Because I procrastinated, because I had an injury, it was too late to enter the Galway Bay Half-Marathon on October 6th. Entry had closed and I had put myself on the waiting list but with little hope, with it being such a popular race, I was now sulky and mildly desperate to find another race. The training schedule stuck on the wardrobe door is completely focused on that race on that date. So now, I started the search again, briefly toying with half-marathons in far flung Eastern European villages. Think of the Christmas markets and the pickled cabbage for brekkie! So when that dream had died, once I thought of the bank balance, I started looking again at half-marathons in Ireland.
Races at that distance are few and far between as you get into the thick of winter but there’s one place that stays in the game. It has a marathon, a half-marathon, a 10K and sher whatever yer having yerself, in December. It’s Clonakilty. So my interest was piqued because, y’know, West Cork and myself have a thing going. On the event’s website, they tell you that there are no pacers for their races and the reason? ‘It’s your time, to find yourself’. There are two mobile phone numbers on the website, one for Bob and one for Mark, if you have any questions.
And I did have questions, so I called both and got to leave a message for Mark. He called me back.
Mark, it turns out, is a running coach and a really experienced runner himself. He’s married with three children, has his own business training and coaching people and is studying as well. He doesn’t like undulating courses as much as full-on hilly or flat courses. Kildare’s alright as a county but it’s no Cork. Mark has the sing-songiest Cork accent I had hitherto ever heard. This much I know about Mark after a minute or so. Here are the edited highlights of our phone conversation.
Me: I just wanted to know about the half and maybe the full, what kind of numbers do you have doing them because I haven’t been running long at this distance so I don’t want to be out on the road on my own.
Mark: Oh no, you’ll never be on your own. You won’t get lost. We have more signs than any other race and water stations and gels and stewards to beat the band. We even have Coke out there for you and black pudding and sausages. Oh you’ll be well looked after.
Me: No it’s not that. I won’t get lost but I won’t be able to keep going if I’m the only person out on the road, in December, in West Cork.
Mark: There’ll be loads of people doing it and all the races will melt into one. Don’t worry about that at all. You’ll never be on your own girl.
Me: If I did the marathon, it’d be my first, how difficult a course is it? Is it hilly like? And think about it before you answer that. They lied to me for the Cork City Half, so don’t go all Corky and tell me it’s flat if it’s not.
Mark: Oh no, it’s nowhere near as flat as Cork City. There’s a lot of climbing on our course but the thing about hills and mountains is, if you have to go up them, sure you get to come back down them too. Isn’t that the way? And the last few miles are totally flat. Well mostly flat.
Me: Would it be mental for me to do this as my first do you think?
Mark: Many do and many do a PB. It’s very surprising really. I don’t know what it is, the Dingle and Connemara races are on a par but you wouldn’t do a PB there. Maybe we’ve better air. The scenery is great. What time are you doing for the half?
I told him my times. And my excuses for my times.
Mark: Sure if you can do those times, it’ll be no problem at all for you girl. You’ll fly through it. I always say, if you can do a 10K, you can run an ultra-marathon. You run long distance with your heart. If someone can run six or seven miles and fight all the battles that it takes to get through that, they can just keep going. Bit of training, few long runs, eat well and watch what you put into your body. You can do all that, take all the gels you want but it’s your heart that’ll get you to the finish. You sound like you have plenty of that. You’ll be grand girl.
Me: Thanks a million for your help Mark and for giving me so much time. I’ll go away and think about it.
Mark: Well you’ll be most welcome if you do come and join us. The thing about it is that it may be a tough course but our marathon is endearing.
Me: (Laughing) You’re calling your marathon endearing Mark?
Mark: Yes it’s very endearing.
Later on Bob called me back. And now I know that Mark does not, in fact have the sing-songiest Cork accent ever. I explained to Bob that I’d already spoken to Mark and that he’d got with me with ‘endearing’. Bob then wholeheartedly agrees with Mark and tells me that it is endearing. That it’s a touch course, no two ways about it girl but sure what goes up must come down and one thing’s for sure, you’ll find yourself out there. Come on down, did he tell you we have black pudding?
And that is why I am now entered in my first full marathon, on December 8th in Clonakilty. I want to hang out with people who call me girl, tell me I can run marathons no problem, that I’ve got heart, crow about having Coke along the route, tempt me with a fry at the finish, tell me I’ll find myself in a mysterious place called out there and, with no hint of irony, call their 26.2 mile mountainous race, ‘endearing’.