviously occupied the fields shortly before we were ushered in. It got worse, as we had to cross from field to field by negotiating stiles and straw bales. This, of course, slowed me right down, but it gave me time to recover from trudging through the shin-high grass. On more than one occasion, I thought I was going down, as the long grass meant I couldn’t see many of the ruts. Then, there were the thistles to contend with – it was at this point I thought a pair of those Paula Radcliffe knee-length compression socks would have been handy, if only to protect my shins from stings as I brushed by foot-high, full bloom thistles!

Although this terrain was alien to me, I did however, enjoy it immensely. I did have to slacken my pace, as had I tried to maintain my road pace, I’m sure I would have fallen, or injured myself by going over an ankle. The last 3.8k were covered in 5:28, 6:08, 5:58 and 5:24, respectively and as I crossed the line, I stopped my watch at 44:12, averaging 5:02 per km, or 8:05 minutes per mile in old money!

Will I do it again if it becomes an annual event? Most definitely. Will I partake in the regular cross country season over the winter months? The jury is still out on that one, but it certainly whetted my appetite!

30 July 2010 - NFU Mutual 5 Mile Road Race, Ballymoney (formerly Riada 5)

This race marked my fourth anniversary of competing in running races, with my first being at this event on 28 July 2006. On that night, I was “over the moon” to finish in 40:32 and it was just before I joined Springwell Running Club. Since then, I have steadily got faster (although I’ll never win prizes!) and I was hoping to run a sub 35 minute race tonight.

The weather conditions were perfect for the 7:00pm start, with a temperature of 16c, dry roads, overcast skies and a light north-westerly breeze.

This course is very deceiving as the first mile is downhill and if you’re not careful, you can very easily get carried away with both the favourable terrain and the enthusiasm of fellow competitors in the early stages of the race. I knew that running 4:20 kilometre splits would bring me home in 34:40, just 17 seconds shy of my PB of 34:23, set at this race in 2009. I was determined to hold back in the first couple of kilometres to save energy for the climb up Bravallen Road and Lislagan Road later on!

I went through the first kilometre in 4:05 and the second in 4:09 feeling comfortable and started to get settled in as we came out of the park and headed up Bravellan Road, crossing the 3k mark in 4:20. Now was the time to concentrate. If I could just hold on for the next 15 minutes or so, I would be on the to the last mile which would be downhill.

The next three kilometres were completed in 4:23, 4:21 and 4:24. This was good, consistent timing and I picked off a few runners who were now feeling the effects of setting off too quickly. I was enjoying this now, (well, as much as you can enjoy a five mile sprint!). Having reached the top of the hill on Lislagan Road, I knew now was the time to push to take advantage of the hard work I had done on the climb. My seventh kilometre was 4:12 and I was now near home. A quick look at my Garmin and my average was 4:16 - this inspired me as 4:15 would be the magical 34 minute barrier. I gave it my all and picked off some more runners to cross the line with an official time of 33:40 - a 43 second PB!! My last kilometre was 3:48 - I couldn’t have tried any harder.

Four years since my first attempt as this race and I’ve now knocked almost six minutes off that time. However, runners are never happy and I’ll try to beat tonight’s time next time out.

24 July 2010 - Dervock Half Marathon

How quickly a year goes by. It doesn't seem like 12 months since I last set a foot on the start line of my local half marathon, the Kennedy Kane McArthur Half Marathon in Dervock.

The race starts in Dervock and makes it's way along the narrow, undulating North Antrim roads, taking in the neighbouring villages of Stranocum, Mosside and Liscolman, before returning to Dervock for the finish.

The weather for the 2pm start saw a muggy, slightly overcast day, with a light westerly breeze and a temperature of 19c.

I started steadily, keeping a target time of 100 minutes in mind. This was my fourth half marathon this year and the other three were all in the 99 minute bracket, so for the first time in my four year racing career, I wanted to get a clean sweep of sub 1h40m races. The warm weather played it's factor in keeping body temperature high and I was glad of the light mizzle around Stranocum, but it was short lived as the roads were dry again on the climb out of the village.

I went through the half way mark, averaging 4m44s per kilometre, keeping me bang on pace for a 1:40. On the run up Whitepark Road out of Mosside, the rain returned and as I turned on to Lisnagat Road, to head for Liscolman, it started to get heavier and heavier. This was welcome relief as I don't mind running in the rain as it keeps you cool and I really enjoyed the run home to Dervock with the water dripping out of me!

Having crossed Toberdoney cross roads, a quick glance at the Garming and I knew I would make 1:40, so upped the pace and was very pleased to cross the finish line in 1:38:53 - averaging 4m42s per kilometre, or 7m33s per mile. Apart from my two 1:36 runs in Omagh and Larne in 2009 (where did those times come from?), today is the first time I broke 1:39, so you could say I'm well chuffed!