Into The West by Conor Kenny
Five into one did go and with that, Johnnie Dwyer, Val Lacey, Sandra Kelly and Phil Daly hopped into our small car and hurtled into the West. Our goal the Galway Bay Half Marathon and 10k.
Our berth for the weekend the beautiful Jameson Court Apartments conveniently located on the course and a mile from the start/finish. Yes, 5 into 1 did go … again. Relaxing on Friday evening we found a cosy little Italian (a restaurant, not a person!) and full of pasta we weren’t quite ready to share an evening of hot chocolate and The Late Late. Coming out into the Dickensian mists the allure of warm glowing lights hypnotised us into O’Connors Singing Bar. We were seduced and an ageing version of The Commitments took to the makeshift stage all of 6 inches away. Val Lacey, famous for squeezing the last drop from every party, celebration and occasion had us bopping in our seats in no time.
Sense(ish) prevailed and though none of us were actually ‘going to race it or put ourselves under any pressure’ (Yeah Right!) we headed home and sat like a little family squashed on the sofa watching Mr Tubridy. It didn’t take long before bed was more attractive. I went to boarding school. Most memories of dormitory life revolves around the naughty one. “Goodnight. Sleep well. See you in the morning” Then it started.
The 3 naughty ones were sharing and Johnnie Dwyer eventually called the Manager to cool their jets. To be fair, they quietened down at about 3:00am. Phil was our sole athlete in the 10k starting at 10:30. Forlorn, she walked the cold mile alone and we had a hot breakfast cheerily waving her off.
Johnnie Dwyer enjoying Val, Sandra and Phil having the chats
It was just one of those mornings. Cool, crisp with the most dramatic Atlantic blue skies lighting up the ocean, the Clare hills and the far away Aran Islands. The beauty of the morning was utterly mesmerising. We went outside our door to watch Phil flying by. We wished we were off too. There’s nothing worse than a long wait for a long run.
We ambled the mile to the 12:15 start and took in everything en route. We were so relaxed that we literally had to sprint to the start and we were off.
The course is one lap of a mile plus then back to the start. You head out by the sea for about 3 miles and back again. One more similar lap and you’re heading for home. It’s flat with a few little hills that become big hills second time around.
“Just going to run it. Not racing it. No pressure. Run as I feel. Just jogging. Not interested in my time” With a mile to go, everyone was at full tilt.
Thinly disguised promises of ‘no goal’ became ice like focus on secret targets and each of us achieved what we set out to do. We walked back the lonely mile. With endorphins raging, the pain of too many concrete miles was masked for now.
Johnnie Dwyer still smiling after no sleep
Andrea, joined us briefly having zipped down from Dublin, flown around the course in a marvellous PB and with that, she was shooting back to Dublin for more life and running in the fast lane.
Coffee was essential and vows of poverty and a chocolate free life were destroyed in seconds. We found the most beautiful place on our doorstep and our only complaint was trying to stand up after sitting down for so long.
I write this in that pleasant little siesta interlude that turns us from runners into fun party people and dinner, drinks and a late night lie happily ahead. Tomorrow this will be a memory. A memory so special because it is just a week after our dear club mate Noel Keenan was so rapidly taken from us. What would Noel have given for just one more race, one more day and the company of friends, true good friends?
There’s no such thing as the golden days, the golden happy days are now. The great thing about you and I is we already know that and this trip is already etched in our memory as something wonderful.
As Van Morrison said in that fabulous voice; “There’ll be days like this”