Athlone 3/4 Marathon – Race Report

A second visit to the beautiful setting of Glasson and Lough Derg for this key part of Dublin Marathon training was on the agenda for my 2015 plans.  

My first time there last year was a revelation! I traditionally ran all my race prep as part of the Dublin race series, which generally means trudging around the Phoenix Park for lap after lap. Spectacular as it is, the Park does become a boring venue when it is your race setting week after week after week so the trip to the shore of Lough Derg was a welcome break.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 6.50.34 p.m.It was a break from what I was used to, rock up on the morning, park in a field, the race kit was a really comfortable snood, there was even buttered brack and gummy bears at the aid station – all in all, a world away from the razzmatazz of the race series.

So packing the family into the car, bags, wellies, coats and even the dog we headed off down the M7 towards my mother in laws house in Ballinasloe, only a short hop from the race start. The race coincides with the historical ‘Ballinasloe Horse Fair’ an 800 year old festival tradition that continues to enthral the kids with thousands of animals, a fun fair, trading and general high jinks keeping everyone entertained.

Sunday morning race day started with the normal porridge, toast and coffee before the 30minute drive to the Glasson Golf resort and the startline. Get there early was the order of the day, latecomers are scolded with the back field and a 10minute walk to the venue. Little did I know that this year, it was latecomers and those that didn’t carpool – ‘Turn right at the gate sir and park at the back please’ were my instructions on arrival. Not a good start to help my mood.

I’m still carrying my weak hamstring injury from the recent 70.3 triathlon so I was battling the voices in my head to even get to the start. But start I did, I had met a couple of friends who once they say me meant I couldn’t back out! The race strategy was simple – 10k @ 6min/k then 10k @ 5:50min/k then finish off with 10k at 6min/k basically marathon pace for a 4hr10min marathon, there or thereabouts.

That was the plan, somewhere around 3hrs10mins in the back of my mind I knew the course, theres a few hills and really I just wanted to finish and finish faster than my 3:30 (ish) finish in 2014.

Start to 5k
Theres a reasonable drag here, a little uphill and a little downhill but reasonable enough – keep on pace, don’t speed up was the order of the day. I’m finding this ok actually. Work out the nutrition schedule, Ive brought 3 gels that I’ll use on marathon day, todays the day to try all this out. Water stations are spaced out every 5 miles or so – I’ll use them as my markers, take a gel just after the first on 6miles and just before the next 2. That gives me my last gel with an hour to go, time to work and get me to the finish.

Feeling good – there are the 4hr Marathon pacers ahead of me. Olwyn Dunne and her husband, keep them in sight but they should be going faster than I am so they should power ahead, but they’re still in sight by the first water table.

Times: 6:01 / 5:51 / 5:43 / 6:00 / 6:03

5k to 10k
Two big hills in this section but I know they’re coming. The pace feels good and the pacing group are about 250m ahead of me, they’re not moving away? am I going too fast or are they going too slow? In fact, I think they’re getting closer. Something not right here.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 6.48.00 p.m.

Garmin stats

We seem to have formed our own pacing group here, there are 2 girls preparing for their first marathon, 2 from Donagheda running club and a bunch of individuals like me. First water station, I drop my first bottle but take the next one, me head was down. Keep the head up, make eye contact with a volunteer and let them know that you want their bottle – it works every time, they concentrate on you and you on them, the other runners are forgotten. Transfer is good and the bottles are 250ml sports cap. If its possible to have a favourite bottle of water, this is it! not heavy, easy to carry and especially easy to close and open. Unusually, I keep it with me. I’m going to finish this one, I got too dehydrated during the Athlone half and the 70.3 and I’m not letting that happen again. 3 gels and a litre of water over this race should be fine. Practise, race conditions, pretend this is the big one. A mile or so down the road its gel time, open the pouch, get a gel, close the pouch. sounds easy, try doing it while running and carrying a bottle of water!. I’m keeping some water because I’m hopeless at opening the gels without getting it all over my hands, use the water to wash off any spills. Not needed, perfect swallow gel and we’re passing a marshall, thats a good place to droop the rubbish. Still on pace, trying to decide if I’ll drop to the planned 5:50 for the next 10k though. Play it by ear, there are more hills ahead. Run easy, work the conditions and don’t be silly. Plan A is to finish.

Times: 5:53 / 6:00 / 6:07 / 6:04 / 5:49

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 6.51.05 p.m.

