The Limerick Marathon weekend takes place over the May bank holiday weekend and lasts for three days. The weekend coincides with Riverfest in Limerick and is packed with various running events, including a full marathon, a half marathon, a 6 mile, and a kids’ run.
The fun kicks off with a health and fitness expo on Saturday, where participants can pick up their race numbers and browse through various vendors selling running gear, health products, and nutrition supplements. The expo is also a great opportunity for runners to meet and mingle with other participants, chat about the rain, exchange tips and stories, and get motivated for the races ahead. It takes place at UL, surely the nicest university campus in Ireland.
On Sunday, the main races take place, starting with the full marathon, which begins at 9 AM. The marathon course takes runners through the beautiful city of Limerick, passing by historic landmarks and scenic views. The half marathon and 6 mile races start shortly after the marathon, with the runners starting at 10.30 and 12.30 respectively.
I’d been convinced to sign up for the Marathon when plodding around the running challenge in Lanzarote last November. After a really bad year with multiple injuries, it was surely a great goal to get me back motivated and in decent shape.
The training went well in December and was derailed again in January with a terrible dose, but come February I found myself down in Limerick being dragged around Raheen (not against my will) on a 20 miler. Isn’t it terrible when someone tells you we’ll do an easy 20 and halfway through tells you they run in old miles? That said, a post-run acai bowl sweetened the deal I was gleaming from ear to ear having covered 20 miles for the first time in 18 months. I had a bit of confidence back and fire in my belly that this could actually work out.
All in all, I did 7 20 milers with the longest being 36K. It wasn’t all plane sailing with some knee issues from the ramp-up in mileage. A few of these were in Limerick which really helped me get to grips with the course. A friend of the parish and Limerick man Will Greensmyth did a fine job describing the route in a previous race report. To put it nicely it’s a few minutes harder than Dublin, which in itself is not a super fast marathon.
Despite it being the largest running event outside Dublin, there are not too many taking part in the Marathon, maybe 1000. I was chauffered to the start line by my good friend and former winner of the marathon Shona Keane (also formally of Sportsworld). There we met Tom and Sebastian doing their stretches. Limerick’s defeat to Clare on Saturday wasn’t dampening the atmosphere, with a good buzz about the place. We wished each other well and after a few nervous laughs, it was game time.
I felt really good lining up and had the plan to build into the race, breaking it down into 3 x 14K runs. I’d run the first 3K really easy as I do in every marathon, then settle into my pace which was between 3.55 – 3.50 per kilometre. In training I’b been averaging 5 second quicker so I expected it would be fine for 30K ish.
I started chatting with a couple of lads for the first 5K and we were all happy to run 2.45. I had 2.40 in my head but wanted to feel fresh at 32K and push on, enjoying the hardest part of the race.
Marathons don’t always go to plan though, in fact, no other distance can go so wrong. Soon after the start it started to rain quite heavily and we got soaked. This was then followed by 2 hours of warm sunshine. Running up a lot of drags it felt quite hot and humid.
I started to struggle with a tight calf at 24K so I backed off the pace a bit. This didn’t really help and as I got to 28K my running was laboured and HR was gone way too high. I tried a quick stop to stretch out the hip flexors but really to no avail as I kept seeing the seconds slip away. In hindsight, I maybe should have walked a water station here and then got going again. It’s hard not to lose the head and motivation when plans AB and C are going south. I did pass Tom and Sebastian and we gave each other some words of encouragement, all struggling it seemed.
The last 10K of the race for anyone who knows Limerick is quite tough. There’s not much support and it’s quite twisty and turny around the Gaelic grounds in particular.
My biggest blow-up in a Marathon was in Copenhagen in 2019. I was fitter then and went out at 2.30 pace for 20K without enough training in the legs. This wasn’t quite as painful in the end but probably more frustrating. I was very confident that the pace would seem fine and that it would be a very enjoyable finish, but when running the Marathon you need to leave your ego at the door and just tough it out for as long as possible, without doing any damage.
I finished in a time of 2.50 which broke down as 81 and 89. To run well you really want to be keeping that gap to 2-3 minutes or running faster in the second half. Not sure what went wrong but will put it down to needing a bit more training.
I waited around to see how the others had done and chatted briefly with another former Sporstworld runner Conor Keating who had done in the half in 81. Martin Doyble was next home in the half in 1.31 and told me Shona had to stop at 37K a disappointing end for her after leading the race for some time, she’ll be back to regain her crown. Sebastian was next home for the club in 3.37 (well done on his first marathon) and Tom then home in 3.51. Tom has had some injuries of late so well done to him also.
All a bit dejected after a tough day running. The support was great out on the course with people I knew from Limerick, runners doing the shorter distances and friends Maura Ginty and Will Greensmyth to name a few. It really showed off Limerick at its best.
A few pints were had in various bars around Limerick to rub our wounds and console ourselves with the race which was a bit of an anti-climax. At the end of the day, you move to the next one and go again. The training doesn’t go to waste.
Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet and mystic, spoke about persistence in a number of his poems and writings. One of his most famous quotes on this topic is:
“Patience is the key to joy; without it, there can be no happiness. Be patient in whatever you do, and success will come to you in due time.”
Here, Rumi emphasises the importance of patience as a form of persistence. He suggests that by staying patient and steadfast in our efforts, we will eventually achieve our goals and find happiness. This requires us to stay focused and committed to our aspirations, even when progress seems slow or difficult.
Throughout the weekend, there are various entertainment events and activities for spectators and supporters, including live music performances, food vendors, and family-friendly activities. The atmosphere is lively and festive, with a great sense of community spirit and support for all the runners.
Overall, the Limerick Marathon Weekend is a fantastic event that attracts runners from all over Ireland and beyond. It offers a great opportunity to challenge oneself, experience the beauty of Limerick, and be part of a vibrant and supportive running community in Limerick.
I’ll leave you with a Limerick of sorts.
There once was a race in Limerick,
A marathon that was quite a trick,
It wound through the town,
Up hills, then back down,
They run through UL a break from the town.
The runners started out near the quay,
And headed towards Gaelic grounds, to play,
The stadium was grand,
And inspired the band,
To cheer on the runners all the way.
Then the course went up Henry Street,
Where the crowds were clapping their feet,
The runners pressed on,
Their pace is not yet gone,
Their goal was still within their reach.
Next up was Ennis Road,
The runners felt the uphill load,
But they pushed on ahead,
With hearts full of dread,
And reached the top, with spirits allowed.
Down through the suburbs, they ran,
Past houses and gardens are so grand,
The finish line loomed,
And the runners resumed,
Their pace, as they closed in on the stand.
At last, the race was complete,
The runners lay down at their feet,
They had given their all,
And now they could stall,
And rest, with a sense of great feat or defeat.