I hadn’t planned on running a half marathon in Mullingar on St. Patricks Day. I had intended on running the Bohermeen half the previous weekend, but fate had other ideas when I ended up unwell the week before and after not eating for two days, decided running a half might not be the smartest thing to do, so gave it a miss.

Despite a good session at training on the Thursday, I felt off all that week and even missed my weekend run. I’m planning on running the Berlin half in April and was worried that might be at risk also. Fortunately, I recovered by last Monday and headed out early before work, managing 16km and restoring my confidence that I could still run!  Had I known I’d be running in Mullingar on Thursday I might not have done that, but my plan had been to head to Waterford to family for the long weekend. Fate intervened again though as my parents were struck down with Covid (they are fine now) which meant we couldn’t visit them.

What would we do for the long weekend now? A bit of research later and I saw there was a half marathon still open for registrations in Mullingar on St. Patricks Day. I quickly signed up for it and on Thursday morning we set off bright and early for the AON Mullingar Half Marathon and a midlands adventure!

I’m not sure I’d ever been to Mullingar before. On arrival I was struck by what a handsome town it was. It was also a lovely morning, with bright sun and a great buzz around with the race starting right in the town centre. I collected my race number, did a little warm up and headed to the start line.  I had notions of running with a pacer. I saw the 1 hour 30 minutes and 1 hour 40 minutes balloons but discounted them as too fast for me. I was kind of thinking I’d aim for 1 hour 50, but couldn’t see a pacer for that time, so just decided to go at my own pace and see how I felt.

Off we went, right on time at 10am, I didn’t look at my watch, just ran. We turned left at the top of the town, heading out towards countryside, initially on main roads and then around 3km in we turned off and onto country roads and then boreens. I don’t know any areas around Mullingar so can’t say where we were, but it was a very pretty area to run in and the spring heat and sun felt great. I finally looked at my watch around 8km in and realised I was going at a decent pace for me and that if I kept it up, I would be under 1 hr 45 minutes. I decided to make that my goal then.

The route for those that do know Mullingar

Around 11km in I was running behind a small group and felt like there was no one behind me…I wondered if this race was full of fast people and if I was last. I looked around, lost my footing and nearly went flying. From the gasps behind as people saw me stumble, I knew I wasn’t last and got back on track! That will teach me to always look ahead in future and not worry about what’s behind me!

Just over 12km into the race there was a serious test, a steep climb up a flyover. It was hard work and my pace never recovered from it, slowing to around 5 minutes per kilometre, I think partly because I knew that was all I needed to make the 1 hour 45 minutes. We seemed to be running back towards the town then, eventually coming to the Royal Canal.  Again, lovely scenery, but due to a combination of tired legs and the wind against us, I found the last 3km tough going. I also really felt like I was running out of fuel and my 6am muesli and banana seemed an awful long time ago. I have to admit, about 19km in I walked for a bit – no idea how long, could have been a minute, and only for a few runners coming past and encouraging me to keep at it and to run with them, that we were nearly there, I might have kept walking. I got energy from their support and picked up my pace again. Before I knew it, we were into the last 500m and the crowd was great for that last bit to get over the line.

The race was won by Stephen Conroy (1:10:38), 2nd was Mark McPaul (1:11:22) and 3rd was Timmy Murphy (1:11:47).  The women’s race was won by Elizabeth Carr (1:19:56), 2nd was Amy Pollman Daamen (1:25:06) and 3rd was Miranda Spencer (1:28:23). All the results are available here: https://www.myrunresults.com/events/aon_mullingar_half_marathon/4250/results

Overall, I would recommend the Aon Mullingar Half. While not completely flat, its pretty nice, a beautiful setting, and it’s one big loop. There was a great atmosphere in the finish area and all around the town, with music and entertainment for St. Patricks Day also.

I finished in 1:43:19, which is faster than I thought I was capable of and definitely helps my confidence for the Berlin Half next month – although I’ve made a bit of an error with my registration for that and been too conservative with my expected finish time, registering it as 2 hours so I’m in a late wave. Maybe that will be one to just enjoy and take in the sights!