Race Report by Denis ‘Leo Tolstoy’ McCaul

Photos by Denis and from the Grant Thornton 5k Facebook albums: Click here

Prepare yourself for shocking revelations of;

  • Women loving my short shorts
  • Ringers Heightism
  • Starting Corral Snobbery
  • Flat courses not being fast
  • Mad Voices in runners heads
  • Post race conversations to avoid
  • Obvious Drug Taking
  • Journeys win over Destinations

Yes the Grant Thornton 5k on the outside may seem like a corporate fun run. But underneath lurks  the murky world that few ever get to see.

Around five years ago Grant Thornton started a race series of 5ks. You can only enter as a business team of four so individual members of Irelands workforce are not welcome. Being self employed I am therefore excluded. No way I would be doing this then, shunned by the Corporate giants.

When I got a text from clubmate Stephanie that she needed someone to fill in for a fallen comrade from her team called Gulliver (not his real name), I stuck to my guns and said no way, I was  no sell out. After finding out it would be free I said yes. So I was to be a ringer, pretending to be someone I am not.

4,453 runners crossed the finish line. It was a very competitive affair up the front being won in 14.29 and you had to run sub 17.40 just to make the top 100!

I recently moved to Donnybrook so decided I would jog into town as my warm up. So with foam rolling completed I strapped on the shoulder bag and began the short commute. You know those guys you see while sitting in traffic who jog/run home from work with a bag on their back containing their work clothes etc. I often wonder if the bag would drive you mad jostling around  with each stride, and are those lads Gowls? Well I quickly discovered that yes it does, and yes they are so after 80 metres of pretending all was fine the jog became a walk.

Women loving my short shorts

Passing through Ballsbridge I was wearing my very short race shorts with the split high up the thigh. I knew it would only be a matter of time before they worked their magic. Soon a female cyclist pulled alongside and started talking to me. It turned out to be Anna Delaney. Obviously weak at the knees for my legs her bike wobbled all over the place while we chatted race tactics. Eventually as she was a danger to herself beside me she pretended she was late to meet her team mate and pedalled on.


Anna Delaney

Ringers Heightism

The hub of operations was operations was Grand Canal Dock where there was a bag drop. Stephanie arrived promptly at the 6.45 meet time with my race number in hand.


Stephanie Bergin

Here is where the shocking heightism in Irish Corporate running reared its ugly head.


(Some names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Me: Hi Stephanie, who am I filling in for today then
Stephanie: A guy called Gulliver (not his real name, but you can see where this is going…)
Me: I hope he is not like a super fast elite
Stephanie: He is very tall
Me: Oh he must have a long auld stride
Stephanie: He is the complete opposite of you Denis
Me: Oh really, in what way?
Me in my head: (He must be brutal looking)
Stephanie: He is over six foot I’d say, he is very tall

How I see Myself


How Stephanie see’s me



The Six Foot Plus Guy Guy I Was Filling In For Who Was Indosposed



And there you have it, dealt a crushing low blow before a step has even been taken.
I dragged myself to drop in the bag and off the two of us went for what seemed to be the longest warm up either of us ever did as the race start was not until half seven.

The race takes place on the quays and warming up we jogged over Matt Talbot bridge and turned right heading for the Point Theatre where a bunch of wineo’s were having a screaming match that was threatening to come to blows. When we passed them on the way back they had calmed down and one was sitting on the railings with his can, separated from the rest. Apparently the naughty step is employed for all ages. I wondered would they join in when the race passed by.

Starting Corral Snobbery

I had been warned by Sportsworlders after asking advice on Facebook to line up at the front. Myself and Stephanie joined in at a point that I felt would be fairly reflective of where we would finish. We were probably about 150 to 200 people back ish in the first Corral for people finishing between 15 and 20 mins. I normally try and start where I think I will finish as that way I won’t be in anyone’s way. In hindsight when I saw the two girls standing beside me with phones in hand, leggings and giant headphones I should have realised the take off was going to be a bit of a mess.

And so it turned out to be. I aimed to go out hard for the first time ever to see what would happen. When we were here a few months back Kate Kelly from the club took off faster than me and I spent the whole race trying to haul her back in and failed by one second. So I took her advice afterwards and set myself a goal of 3.30 for the first k and hang in for the last four!


