Sunday, May 28, 2017

Reason why we run

I can remember back in Trim to when I was young and used to wait down by the old fire station to go to juvenile G.A.A. matches. You’d show up wondering if you had enough for a team, talk about Summerhill disco the Friday before and wonder where you were playing today, 'far side of Navan’ would come the response.

One particular memory stands out and that was when we would regularly spot a guy across the river in the Porchfields donned in the red and white candy-stripes of Trim running up, down, around and about. I remember wondering was he a little mad. It turned out that he wasn’t, he was just ahead of his time. Looking back twenty years ago we must have been like those yokels in the fields looking at these new mechanised contraptions, called cars, thinking they’ll never catch on. Who knew eh?

Now, half the country has copped on to this running lark and it is no surprise that still three weeks away the Braveheart 5k is already pushing past 350 runners. If you’re not one of them and are still interested, get joining.

It’s easy to understand why running has become so popular today. While there is a myriad of reasons, here are my top 11 -

1.       Endorphins – After just a kilometre of two into your run, the endorphins begin to kick in. To those who are a little unfamiliar endorphins help reduce pain and help trigger a positive feeling in the body similar to that of morphine. I mean, what’s not to like?

2.       Bad thoughts out, good thoughts in – With endorphins in mind there is perhaps no better way to deal with a bit of stress, pressure or wahala than a run. My own suggestion is to spend the outward journey thinking about all the challenges you’re facing and by the time you turn for home you’ll be so full of endorphins you’ll be ready to forget all about them. Bad thoughts out, good thoughts in.
3.       Helps the thinking – A nice slow run solo is also a great way to come up with ideas on everything from how to stop the damp in your sitting room to how to break it to your boss that you’re leaving.

4.       Food tastes better – Ever notice how towards the end of those long runs thoughts of roast chiken dinners, spicy curries or meaty pasta dinners begin to dominate. Nothing better to help build a healthy appetite.

5.       Little treats – And if you do enjoy the odd guilty food pleasure then there are few better ways to make you feel you deserve one than an hour and a half of solid running. I remember one marathon training season I was nearly counting the days down to the snack box and battered sausage I would have after than thee actually race itself.

6.       You don’t come home limping – At least not usually. As much as I loved team sports there were rarely times, especially towards the end of my career I wouldn’t come home at least a little bit bruised, limping or beaten up needing a full day to recover. Nowadays it is only in the immediate aftermath of a marathon I have to walk down the stairs backwards.

7.       Catching up with friends – With so much of training ran at talking pace, there are few sports where you can spend the whole exercise session catching up on the week’s events or looking forward to the weekend. I mean, have you ever tried to talk relationships coming down an Alpine ski-slope?

8.       Get to know new people – Returning home from Australia? Recently released for a crime you didn't commit? Witness protection programme? Whatever reason you're new to the town, what better way than to get into a community than being our and about with runners? A sport annually voted in the top 3 nationwide of non-clicky sporting activities.

9.       Races are not just about position but also time, always something to go after – You don’t have to race but if you do, then rarely does the race become about the position. Instead it is about the time you finished, either compared to previous times this year or on the same course last year.

10.   Comradery with your competitors – Do you really spend several minutes after a football match chatting to your fellow competitors complementing them on their performance and asking how they felt? In running, you do. Because at the end of the day you really are only up against yourself and not the person finishing beside you (not really anyway)!

11.   And finally, there are some great places to race too. And where better than the Braveheart 5k?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Braveheart 5k – A Complete Course Run Through - 2018 Version

Ahead of you looms “the Yellow Steeple; away to your left is Trim Castle; while in front of you is the Braveheart 5k.

It’s Friday the 15th of June.

It’s 8.00 pm.

It’s about to begin.

On your marks, get set, go!

During a wave start, where your time begins from the moment you pass the mat on the start line, you begin with a short climb towards the Yellow Steeple, a 14th century abbey that is the tallest building in Trim. On special summer evening’s the ruins blaze yellow and this will be where you will finish. But not just yet.

