I had a big smile on my face last weekend. A race, a real race to look forward to.

After a quick stopover in Limerick for some carb loading, I found myself collecting my number for the Charleville Half Marathon at 8.30 AM on a windy but sunny Sunday morning. Charleville is a charming market town in the Golden Vale of North Cork. Just a stone’s throw from the Limerick border. Half of the race in fact takes place in Limerick. The race is now in its 10th year and has become one of the top half Marathons on the calendar. This was my 3rd year to run the race, having missed last year’s due to the pandemic.

It was great to see some familiar faces after 18 months without a race. There was a real positive buzz about the place.  I spotted Sadanand warming up fresh from his recent PB in Berlin and Adam Moss now of Tralee, formally of Sportsworld. There was less nervousness about what was about to come, everyone was excited and buzzed to be running.

Numbers were small for the race this year. Normally this race would attract a high standard with 100 men under 75 minutes. At 10.00 AM to little fanfare, we were off and it felt amazing (the start is downhill). After 60 seconds it was clear that if I was to stick with my race plan I would be running solo. One group ran ahead at a 3.20 Km pace and another around me was settling around 3.35 KM, including Olympian Aoife Cooke. This being my first race back I decided to stick with the slower pace. My pre-race session had indicated that I could hand around 3.28 give or take, feeling a little sluggish after a recent holiday in Bella Italia.

Another few kilometers down the road I found myself running with one other runner Dermot Kearns of Dooneen AC in Limerick (the guy in red). It was clear that we were both of a similar level so it was an enjoyable first 14K chatting on our way out to Kilmallock in Limerick.

As we turned back towards Charleville though the best-laid plans for a fast last 6-8K went out the window. The strong wind became really challenging to deal with and the exposed long open roads. From 15 KM in the race, our pace started to drop by 10 seconds a kilometer and my HR skyrocketed. Once this happens the race is basically over as it’s hard to get back to a steady-state and your perceived effort goes up. A note here to newer runners. You should never change your effort as a result of tough weather or course conditions.

If you were running up a hill and noticed your pace dropping, it would be a bad idea to try to increase your effort to maintain the same pace you were running on the flat. In the same way, it wasn’t the right move to try to increase my effort when I saw my pace drop running into the wind but it’s very difficult to maintain composure and this is where a lack of race sharpness let me down. Regardless of the weather or course conditions, the goal is to, first and foremost, tune into your subjective effort and try to maintain as even effort as possible. Of course, towards the end of the race, your effort will gradually increase, but there shouldn’t be peaks and valleys throughout.

As we got back on the main road to Charleville I got a bit of mojo back but the willingness to hurt for that extra 50 seconds off the finish time just wasn’t there. With 3K to go  Sadanand came up on my should. He was very encouraging to work together for the remainder of the race. As we approached the last 500M I knew I would have to put in a sprint to get ahead so I waited for the last 400M before kicking on and finishing just 4 seconds ahead of Sadanand. To be fair to him he is in great shape and good luck to him in his Marathon in 4 weeks’ time.  Real breakthrough performance is on the cards. We finished 8th and 9th on the day.

Post-race analysis: I needed to run harder in the first half, knowing I would slow down. If I had run closer to my threshold i.e. 3.30 I  don’t feel I would have slowed much more than I did in the second half and I would have had more incentive to hurt in the last 5K. I don’t think the time was a good indicator of my current fitness, but in the end, it’s great that I’ve dipped my toes back into the competitive arena again, regardless of how well it went! I’m healthy, fit, and continuing to build. The fast times are going to come!!!

I’m looking forward to mixing it up over the coming months starting with a fast mile relay in Raheny on Sunday and maybe the Autumn Open in October if I can find my spikes.

The race Facebook page has some excellent videos and shots.

A full set of results is available here 

Gareth Murran 01:16:43

Sadanand Magee 01:16:46

Adam Moss 01:26:57