Course Elevation

10k to 20k

What goes up must come down. Things feeling easier now, flatfish countryside, super scenery and I seem to have broken from our ad hoc pacing group – I’m kind of on my own but just tagging on the back of Olwyn and her group. Right, lump it, things are getting a bit open here and I need the shelter form the wind thats picking up. I lift the legs a little and join in with the 4hr pacing group. She’s got 6:15 written on her back, no wonder I was picking them off, I was running faster than them! Their pace varies, but its done on purpose, the drags and hills in this race are considerable and pacers know exactly what they are doing. As a pacer, she has 2 watches, a balloon to identify her and I see theres a list of times / targets pinned to her tshirt, jeez, I’m just trying to finish.

Race pacers are great, they are motivators, offer encouragement, chat and support everyone around them, they carry spare water, carry tops that get discarded by their group and most of all they offer a great distraction to the passing distance. Tick, another kilometre gone, tick, theres another, tick thats a third one. Chat, chat, chat stories for everyone, advice for novices and catching up with others. we talk about everything form Birthday parties to Parkrun and all of a sudden we’ve passed the halfway point. The legs are feeling good.

Another gel, no spills and another water, everything is going well.
Times: 5:48 / 5:56 / 6:01 / 5:46 / 6:08 / 5:58 / 6:06 / 6:00 / 5:47 / 5:56

20 – 29k
We’re running on what I think is the old main Dublin road and traffic is rumbling on the other side of the traffic cones protecting us. I’m a bit nervous and I’m beginning to feel tired and I tend to wobble and weave when I’m tired. Away from the cones the side of the road drops off steeply into a ditch so thats even worse! I’ve found myself in front of the group and theres little room to slow down without blocking others. Keep going. I know theres a turn ahead and another aid station just after.

I remembered the buttered cake from last year and I hadn’t seen it yet, its funny the things that keep you going in a race! Seriously though, I was looking forward to my last gel, real or not I always feel I get a pick up when I take one and I was beginning to need it.

Still ahead of the 4hr pacers though so something is going well. There are 2 people ahead with Ironman Vichy tshirts on, the man looks strong but his running partner is slowing and I pass her, she’s not the first that I’ve passed and I’m beginning to notice that I’m passing lots of people ahead of me. thats definitely a boost and according to my watch I’m there or thereabouts with my targets. Back down to 6min/k pace and its good to feel as if Im slowing down.


The wonderful Siobhan McKillen – Us OpTran kids stick together.

I saw a girl up ahead and I recognise her but have to wait till I pass to see her face. Its a bit weird as you’re a bit of a stalker when you stare at someone to see if you recognise them, try to look at the name on their number and basically you’re staring at their boobs so thats a no no. Im right, it is Siobhan, she was on Operation Transformation in 2014 and picked up the running bug like me. She doesn’t look good though and is definitely struggling. She had been ill for a week or two and was really feeling under pressure today, I wondered if she would finish but she said she was fine and we promise to meet up at the finish. My pace is still good, passing runners regularly now and the last gel is taken. I’m only too aware that the big test is still ahead of me with a huge hill just 2km from the finish. I’m definitely tiring though.

There is now three of us together, the other two are first time marathoners. The recognise me from the telly and we start chatting. The girl in pink looked as if she had just started running that minute but the girl in the black was tiring badly, I’m getting more tired as well and I’m not particularly chatty, I hope I didnt come across as rude. I seem to pull ahead and am counting off the steps to the hill ahead.

Times: 6:02 / 5:53 / 5:54 / 6:10 / 5:57 / 5:58 / 6:20 / 6:03 / 6:06

30k – Finish


Shiny new medal

Bang, there it is. Actually the beast of a hill is not that bad this time around, but it just comes at the wrong time in the race. I ran this race last year without stopping and I was not going to break a tradition. I slow down to what seems like a shuffle and make my way up to the top. around a corner and theres a slight downhill drag and the legs are burning. I pass the back car park, theres my car. Damn, Ive to walk back to here after this damn race.

Left turn into the Golf club and its about 300m to the finish. I’m caught by my two friends from earlier, theres a slight incline to the finish an it seems like Everest but we finish together and I pretty much collapse. 3:10 was the target – 3:10 was on the clock. A significant 20 minute (or so) PB.

Wrecked, but that was a great run. I set a plan and it happened exactly as I had hoped. Roll on the Dublin marathon in 3 weeks.

Garmin data HERE

About @killianbyrne

I'm a 40 something husband and dad who has lost lots of weight, finished a couple of marathons & triathlons and learned to enjoy life in the last few years.
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