Report input by Judith Lloyd, Mary Colclough, Olive Fogarty. Photos by Paddy Lynch, Olive Fogarty.
About 20 Sportsworlders travelled to Poland last weekend for the Krakow half marathon. Brainchild of Ellen Lavin, the trip pulled together a fairly diverse group of runners ranging from those completing their first ever half marathon, to those casually slotting it into their preparations for the Dublin City Marathon and a few of us who were just along for the cheering.
Dodging storm Callum in Dublin we arrive to Krakow over the course of Friday. The spread of arrival times is because, as an elite pool of Sportsworld athletes, it’s just too risky to put all of us on the one flight. (In reality it’s probably due to people having run out of annual leave or needing the full day to pack the hairdryer into carry on, but it’s all about the positive self-talk at this stage.)
After settling into the hotel and a bonding lunch we head over to Tauron Stadium for registration and event t-shirt appraisal. The race organisation is strict but efficient requiring runners to present photo ID to pick up their number and goodie bag. Sorted, we re-emerge into the Krakow night to find ourselves somewhat stranded in a suburb on what looks like Krakow’s answer to the N7 past Citywest. A few failed attempts to hail a taxi-for-10 later we’re about to become despondent when Eileen Rowland comes to the rescue and -under pretence of asking for directions – somehow blags us a lift back into town free gratis on an out-of-service private coach.
Saturday morning and, thanks to the dubious organisational abilities of this apprentice, people are out of the beds at the crack of dawn and on bus to Auschwitz by 6.30. The 7 hour round trip to the former concentration camp is sobering and often harrowing but ultimately feels like a small token to honour the memory of those who lost their lives in this terrible place. As one runner puts it “It made me think about how lucky I was to be free and able to run the next day and that me “finding it hard” was absolutely meaningless compared to how incredibly painful some people’s lives are and were. “
And so, it’s the eve of the race. Preparations are varied. For some it’s a dose of flu medicines washed down with a glass of wine, for others it’s an afternoon lie down with a cocktail in a beer garden. Ray, revealing a brief flash of competitiveness takes to the beetroot soup, while Judith fuels up with a plate of chicken livers. Dedicated athletes all, we round out the evening with a few pre-hydration beers watching the Ireland/Denmark football fixture in Duffy’s Irish Bar.
Race day dawns cool and foggy. Outside the hotel the runners don the black sacks for warmth. Group think has set in and the collective mind of a rather sleep deprived Sportsworld crew has determined that the function of the black sacks which were, as Judith puts it later, “very thoughtfully” included in the goodie bags, is to keep the runners warm, pre race. Thus attired, the gang head off to Tauron Stadium. At the bag drop, noticing a few odd looks from other runners it becomes clear that all others are handing in black bags stuffed with their gear, rather than their bodies…..first mistake of the day!!
By 11 the fog has burned off and revealed a day of blue skies and temperatures in the low 20s. We supporters sip coffee and check our watches, eager to be at the 5km mark in time. The course is a circuit from Tauron Stadium along the Vistula river, through the beautiful Old Town, alongside the castle and into the main square and back along the other side of the river to finish in the (disco lit) indoors of the Stadium. Such a route is perfect for us to spot all our runners at the 5km and 17km marks.
Meanwhile, on the start line, Judith , running her first ever half, gives the runners report :
“A brief warm up – sure we can take the first mile or so easy – ( can see Myles and Emily cringing) and into our chute. Someone had obviously remembered Jack Charlton’s famous comment “put them under pressure”, as we found ourselves in the purple 1.40 to 1.49 hr chute – dream on -…..All around were strapping, fit-looking, gel-bearing young men and extremely elegant females with dark glasses, immaculate make-up and blonde styled hair …….and then there was Trevor and I.
Eventually we’re off and the race takes over mind and body. Through the town, out along the river for 10 ks and back the other side. The brilliant Sportsworld supporters popping up like rabbits at various points along the way screaming like dervishes to keep going, you’re looking great ( first white lie), you’re nearly there (second white lie), and the final accolade, well done you were great – with that one I agreed whole heartedly!
Along the course itself I recall the moment I saw the runners who had already turned for home on the other side of the river and thinking oh good, nearly time to turn too. The next 11/2 ks were the longest of my life, or so I felt, until I too turned. But the absolute longest was the final K to the finish….just there, just there, just there…..and still not quite until suddenly I pitched into darkness, tripped over the first mat and then realised the next one was IT and hit my watch. Wunderbar!….or words to that effect…..What an experience! Instant pain relief. Euphoria. Glance at watch and realise I’d only barely gone over 2 hours – by one minute – seriously thrilled. Met up with the rest of the runners and supporters all well pleased with their performances, and for me the icing on the cake as Eileen Rowland told me my official time was just UNDER the 2 hours – yippee!! “
Huge congratulations to those completing their first half marathon – Helen, Michelle, Alison and first-in-class Judith who won her category. Big congratulations too to Rosie (who led home with a sub 1.50 time) Ray, Paul, Eileen, Ellen, Bronwyn & Maria (just out for their long run on a Sunday) , Mary (just back from injury), Audrai, Carol & Trevor.
A beautiful city and a great weekend in good company. Next stop Paris half, March 2019.