You quickly turn right and begin a slow long descent around the perimeter of the Porchfields; a wonderful green area that annually plays hosts to a multiple of local festivals. At this stage, you will be full of adrenalin drawn from the crowds shouting you on at the start as well as the hundreds of other fellow runners you are competing with. When you include three or four hundred metres of downhill it will all add up to you probably going too fast. SLOW DOWN!!! I repeat SLOW DOWN!!! 

Every year in the same way Becher’s Brook used to claim countless runners and riders in the English Grand National so too does the first kilometre of the Braveheart. Too many runners take off too fast and don’t slow down till they hit the river. By that stage, it will be too late and you will pay for it in the last kilometre where the 'Three Sisters' await!

Thankfully, though Braveheart is one of the most beautiful short races in Ireland, and globally up there with the er… Machu Pichu 6k, the River Nile 5 mile and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon 10 k, the first kilometre is the least scenic so use this downhill section to SLOW DOWN. Allow others to pass you, knowing full well you will see them again in the second half.

Turning right, you will head in the direction of the river, passing the meeting gate where many of the couch to 5k training sessions have begun and ended with smiles (even if there was a lot of sweat and swearing in between!). Through the gap, you will find yourself walking (running) in the footsteps of Scottish patriot William Wallace when he approached York all those years ago back in er… 1994. For it was here that Mel Gibson marched down towards the city of York, filmed on the outside of the Trim Castle, the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland now clearly visible across the river. (For film buffs the filmed the scenes in London inside the impressive curtain walls).
Unfortunately, you will have to look out for that film clip later when you re-watch the movie. For now, you can only allow yourself to roll down the steep little hill happy that you haven’t overdone it through the 1k mark.

At the river, you will turn a sharp left in under the bridge, by a recent image of William Wallace before passing out (metaphorically we hope) into the Sheepfields.

Swinging up to your left, your second kilometre will begin with a steep incline up away from the river. Take your time and keep the pace steady. It’s still a long way to go. Once over the brow you will be greeting by one of Trim’s finest amenities, the Sheepfields. Though it might seem like something out of a Royal decree from Richard VIII that these lands in the centre of town should henceforth be left to sheep, it was in fact one decision those in power did get in right during the Celtic Tiger by safeguarding this green area and not turning it into housing. On any given day, everyone and their dog will be out here ‘a-walking’. Today it’s your turn.

A kilometre and a half in you hit the ‘Ferry K’, an almost exact kilometre box, which you will complete three sides of, that is a Trim training stomping ground. Along the northern side of it you might notice the undulating wave-like surface below you that recounts the fields history not as a body of water but as one that was farmed, furrowed and ploughed.

When you hit the next turn right you are at 2 kilometres so well done. Next up is the corner where many of the juveniles under the watchful eye of coaches and long-time club stalwart Pat Comey often line up for their training sessions. You’ll know it by the small Lord of the Rings-esque like white-thorn tree seemingly out on its own to your right and then its larger companion you meet when you turn left. Springing through the gap you will then left again.

At this point you will slingshot around to your right. If you are tiring a little draw comfort from the fact that you are perhaps as far away from the end as you can possibly be. It is all back in towards the finish from here. As you straighten out towards the river again, on your left is St. John’s Priory. If you are still feeling good it will look like a medieval hospital with defence tower out front. If you are feeling crap, it will just be another pile of ruins you have to pass between now and the finish.

Passing the Priory/Ruins you will have a short respite as the path dips down back to the river turning right for the long run in. At this point, almost exactly half-way it is good to reflect and think how you are feeling.

  • If you are feeling strong and chasing a time you might like to up the tempo just a bit. Don’t shoot off for home but just turn the volume up a little.
  • If you are not feeling great then reduce it a little. The ‘Three Sisters’ still await and you will be glad that you didn’t blow your gaskets along this river-run and had something in reserve for the final segment.

On the only real part of the course that is tarmacadamed for any great distance you will find yourself running alongside the historic River Boyne leisurely flowing seawards. Hopefully you will not be going as slowly as it seems to be.

