Andy Falconer

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Connemara Marathon 7th April 2013

10 Apr 2013 | Leave a Comment |

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The Connemara Marathon is the first of 3 marathons in 7 weeks for me, so the plan was to run it as slowly as possible in order to preserve my body for the London Marathon in two weeks time, when I’ll try to run a PB.

 
The Connemara marathon, in stunning scenery on the west coast of Ireland, certainly lives up to its billing as in international marathon – 30 different countries represented. I met people from Texas, California, New York, Scandinavia, Germany, France and Italy. Registering was done easily online and you could elect to pick up your bib number (with timing chip built into it) from either Galway or Clifden. I went for Clifden and it took 2 minutes from walking into the hotel to walking out again with my race bag.

 

The ‘marathon’ consists of three events: a 39 mile ultra, the full marathon and a half marathon. The ultra had nearly 200 runners with around half of them international runners; the marathon looked to be in the region of 500 runners; and there were 2,500 running the half marathon.

 

An impressive collection of buses ensured that everyone got to their respective start areas as there was no access to vehicles along the second half of the Connemara route nor the start area. The full marathon started at 10.30am at the side of a road in the middle of nowhere (Lough Inagh). We were sat at the roadside for about an hour, with a line of portable toilets, a lorry for the drop bags and amazing mountain scenery. What the photographs don’t show is the fact the temperature was 4C and the wind was nearly gale force. It was a bleak start to the race. (The half marathoners had to wait for 2 hours at their start area, in similar conditions!). This was the only aspect of the race organization that seemed unnecessary although I’m sure there were good logistical reasons for it – they just weren’t apparent to us runners. There were drinks stations every 3 miles with Galway Water bottles handed out by enthusiastic families, along with a portaloo. Lucazade Sport drinks were on offer at two stations towards the end, for those that like some sugar.

 

We got to cheer the lead runners in the Ultra as they came running past us, just before our start. The first 7 miles were fantastic – strong wind behind pushing us along, rolling hills, beautiful scenery, and runners strung out as far as you could see. That wind soon ceased to be a friend as we turned a corner and started the hilly section across the top of the course, heading for the start of the half marathon at Leename. The wind would now be a headwind for the remaining 20 miles, with the noise being so loud that I had to give up trying to listen to music due to the roaring sound.

 

What you can’t tell from the profile map is that the Connemara road camber is poor which meant that by mile 10 I was getting increasing pain in my ankles and lower shins due to my feet rolling to the side continually – this just got worse as the run progressed even with trying to run in the centre of the road. The other bit that I hadn’t appreciated is just how hilly the course was. I estimate it was about 470m of ascent over the 26 miles but the brutal sting in the tail awaits you at Mile 22 -2 miles of continual uphill! It was horrendous, particularly as you could see it snaking away into the distance with runners seeming to be tiny dots on the horrendous.

Connemara Marathon course profile

The last couple of miles didn’t feel downhill as the profile would indicate, they felt more rolling. The finish line at Maam Cross had about 100 spectators and an enthusiastic person on the microphone – the runner who crossed the line in front of me had just completed their 305th marathon! After you crossed the line it was a case of picking up your medal and t-shirt then getting on the correct coach to take you back to where you’d been picked up. Coaches leave as they fill up so you might have to wait for 45 minutes if you’re first on the coach.

 

In summary, this was a really friendly, small and well run marathon (with a much bigger half marathon going on as well but I never caught up or saw them). The only organizational issue was the length of time between getting off the coaches and the races starting. The hilly course, combined with the horrendous headwind and poor road camber meant that it was a brutal run. I stopped enjoying it after the first 9 miles and it became a matter of just trying to finish. 24 hours later and my ankles and the ligaments at the bottom of my shins are still pretty sore and tender but apart from that everything else is OK.  I now need to get myself prepared for the London Marathon that is in 2 weeks time! (5 hours 10 minutes for those of you who are wondering).