report by Anna Carrigan, photos by everyone
July 6th was the date of the Achill half marathon and 10K races. The weather forecast was surprisingly good and we all arrived armed with sunscreen and summer racing gear. Most of the Sportsworlders group had travelled as far as Westport on Friday afternoon, and having sampled a little bit of the Westport nightlife that evening were really looking forward to letting our hair down on the Sat night after the race. It was going to be a good night !
We set out on the hour long journey to Keel, Achill Island at 8:30 the Sat morning. Notwithstanding the good weather forecast, the weather on the way out to Achill was decidedly misty and cloudy and even a lit bit cold. We’d been duped !
The 2 races were being run in parallel, with the half marathon starting at 10:30 on the big loop and the 10K 45 mins later on the smaller loop.
As we got ourselves ready the atmosphere was decidedly calm and relaxed. We looked at the sky and thought no need for sun screen today, some were even in two minds about wearing sunglasses. As we got ready we met up with some more Sportsworlders who had stayed the night in Achill, they were looking a lot fresher than us I have to say! We then made our way to the start line for 10:30 where we were relieved to get started so we could warm up !
My aim was to get around the half marathon course without any drama. The course route itself is very scenic, particularly the coastal parts. For me this was an extended long run. I decided I was going to enjoy the run and take in the views. Down towards the back initially for the first 5 or 6 kilometers I was in amongst likeminded people who also just seemed to be enjoying the experience and having the chats. I found myself following random conversations about the dramas in peoples lives from love and heartbreak to their determined resolve to move on with their lives. And so they had come to conquer Achill! Having completed the first and longest of the climbs, I got chatting to a guy who had done the Achill half a few times in the past. It was great at that point to get the low down on what was left of the route, it was going to be easy for the next few kilometers and then in the second half we would need to have a bit saved for the several hills that were to come, and in particular one long steep one. Grand I thought. On the upside, the finish would be down hill – something to look forward to. Having talked about running and running personalities for a while we parted company as we embarked on the second half of the race. At about the 14k point, my leg muscles started talking to me. I thought 7K to go, just don’t stop. The scenery helped take my mind off how I felt. Dugort beach was one such surprise which suddenly came into view as the road turned, however Slievemore as the beautiful backdrop at the far end of the beach also provided, if not the longest climb, definitely the steepest.
This was the killer hill, which just seemed to go on forever ! Maybe the fact that it was between miles 9 and 10 also added to this feeling ! It was at this point that Grainne entertained the spectators with a cry of frustration – “I didn’t think we bleedin needed climbing equipment for this race !!” It was 10 miles by the time this hill was conquered.
Having mentioned spectators, I have to say the locals gave great support to the race particularly over the second half of the route, which also really helped to keep everyone going.
While that wasn’t the last of the hills, at least we were into the last 5K count down and back onto the 10K route where we met a lot of the walkers from the 10K.
The kilometers went by slowly, but finally we were into the last one. At this point we were treated to one of the most stunning views of the race (no not the finish line !) – the Minaun cliffs at the far end of Keel strand. Even with quite a bit of cloud overhead the view was just magnificent. Back to focusing on the finish – that last kilometer seemed to go on forever. We could hear the compère, but couldn’t see the finish line gantry. Finally it came into view, and we were there!
Lots of celebrations and hugs, followed by some champagne courtesy of Irene and her husband Sean! What a way to finish off the race. We didn’t hang around afterwards for too long due to the not so warm temperatures and the cold setting in !
Despite this however, I still managed to get burned through the clouds ! I couldn’t believe I had the sunscreen in my hands before the race and decided I didn’t need it ! Definitely a lesson learned.
Overall, I would describe the race as challenging, but definitely worth it for the views Great goodie bags too !
The race done and dusted, we headed for Nevins outside Mulranny for a well earned lunch and then onwards to Westport to re-energise for the night ahead where the jacauzzi’s and saunas at the apartment complex got a try out ! We hadn’t realized, but we had another marathon schedule ahead on the Sat night ! Once a good meal was had, it was on to the Porterhouse – where our lead dancing queens Carmel and Val kept us all dancing and singing for the night ! We were also treated to a super rendition of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Valerie’ by Bronwyn ! We partied on until about 3am, and everyone was agreed that Westport definitely had a good vibe and to be recommended !
All in all – a super weekend, made all the more enjoyable by the many people who contributed. Many thanks to everyone involved in organizing the apartments, the meal bookings, the number pickups, the photo’s, provision of champagne, the lifts etc etc
Race results below:
Peter knaggs: 1.41.01
Brian Conway: 1.47.15
Grainne Lynch: 1.50.15
Phillip Kerr: 1.50.21
Rosie Mulhern: 1.56.22
Claire Rowley: 1.56.29
Maria Finnegan: 1.57.45
Irene O’connor: 1.59.47
Bronwyn Murphy white: 2.02.04
Anna Carrigan: 2.05.37
Anne-Maria Scanlan 2.06
Helen McGrath: 2.06.33
Alison Mackey: 2.26.17
Michelle Burke: 2.26.19
Anne Sweeney: 49.01
Martina Nolan Jones: 49.57
Valerie Power: 54:18
Carmel Breen: 58.07