A favourite half-marathon? I have a few. I used to love the Connemarathon half from Leenane to Maam Cross with the beastfully inviting Hell of the West threatening you home. I remember the first time I did it in ‘08, we were brought into a tent with fruit, drink, snack-size Mars bars, soup next door and an army of masseurs. The year after for a higher entry fee I actually came 18th in a time of 1 hr 25.08. The tent however seemed to have disappeared and there were 2 masseurs. After waiting 10 minutes for a turn, I was only lying down for 30 seconds before the first finisher in the ultra-marathon arrived in and I was asked to move on with no sign of a fun-size Mars bar. I did move on, and never came back. I do miss it some days.
I also liked Longford, one of the country’s original marathon venues not that many would know that. I don’t remember much about the Longford half except for the retail parks and industrial estates we passed by that even in 2008 were already becoming a little empty. It holds a special place in my heart.
And then there was the Clontarf Half-Marathon that I’ve ran twice, both during winter and both on unseasonably fine days. On these days it is a wonderful route along the bay walk at Howth, out onto Dollymount Strand before the lovely Sutton promenade that then stops, turns and brings you back on yourself for home. The first time I ran this I set off too quick. I remember a guy passing me on the way back home just before the return beach leg. By the time I hit the beach he had gained 300 yards on me! I couldn’t feckin believe how much I had slowed and it made for one of the loneliest stretches I have ever ran. I survived and discovered it wasn’t that bad in the end. It even turned out that runner who had passed me had actually taken a left instead of a right as he hit the beach and I wasn’t as slow as I had thought.
The next year in Clontarf, I ran just three seconds slower than my PB, much due to the company of a runner, - Ian - who I chatted to for the first 5 or 6 miles. I didn’t think you could do that going so quick. It was the best craic. Ian had had a stag a few days before and this was perhaps the only reason he finished a few metres behind me at the end as we both motored home.
But if I were to choose my favourite half from the few that I have run, then it would have to be Dublin’s Half Marathon in Phoenix Park. There are very few places that on your run you will or might pass – the residence of the President; a zoo; a giant Christian cross (from when the Pope visited); the largest obelisk in Europe (a large pointy phallic type monument); a small castle; Victorian gardens; police headquarters; the National Ordinance Survey; a plush house to host foreign dignitaries; the U.S. Ambassador’s gaff; a fort; 12 soccer pitches; 7 G.A.A.; 3 camogie; 2 cricket grounds; 1 polo grounds and space for model aeroplanes; annual events that range from running to motor racing, musical concerts to national homecomings and a team of park constables who hunt down unauthorised Frisbee players and disposable barbecues.
More than this for me was the time when back in 2014 I nailed a PB, 1.23.21 though only just when Quentin, a fellow club-mate met me a kilometre from home when my wheels were beginning to come off and helped pace me the rest of the way in.
Today I run it again though anywhere close to 1 25 would be a success after the injury I’m starting to get over. Getting round okay would be good too.
A well-deserved rest day.