Passing through a couple of short sharp dips and a pair of giant bottle-tops just shy of the 3k marker, the castle will start to come into view. Then around a blackthorn bush and up another sudden little rise you will suddenly find yourself returning to the beginnings of the old Medieval town, noticeable by a stone arch that dates back a lot longer than the "No Access" signs that currently surround it.

At this point a kilted man on a stallion waving a 3-foot sword, his face painted blue and white will come alongside you to cheer you on. At least that’s what we hope if we ever have unending resources to put into the race. Until then, draw energy from the fact that as you pass under the bridge for a second time you haven’t far to go, except for those ‘Sisters’.

It would be great to be able to keep on running straight up the river path towards home but for we must turn right, away from the river and up the First Angry Sister. While the height is no different from what you did earlier on the other side of the bridge, the slightly steeper nature of the climb and the fact that we are approaching the final kilometre means for many, this will hurt. If I had a suggestion, it would be to attack. Always attack the hills. 

Once climbed you turn right and then left as you break back out into the larger section of the Porchfields. Running along part of the way you ran out, and into the final kilometre gain comfort form the fact that it is nearly over and the pain will not last for much longer.

Instead of completing the perimeter you will turn left up the Second Sister. She may not be as steep as the first but is longer makes it tough all the same. As you head up you would be forgiven into thinking you are on the homeward straight, with crowds two or three deep and the waft of summer fruits from the finish line blowing down to you.

Unfortunately, you are not yet home. Instead from where the crowds gather and roar words of encouragement you must retreat once again, this time down around a hair-pin away from them and towards the main gate. Don’t lose hope, it took Robert De Bruce seven goes to win Scotland, it will only take you three and the next time you turn to face the Yellow Steeple it will be your last.

Turning another sharp right, keeping the tree-line to your left you will nearly be at the end of your feet but will have just enough left for one last push. Keep it steady and just as you reach the Sheep Gate, the only surviving gate into the Medieval town proper, empty whatever you have left on the final ascent up the Third Sister. Through steep and cruel, remember she is just 30 odd metres of pain before you are in the presence of the Yellow Steeple and finished! Braveheart 2018 ticked.
Congratulations! William Wallace would have been proud.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Steady Runs & Blow Outs

There are two key steps for a successful Braveheart.

The first one is obvious – training.
The best approach to training, immaterial of what type of runner you might be, seems to be a mixture of long and slow with short and speedy.

Long and slow – This is when you run for longer than 5k but at a much slower pace than you might like to on race day. What exact pace you might ask? That’s easy: the pace where you can talk about the job interview you did; where you toddler decided to hide your bank cards; how to cook a perfect curry; or who will start the first Lions tour. If you can hold a conversation on any of these for the duration of your run then you’ve got the pace right. Don’t worry that you are going slow, the whole point of these runs is to just get the body accustomed to running for a reasonable length of time.

Short and speedy – These are the repeated runs (usually called intervals) that are short (often no more than a kilometre or 4 to 5 minutes long) where you run faster than you would hope to do in the Braveheart. These sessions are usually the toughest training sessions you’ll do. You know they are tough because by the end of the first interval any thought of talk has firmly gone out of the window. By the second you are relieved you didn’t have dinner before coming out. By the third you are hanging on while by the fourth you are either almost out the back, or leading up front because it’s your turn, damn! And then the last, well that’s the last thank God!!!

Such types of training are ideal for anyone who may have done 5 kilometres previously but slowed dramatically at the end or did it in a mixture of running, jogging, walking and cursing and/or for those chasing that elusive PB (which is not an unwanted yeast infection but athlete’s talk for a Personal Best).

For the company and the craic in doing sessions like these, if you’re not in a club join one, if you don’t know a club but are near Trim join ours, and if you are only just starting then remember Don and Shane’s running groups which are still open to newcomers. To look for more click here.

The second step for a successful Braveheart is a blowout.

