Report and Photos by Peter Knaggs
Sportsworld results below.
The 11th Achill Half Marathon took place on Saturday 2nd July in the idyllic setting of Achill Island, Co.Mayo in the wild, wild west. Phillip Kerr and myself had targeted this race as a midsummer running challenge to compliment what we hoped would be a weekend of running in glorious weather away from the big smoke. Joining us were Phillip’s wife Kathryn and another few non-Sportsworld runners. In the end the weather, although not exactly glorious, turned out to be relatively dry, except for a brief shower at the finish and a stiff enough breeze throughout the race.
We had arrived the previous evening and upon arriving at the registration tent we were greeted by the always welcoming sight of Sportsworld’s Lucy D’Arcy who was setting up her myrunresults equipment. Having travelled a long way, it’s lovely to spot a familiar and smiling Sportsworld face, and few come more smiling than Lucy’s.
I was named and shamed recently, good naturedly, in a previous run report (thanks, Emmet!) for not wearing my Club singlet in a recent race, so this time I was determined to wear it with pride. This was to be my second ever half marathon following the Paris half marathon which I did earlier in the year. In that race I had gone out too fast and although I got a time I was very happy with, I virtually crawled down into the subway afterwards and it took me the best part of two months to recover from a knee injury sustained in the race. So, for the Achill race I was determined to take it easier, get around the course, enjoy the sights and smell the roses a little. I knew for this race I had tough competition from Phillip who has been running very strongly of late and as a seasoned and wily competitor I knew he would outrun me if I smelled the roses for too long.
Lining up at the start line the two of us were greeted by another Sportsworld face, Sean Donegan, who went on to finish ahead of us and record a very impressive time of just over 1 hour 35 minutes. Particularly impressive, since many said afterwards that the toughness of the course can add up to seven minutes to a normal time for a half marathon. Indeed it was a tough one, with rolling hills and wind the prime obstacles but at the same time the spectacular scenery and views of cliffs, sea and mountains took the breath away.
As we headed off out of the village, at the first mile mark, a Peig Sayers type older lady in a shawl sat by the side of the road and urged us to “G’wan now, It’s all downhill from here!” Ok, as a jackeen I’m stereotyping her appearance a little for poetic effect, but you get the idea…
Certainly if you want to meet sheep on your half marathon, this is the race for you and as we passed mile three I was starting to feel like a lamb to the slaughter myself. Phillip had gone off rather fast I felt and I was struggling to keep up with him but as soon as I got into a rhythm it started to feel easier and the two of us kept running together until about mile six with only the odd grunt exchanged between us up to that point.
I had brought my phone with me on the race with the ridiculous notion that I would take some photos along the way, which I duly did. Don’t ask why, it was probably so that I would have some running action photos to give Eoin for inclusion with this run report but ultimately found out that running and photography are not really compatible (especially with a fiddly iphone). I passed a group of cheering onlookers who were amused that the runner was taking a photo of them.
The Cheer leaders
Hydration stations cropped up with regularity, along with groups of friendly, welcoming and cheering locals – this was a really well organised race. I pulled a little ahead of Phillip but I knew he wasn’t far behind me all the way. I came to a sign on the side of the road – “Slow down! Good food ahead”. For a brief moment, I was sorely tempted to do just that and nip in for a quick bite but I carried on regardless. The food would have to wait, my quest for glory continued.
Through some pretty villages we continued and on up some long steep hills. At the very top of one interminable hill I could see an ambulance, with medics handing out water. I looked at them and they looked at me and I thought to myself, they’re checking me out for signs of distress or collapse, so I duly put on my best “I’m perfectly fine”, smiling face and continued, merrily initially, then wearily on my way.
Phillip Kerr and Race Reporter Peter
The final few kilometres passed more quickly than my Paris experience for some reason and I felt quite good at the end. Maybe it was because I was passing the stragglers in the concurrent 10k race. Around the final bend, a quick sprint and I was home, arriving in to hearing the sound of congratulations from Lucy at the finish line. It’s those little things, the encouragement and congratulations that make all the difference and make it all worthwhile. Phillip came in around the same time as I did and in a little while we were to discover that he had come first in his age category – what a result for him! So, Achill glory following on from club championship success, he’s on quite a roll.
At the finish, the heavens darkened, rain spilled down and coldness descended but soon the shower passed over, the sun came out briefly and some finishers took to the sea to sooth and ease aching muscles with some very cold water therapy. Congratulations exchanged, we retired to the big tent for sandwiches, tea and prize giving and all the while next door a funfair of four forlorn looking amusement rides, including a whirring waltzer, were entertaining a visitor or two.
And so, the Achill running adventure had come to an end, the next Achill (non running) adventure was about to happen, but that’s another story……
Apologies if I’ve left out any other Sportsworld runners who might have run the race, whom I didn’t see, but here are the Sportworld results as I understand them;
Race won by Freddy Kerron Stuk in 1:14:58
35th Sean Donegan 1:35:28
61th Peter Knaggs 1:40:43
61th Phillip Kerr 1:41:11 (1st in age category)
This is very Fr Ted