Flat courses not being fast

The first k was a mix of two 90 degree turns over Matt Talbot bridge where everyone ran into the back of each other and then being blocked in behind a walls of runners which meant a lot of weaving in and out. The course might be only 5k long but it crosses the Liffey four times.

How is it that you line up behind maybe two hundred people but when the race starts after around 500 metres you get past a good few but there still seems to be around 3,000 in front of you?

During the long stretch down the North quays the runners ahead of you end up running past you in the opposite direction on the other side of the cones. This is the Athletics equivalent of a few hundred slaps in the face. Well if that’s the leaders, and we have only gone 2k I thought to myself then the 180 degree turn must be just up head, I couldn’t be that far back, surely.

I could have made tea, drank it and washed the cup by the time the turn arrived.

As I ran back up towards The Samuel Beckett bridge I heard Maura Ginty shouting out encouragement.


Maura Ginty

I had the Sportsworld vest on so probably stuck out. Fair play to her for the shout I thought to myself, I couldn’t shout back as by now I was struggling to keep breathing and running at the same time.

You don’t realise how steep the rise onto a bridge can feel until you are tired. After crossing the river we were sent on a loop around a block of buildings. More turns, bad road surfaces and congested narrow bits made what I thought was going to be a fast course not as quick as expected. Started to feel shagged at this stage and the old inevitable internal conversation starts. I assume everyone has these monologues when things start feeling bad.

Mad Voices in Runners Heads

This is what the voice inside my head sounds like nearly every time…

Jesus Denis boy you can’t even feel your arms, they are numb, legs are tired now, no more juice left in them, oh God I would love to stop now, no one will think any less of you if you do, this pain can all be over straight away if you just move over to the side and start walking. Two k left, oh that’s a long way, that would be five laps of the running track in Tallaght, five like, you know how long one can feel like, lads are starting to pass you now, your pace is dropping, stride getting slower and longer, slow down a bit before you die, aw sure look you have come this far, keep going, it will be the final km marker soon, you always feel better and run faster in the final k, sure the first four are just you tolerating it until the last k, keep your cadence up, you are not going as slow as you think you are, just keep moving, the last k is coming up, you didn’t  go through all this pain to stand at the finish line and see you missed your time by a few seconds so cop on and dig in, you could be injured again next week and not have this chance again, you have enough training done and videos watched and vegetables eaten and hours stretching and foam rolling to endure this. Now power up, open that stride, swing those arms, mimic the posture of the track runners, breathe harder, now pump and lift those knees and drive, strong level hips, fast rythmn, maintain it, pass the next guy in front, now aim for the next one, the finish line is just over the bridge, what time on my watch, I have 40 seconds to make it, that looks like a long way to cover in 40 seconds, I could never do that, oh shut up and start sprinting, you call that sprinting, they go quicker than that going into Bingo, 200 metres to go, come on just one last rattle down here to the line, I think I might puke, don’t puke before the line, one last push, look at the clock, stop my watch, am I going to puke, nope, thank God that’s over, that was pure torture, jesus never again, wayyyyy harder than I thought it was going to be, lot of pain, keep walking, just keep walking and don’t fall over, left, right…

Post race conversations to avoid

It’s amazing how quickly after a 5k that you feel better, you can go from dying to grand in a matter of a minute. Unless of course you bump into Conor McCarthy. While I hadn’t run as fast as I hoped I was feeling good that I didn’t give up and might have snuck in for a pb.


Conor McCarthy (at the cake sale!)

Me: Hey Conor, how are things boy
Conor: Ah not bad Denis. I think the course was short…
Me: What?
Conor: Yeah I got 4.87km on the watch, my buddy got it short too
Me: Ah sure you can never trust the watches. What time did you do?
Conor: 16:39 and Karol ran 15:15 I think
Me: Was that a PB for you?
Conor: It is but I’d say the course was short alright . How did you do?
Me: (With head lowered!) 18:27 My watch says 4.89k so might have been short, don’t know

And there you have it, you can go straight from oh that exam wasn’t too bad and then you meet other students outside who gave different answers to you and you doubt everything.

“Hi Denis” came a voice from behind me while we picked up water and bananas. An old school friend Patrick Casey, oh thank God, I hope he didn’t run 16 something as well and tell me the course was definitely short…

As we walked along we chatted about how it went and I began to feel a bit better again when we came across Will Greensmyth, he ran 17:30, feeling crap again!

