It’ll be fine they said, its a great race to prepare for the marathon. No one mentioned the hills!
My initial marathon plan had 7 runs in it that were 20miles or over. This was mainly due to the fact that I was starting marathon training early but it was a lot, I got to do 3 of them but I felt that I was still underprepared. I just didn’t train properly.
Athlone has a reputation as a great race, ideal preparation for DCM (Dublin City Marathon) and pacers provided to match planned DCM pace. After coaxing the family to stay in my mother in laws nearby in Ballinasloe, I signed up and put it in the diary.
Registration on the morning was fine, as I tend to do, I was early, but a quiet snooze in the car and that solved that. I’m not a big guy for warming up and when I do I always feel as if I shouldn’t have done, but I went for a jog and a stretch, got the number on and headed off to the start line.
No pacers for my 4;30 marathon time so I set off with a couple of others slow enough hoping to finish the 19.67 miles in about 03:25 or so. This was a great race, different to the big machine that is the Marathon race series, running through the magnificent countryside around Athlone and Lough Ree in the centre of Ireland, for long stretches the only supporters were cattle on the surrounding farms.
A little fast to start but not much, I settled into pace fairly quickly. The aim of this run was threefold… 1) Run at marathon pace and keep running. No slowing down or walking. 2) Run the hills, every single one of them. No giving up. 3) Enjoy the race, take in the surroundings and try to take my mind off any fatigue or soreness that enters the mind.
The aid stations were brilliant, water, boxes of sweets, lucozade, and cake or bread and butter! I was one of the tail enders but that didn’t bother me, I was being followed by an ambulance at times! perhaps they thought I needed the assistance.
I got a text from a fellow Belpark Triathlon club member before the start warning me to be save something for the end. I didn’t quite know what he meant but at about 18miles it hit us, a hill to rival anything the worst hill maker could manage. it seemed like a sheer cliff, but in reality I’m sure it wasn’t too bad! but at 18miles it seemed like many of my fellow runners had met their waterloo. Walkers everywhere, but I was determined to keep running, no matter how slow. I was still on pace for the race, in fact I was a little ahead of pace, so off I went.
I’m sure I looked like some sort of cartoon character, pumping my arms and lifting my legs. 1,2,1,2,1,2 I repeated to myself coaxing the feet to keep moving. the other competitors sensing my determination cried cheers of support and I tried to acknowledge them and encourage them to join me. One girl took on the challenge and we got to the top and shared a congratulatory smile. We did it.
A slight downhill, turn right into the Glasson Golf club and 200m to the finish. I saw the kids and we crossed the line together. Not as wrecked as I had thought I would be, finished on pace and ran the whole way. Success.
The Athlone 3/4 is an excellent race, a well organised and incredibly fun run in beautiful surroundings with some serious booty including a neck scarf, running singlet and decent medal. Well worth the entry fee.
No matter what I’m doing in 2015 I hope to be back here again.
Garmin data HERE