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.

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