Achill Half Marathon

in running

Running club members and I with medals after race
Achill half marathon race result
  • Date: 2019-07-06
  • Time: 01:39:09
  • Distance: 21km
  • Pace: 00:04:43/km
  • Finished: 75/604 (12/100 normalised)

Previous race: Run Clare 2019 Series

In a country with magnificent running routes, the Achill half marathon stands out as a spectacular course. The route took us from the town of Keel across desolate bogs, along the beautiful golden beach at Doogort, around the shoulder of Slievemore, and a finish at the beach at Keel. This was my fifth half marathon, my calibration run for the Reykjavik marathon in August.

This race was understated. I’ve been in training for a few months. Come the day, I put my head down, ran my best, collected my medal, had a shower, and enjoyed a beer afterward with my friends from the running club.

The race was gorgeous. Even though my habit is to keep my eyes on the road, there were moments when I found it impossible to ignore the gorgeous scenery: the Nephin Mountains across Achill Sound as we crested the first and rather long hill, the beaches below Doogort, and the beckoning sight of Minaun and Keel in the last few kilometres.

Starting from the beach at Keel, the course first took us through the Doogort bog. This was a five kilometre (check splits) hill climb in the rain. Parts of this are a blur to me, because when I see a hill, I attack the hill. I put my head down and lean into the slope. Somebody dropped out early in front of me.

Me crossing the Achill half marathon finish line

The weather cleared by the time we crested the hill and reached our first turn at Bunacurry. With a downhill run from there to the beach at Doogort, the course gave me every chance to enjoy the views of the Nephin, Belmullet across the sea, and Slievemore to my left.

It was on this stretch when the sun began to pound down on us. Evaporation from the road left the air thick and muggy. Everyone felt the pain of the water station setup. This year the organisers went with open paper cups of water in order to cut down on single use plastic. I totally applaud their decision to cut down on bottles. The amount of waste I’ve seen at other runs has shocked me in the past. Unfortunately, it meant during the race that I had to pick between the two bad choices of stopping to drink, or grabbing a cup to gulp on the go. The first choice left me spending energy to catch back up with my pace group, and the second meant I didn’t get proper hydration. Hold-and-sip works far better for me. If I encounter open cups in future I’ll wear my hydration pack.

Bad watering took its toll after we went past Doogort and went over the shoulder of Slievemore. We passed four or five runners being given water and sugar by race marshals. Goodness knows, I felt thirsty. Even though I had hoped for a faster pace, I settled for my body’s decision of “this fast, no more”, because it’s better to finish a bit slower than burnout!

The half marathon merged with the 10k after Slievemore. It was from this point that I felt happy I had conserved myself earlier in the race. You can tell so much about how hard a person is working just by their breathing. Most of the 10k runners were gulping and gasping for air around me as the 1:40 pace group blew through them. For me this wasn’t “haha, I’m fitter”, but instead a real testament to the fact that training works. Training pays off. I felt great because I felt great.

Slievemore Road was narrow. At one point we got stuck behind two 10k runners because a private car blocked the rest of the road. I’m not ashamed to say I banged on the car and yelled at them to pull over.

My first foot began to hurt in the last three kilometres. I’ve had gait problems going back years that I’ve only recently begun to tackle, wherein I don’t properly roll my right foot. I could feel the roll-slap, roll-slap roll-slap as I burned off some speed going down hills. By the end the ball of my foot was burning at me.

Overall this was a great run-and a great weekend away-with my running club. Six of us ran in the half. We found the heat and lack of water tough to handle, but we all crossed the line in the end.

The next event for me will be the Reykjavik marathon on August 24!


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