Not to be mixed up with the main cause of single vehicle accidents on motorways, a blowout in running is a really tough, tough training session shortly before a race or better still another race before the main event. It is when you realise that your fitness isn’t quite like it was last year and when the second half of a race seems so much longer than the first. While they can be painful, blowouts are the best way to dust off any cobwebs before the main event.

And if we consider the Braveheart 5k the main event then there are many great opportunities to get out and about in the next few weeks to get your race legs ready. From the ultra-competitive Bob Heffernan 5k in Johnstown Bridge to the traditional Patrick Bell Bohermeen 5k a week before, the Star of the Sea 5k in Stamullan to the multiple of local runs in between.

For me my first two blowouts came in the last fortnight. The first was the Meath Partnership 10k in Kells on the May Bank Holiday when a scorcher of day saw more than one competitor rather than blowout but blowup on the way back in as the speed and heat caught up with them. For me I just about hung on along the slow climb back into town grateful the person chasing me down didn’t realise how much in pain I was. The second blow out came in Bohermeen’s annual team road relays where teams of four tag each other after half-mile, mile, mile and a half and two mile legs. It doesn’t matter what leg you run, you’re shattered by the arrival home.

With a half a litre of my Easter holiday's evening cool beers sweated out in one and a half a lung coughed up in the other, I feel I am now ready for race season and when William Wallace comes a calling on the 16th of June seeking us to rise up in defiance of tyranny, English rule and er… a 5k run, I hopefully will be all set.

Next week, we'll go through the course.

p.s. The shirts for the first 400 entries look great!

Friday, May 5, 2017

That time of the year again! - The Braveheart 5k Friday 16th June

Yes, it’s that time of the year again!

That time of the year when you are free to paint half your face blue, grow your hair as long as you want and put on your worst Scottish accent as you ride your horse up and down in front of hundreds of men and women shouting Alba go bra!!!

Why can you do this? Because it’s the annual Trim Braveheart 5k.

When it comes to 5k races very few can claim to be as historic, picturesque and as enjoyable as the Trim Braveheart 5k. I mean where else do you begin a race by running towards a 14th century abbey known locally as the Yellow Steeple, loop around all the way back to a 13th century Dominican Friary before returning along the riverside path of the fabled River Boyne before finishing up overlooking Trim Castle; Ireland’s largest Norman castle! Indeed, so picturesque is the Braveheart 5k route that it is perhaps the only run in Ireland that you could post a slow time and still feel satisfied, such are the sites on offer!

Of course, you don’t want to post a slow time, you want to beat last year’s one or set a course PB so you can conquer it next year! Just like Mel Gibson did when as William Wallace he walked the course back while filming here for the movie 1995 Academy Award Winning ‘Braveheart’. And it is due to the filming of scenes from the movie that took place throughout the summer of 1994 that the Braveheart 5k came into being. Thankfully unlike poor William Wallace, who after being pelted with cabbage and raw vegetables from half the town of Trim, was carted off to be hung, drawn and quartered, finishers at this year’s Braveheart 5k can look forward to some music and summer fruit at the finish as they reflect on a tough run ran well.

Over the next few weeks in the run up to Braveheart, Marathonoloy will provide a weekly guide to what to expect from the race and what you can be doing to get ready for it.

To begin I would suggest any of one of the following:

1.       Book it and get your summer of short races and sunshine fitness under way.

2.       Book it now as I got a sneak preview of the t-shirts for the first 400 entries and they look great!

3.       If like me you haven’t been out enough over the last few weeks, start getting back into the habit of running so that come race day you won’t be found wanting.

4.       Or for those who have never ran before or who think 5k is a distance far out of reach, come along any Tuesday or Thursday to the Porchfield’s in Trim at 7.00 pm where for €60 you will get club registration with Trim A.C., registration with Athletics Ireland, entry into the Braveheart 5k and most importantly the excellent coaching and encouragement of Trim A.C. members Don Mahon and Sean O’Connor who are organising a ‘Jog Run’ and a ‘Walk Jog’. (For further info call Don, 086- 2650285) 

Because remember, ‘they make take our lives but they will never take our freedom!!!’