I’m a bit late getting my race report together for these 2 recent races.race report by Gareth Murran.

An 11-hour flight from Amsterdam to Los Angelas gives you plenty of time to reflect on where to go with your training. On Wednesday night after the graded Emily recommended that I give the Irish Milers Club (IMC) a go at the weekend. Following directions, I went home and decided to enter into the 1500M. When your season’s best is 12 seconds off your personal best every race is an opportunity to improve, get race fit and inch towards that bucket list time before it’s too late. I left work at 8 PM on Friday after a busy week and had not bothered to look at the weather forecast. Not having enjoyed the Irish summer at all I woke on Saturday morning feeling somewhat sorry for my poor club mates running around in circles up in Tallaght. Stretching and quick jog done, by 11 I was on the road to Tullamore which was even wetter than Dublin. The IMC races are a step up from the graded it’s like having all A and then an A+ race. I was drawn in the slower 1500M B race which went off at 2.16 on the button. Although it was my first IMC race it was 3rd time running the Tullamore track. They have a fine setup down there with great facilities for warming up and a covered stand for spectators. The covered stand was especially useful on Saturday.

All of the IMC races are paced by a faster runner. You are then assigned a number based on your seasons best. My seasons best as mentioned was 12 seconds slowed than my 4:04 PB set two years ago so I was one of the first (slower) names called to line up. After all the runners were assembled on the line we were told the pace would be 65 seconds a lap, then off we went. I got a poor start but after 50 meters went around the outside and slotted nicely into 5th position. The first lap went through in 66 a bit slower than planned but feeling comfortable. I was feeling good so moved up into 3rd after 600 meters. When we came around to the 800-meter mark in 2:12 I was still feeling strong. It was at that point that I got the tactics a bit wrong and paid for it. Instead of sitting in I decided to push the pace and take the lead. That surge only lasted for 300 meters as with 450 meters to go I was starting to feel the sudden injection of pace and losing a few places. 1200 meters went by in 3:21. I had already lost 3 seconds over the last 200. Along the back straight I knew I was slowing and the last 200 meters felt like an 800-meter race. I came across the line in 6th having race 52 for my last 300 meters. Happy with the effort.

Super efficient the results were up within the hour on the IMC site. I finished in a time of 4.14 knowing a more sensible 3rd lap could have seen me run a 4.11 or even contend for the win which was 4:09. More lactic threshold work needed to be able to push on in that last 600 meters. I would not recommend the IMC races for everyone but for the faster people in the club it beats sessions any day of the week.

Two days after Tullamore I was in LA for work which happened to coincide with Memorial day weekend and decided to look for a race to run. Laguna Hills is a picturesque neighborhood in Southern California famous for being the location of a certain MTV TV program. They were having a half marathon to commemorate some young local Marines that had died in an IED attack in Kabul in 2011. A good cause coupled with me being in need of a run. I wasn’t taking it too seriously knowing I had been on an 11-hour flight from Amsterdam the day before but when I arrived in LA I was greeted with the news that my suitcase was still in Amsterdam. My singlet and shorts were in the suitcase but I had runners and a watch on me. A quick trip over to Dick’s Sporting goods store and I was ready to line up.

Memorial day began with a 4.30 AM drive down the coast to Laguna Hills for the 5.30 registration at the local mall. I arrived in good time to pick up my number, race t-shirt and get some strides done. At 6.45 the patriotism kicked in, flags were flown and national anthems were sung with hand on heart. The race itself was a 3 in 1 with a mass start. As a well as the half there was a 5K and 10K. The atmosphere was great at the start with a good mixture of families, serious runners and local run runners.

I set my mind on a conservative 3:45 per kilometer, not much faster than a Sunday long run. When the gun went a few of the guys in front flew off. The course was set up in such a way that you could not tell who was doing the 5K or the 10k. starting off slow is great, especially in a longer race. You start to pass people that went off too fast with a smile. When I got to the turn off for the 5k finish line a good few of the 1500 or so runners were no longer in the race. I continued to plug away and picked off a few more guys and when I reached the 10K finish line there looked to be only 3 guys in front of me. I stuck to the 3:45 pace like clock work well and despite the first few hills the majority of the course had been very manageable so far.

Around the 10K mark I noticed we had been going downhill for a good 8-10 minutes. They didn’t call the show the hills for no reason. What goes done must come up and after 7 miles we turned to an off-road section of the course that just kept spiraling down and down in the Laguna Hills Canyon. Going down into the Canyon I was now a comfortable 2nd place and the local support was behind me. It was like five mile day in Terenure Village. At the bottom, we looped back around and started the climb. Within a few miles, I was finding the grade pretty steep and despite keeping the pace under 4:00 minutes per kiloemeter I was losing a bit of ground on the guy in first. The next 3 miles was spent climbing, climbing, climbing.

The 10 mile marker went by in 59.52 but by that stage I was invested, getting competitive and also a little frustrated that I could not close the gap. I continued to push on the flat but struggled up the remaining hills. I knew the race was slow having seen the previous year’s winning times were listed in the 77-82 minute time frames. The last mile in a half seemed like hell on earth. At this point, I’m telling myself to man up but it felt more like I was at the start of the Hills music video than the TV show.

I had an escort for the last 2 miles of the race, a friendly local girl who had warned me that they were saving a killer of a hill for the last mile. It did not disappoint! I came over the line in a little over 80 minutes having lost a couple minutes in the last 2 miles. Despite consciously sticking to a pace it was hard not to get into race mentality. The wheels came off big time at 12 miles only dumbfounded by having not spotted Lauren. The post race expo was something we could borrow from with lots of vendors giving out free samples of new and existing products in stalls. There was a virtual goodie bag this being California.

The rest of the day was spent driving down the magnificant Pacific Coast Highway and meeting some colleagues for a family BBQ. A fun day, not a PB effort or course but a great Memorial day running in the California sunshine none the less. Next day it was on to San Antonio to run on its famous Riverwalk and numerous forest trails.