2017 was my first year as a Master’s runner. One of the great memories of the year was winning a silver medal in the 1500M at the National Masters in the M35 category. After that race last year I had an appetite for more. The hashtag #goingforgold was the plastered across the race photo.

My indoor track season in 2018 was mixed. Having shown some early form with a 2:04 in the 800M in December I completely missed the Leinster, then Nationals and instead set my sights firmly on the Dublin marathon. The long runs are easier to get in when your traveling and the extra miles help keep the pounds off whilst entertaining clients and exploring distant lands.

Marathons aside I wasn’t about to give up on my bucket list goal of being a national champion in 2018. My outdoor build up was good. I ran the 800M and 1500M in the Leinster and came close to winning double gold, narrowly losing out by 1/100th of a second in the 1500M. In July I ran my best 1500M in 3 years at the Graded’s, running 4.11 in Santry. I signed up for the masters with plenty of time to spare.

Getting closer to race day, imagine my excitement when the start lists were published. The spreadsheet came out and I started to Google all the field. It’s important to suss out the competition. Not quite stalking but just enough obsession…. An hour later, the good news was that the guy that beat me in the Leinster’s was only running the 5K but the bad news was that the guy who came 4th in the last M35 World Champions and who ran 1.55 for 800M this season was to be in my race.

I drove down to Tullamore last Saturday ready to go to battle. Masters racing is great. You are competitive within your age group and the atmosphere is low key but like at the Senior level you never know who will show on the day. Its quite a long day in Tullamore as you have M35 up to M70 for men’s and women’s in almost all the events.

This year we have 3 from the club running. Michael Cunningham (M40) and myself (M35) were doing the 1500M and Martin Keenan (M45) was doing the 800M. Alan came down with Martin for some welcome support. The lads were great as Martin ran first at 2.30 but they waited until after 7PM to support me and Michael.

Martin Keenan was first up in the 800M. Martin ran a season’s best 2.16 which was an excellent result. Martin kept progressing on from the Leinster’s in June after a lay off from injury. Credit to Martin he always delivers. He finished an impressive 4th in his race.

I was up next. After 3+ hours of sitting around, I was itching to go. After 3K around the local pitches, I was lacing up my spikes and starting to stare down the competition. When doing a middle distance race you need to be well warmed up, as in felt like you have already done half of your session. Strides all done by 7.10 PM and before I knew it I was standing on the line and ready to roll. After running 1.59 in the 800M earlier in the day I don’t think the result of the race was really, ever in doubt for most people.  If I was to cause an upset there was only one way it was going to happen which was to kick from a long way out and try to hang on. I had also just watched a marathon team ingebrigtsen session on Friday to prepare.

The gun went and off we went. I slotted nicely into second place as the early pacesetter took the first 300M out in 51 seconds.  I was well rested so the pace was very comfortable.  As we came around with 1K to go it was starting to back up a bit, the pace felt slow.  I was thinking to myself that if I let this turn into a slow tactical race then any of these lads could have a kick, not just the 1.55 man. To the front, I went. It’s important to build up the pace slowly at this point. Any sudden moves this early in and you are asking for trouble. The lactic will slowly build up and come the last 400M your legs won’t have anything.

The slow build up began. Lap 2 was again slow at 72 seconds so I was feeling good. Lap 3 was about pushing on to break up the field.  As I came around with just over 400M to go still in 1st position the field had broken up behind. You start to count the seconds between cheers and shouts, in your head, to know who’s in contact.

As the bell rang to signify the last lap there was a great atmosphere around the place. The sounds of cheers and encouragement rang out. Now we’re moving! Careful to conserve some energy I just kept moving forward, pushing the pace but holding back a small bit. With 200M to go, I was still in the lead and it was time to make that move. The turbo boosts came on and I sprinted around the corner and down the home straight. Arms pumping and high needs I was flat out! Then with barely 50 meters to go in the race the inevitable happened, the 1.55 man sailed past and took the win. Not slowing down I ran 63 seconds for the last 400M but not able to react, coming home 1 second behind in second. Disappointed to not be the national champion but content that I gave it everything and would try to run with the same tactics every time. It was gold medal or bust, a silver is a nice perk.

They always say you get slow doing marathon training but at the end of the day, it’s about how much you want it. It’s on to Dublin in 10 weeks and with a 72 minute half in Killarney and a 30K in the Sierra Nevada Mountains behind me, I’m setting my sights relatively high.

Michael was last up in the 1500M. He slotted in nicely in the middle of the pack and kept a good pace to also get a season’s best and maybe a personal best. I think he ran a 4.2X as a young fellla. We’ll have to check the archives.

As we headed into the Tullamore sunset for a cool down there was a feeling of contentment. More so than last year.