Made my way back to Grand Canal Square where I met Karl Chatterton, 16:48, Jesus who am I going to meet next, Mo Farrah?

Obvious Drug Taking

At this stage I feel like I should start taking drugs to speed up. And that’s when it hit me, these lads must all be on drugs. I immediately felt better. Am looking forward to my pharmaceutically enhanced performances of the future. (Just kidding, kinda!)

Maura Ginty arrived and was in great form after her run, Stephanie arrived and ran way faster than she originally predicted breaking 20 minutes. So after a few photos and post race chat it was time to head home. While walking home I bumped into Grainne Dilleen who has been doing some Parkruns in Marlay lately and enjoyed a great run too. Did you know that in 2013 Grainne ran 3:43 in the Dublin Marathon. She never forgets to tell me that every time I meet her, great memory that girl.

I posted some photo’s to Facebook and got landed with the job of writing this report by Eoin.

Tip: If you want to avoid doing a race report, don’t be the first one to post to FB after the race! Seriously though Eoin is doing an amazing job with the weekly club communications by Email and updating the website so well done him.

So in summary while I expected it to be a fast course I actually think Rathfarnham 5k next Sunday would be a quicker track. It has a better maintained road surface, less twists and turns, long straights with plenty of room, yes it does have one hill but the fast start and finish more than compensate for it.

I haven’t run since the Grant Thronton as have been laid low with a cold (could be Ebola, who knows) and am typing this in bed drinking Lemsip waiting for the All Ireland final between Mayo and Dublin to come on but hope to be back running by next weekend. When someone else can write the Rathfarnham race report which will be far more challenging as half the club is running that one and Eoin will be expecting 2,900+ words from you too whoever you are!

In closing I will leave you with the lessons I learned Tuesday night.

  1. Your shorts lads, less is more, a big hit with the ladies
  2. Apparently I am the opposite to tall (that came as quite the shock Stephanie)
  3. If you see someone beside you at the start wearing headphones move forward 10 rows
  4. When things get rough learn to drown out the negative crazy voice in your head with something more positive like images of Cork winning All Irelands
  5. Don’t talk to Conor McCarthy after a race, no good will come of it, just nod and carry on eating your banana
  6. If anyone finishes quicker than you don’t compare yourself to them, they are probably on drugs
  7. Achieving a goal or pb is often an anti climax compared to the time you spend training for it. So enjoy the training with your clubmates as much as you can, it’s the best part

Journeys win over destinations

I thought I was cursed for the last 18 months with injuries and illnesses. If someone had told me then how long it would take to get back to where I was I am not sure I would have bothered. And am still not 100% fixed. But I enjoy running more now because of the setbacks than I would have if they never happened. I have got to run with every group in the club and met way more people because of it. And in hindsight I can see now that before the injury I was obsessed with times and improving and was a bit full of crap about it all. Am not running Olympic times like. Now I know to shut up more and value just being able to get out and run with people from the club. No matter what the pace or weather. I have even discovered that I don’t melt in the rain. I can run all day with the club but couldn’t run to the end of the street on my own. Which I guess proves that the really enjoyable part is the training and you, the people I get to run with, you are far more important than the races or the PB’s.

So a big thank you to everyone who has put up listening to my whining for the past year and a half.
I promise to never mention an injury again (unlikely to happen) and not to hark on about pace and times and running form articles (equally unlikely, if not more).

Until of course the day ever comes I break half an hour for the 5 mile and 5 mins for the mile or ever win a Parkrun.
Then I probably won’t shut up about it for the rest of my life.
(Feel free to unfriend me on Facebook if that ever happens, or even now to avoid the rush J)

Sportsworld Finishers Grant Thornton 5k

Karol Cronin 9th 15:15
Paul O’Connell 16:34
Conor McCarthy 16:39 (PB but his watch said course short so committee says no PB)
Karl Chatterton 16:48
Will Greensmyth 17:31
Denis McCaul 18:27 (PB)
Peter Knaggs 19:05 (PB)
Stephanie Bergin 19:39
Catherine Mulleady 20:24 (PB with a sore knee, that even rhymes…)
Anna Delaney 21:08 (who also followed up four days later finishing 2nd  female in Ballincollig Parkrun 21:35, she should write a race report about that Eoin)
Damiano Celestini 21:32
Anne Dalton 21:54
Maura Ginty 22:18
Grainne Dilleen 22:29