report by Maria Waterhouse
Throw back to New Year’s day 2019 & me, reflecting on my looming half century milestone birthday… feeling like I needed to mark it in some way & prove to myself & my stalwart “moving on up runners’” What’s App, Sportsworld buddies that I was not a member in name only. I decided that the only solution was to complete a half marathon. I originally signed up to the Achill Half Marathon, but a family commitment on Sunday 7th meant I swapped to the Clontarf race instead.
Training went well, I avoided injury & enjoyed the long runs & chats with very supportive Sportsworld buddies.
My other half David & son Joshua accompanied me out to the start. Age & experience meant that the nerves that used to put me off racing in my younger days were nowhere to be seen. I had a target sub 2 hour finish time in mind, but really just wanted to finish in once piece.
The weather was perfect for running, a typically ‘soft’ Irish summers day, cloudy, 15C with a light misty drizzle. Not great spectator weather so support on the course was very scarce.
And we’re off … I stuck with the 1:50 pacemaker to start, knowing that I wouldn’t be up to that pace for the whole race .. I knew I would lose time on the beach so I thought I’d try to gain some minutes ahead of the sand.. The splits for the first few km were better than I’d hoped for .. & I felt good.
I heard a voice saying ‘Sportsworld’ & looked to my right where a friendly faced guy in Sportsworld livery trotted up beside me. We intro’ed ourselves ( he Tim) & chatted briefly about the weather & our hopes for finish times.. both in around the 2 hour mark. My training buddies will know me as a bit of a chatterbox on training runs ( shut up Waterhouse! ) but chatting was not on the agenda today !! We had a job to do!!
Next was the wooden bridge onto Bull Island, a water station & some heavy sand to get onto the compacted sand of the beach. The beach was difficult as there was so much slippery algae covering the sand except for a narrow strip, so the runners tracked along the sand for 2.5km or so in more or less single file, it was nigh on impossible to pass anyone.
I was glad to get off the sand & back onto the road to Sutton. A couple of Sportsworld vests flashed by , in the other direction.. the leading pack heading home..
We were almost half way there & the psychological high of making that U turn & knowing we were on road back was energising.. but we had to face the beach again on the return journey. The course is beautifully flat so again I tried to make up some ground before the beach loomed again. Tim was still in sight & looked back making sure I picked up water at the stations & even surrendered a lone Jelly baby he picked up from a spectator.. Thanks Tim!!! Who needs isotonic gel ( thanks tho’ Mary !!) when you’ve got Jelly Babies !!
The beach felt easier on the way back, a wider track through the algae had been worn by the multitude of pounding feet. My legs were beginning to tire & just as I passed the 18km mark I stumbled over a bump on the beach & landed face down in the sand!! The indignity !! I bounced up like a rubber ball, and was back running before the steward could get to me. My pace slowed as I took a few deep breaths & composed myself for the final few kilometres. I saw Tim’s familiar red vest in front of me & dug deep to catch up with him.
Just when I needed a boost I heard a familiar voice shouting my encouragement from the sidelines, Mary Colclough had come out in the rain to cheer me home. The camaraderie & support from the girls I have met through Sportsworld never fails to astonish me. They are just amazing women .. the lot of them.. LOVE YA LADIES !!!
The finish line with my target time in sight was enough to put turbo boost into action & the photo will show Tim (Murphy) & I crossing the finishing line together in our matching red & white!!
Bucket list ticked… Fifty , Schmifty … you’re as young as you feel & capable of surprising yourself at any age. Bring on the next decade !!!