The third race in the Ballycotton 5 miler summer series saw me dip under 31 minutes for the first time. It wasn’t without putting in a bit of hard work and resisting the temptation to slacken off the pace when the going got tough. My warmup started at lunchtime with a 5k easy run in the park. My toe on the right foot continues to throb a little and is a bit swollen but doesn’t impact on my running. The race course is effectively two laps of quite country roads, some so quite (and narrow)they got grass growing in the middle, centered around the village of Churchtown South, where the start and finish lines were. I warmed up over the 2.5-mile loop, which has a few gradual ups and downs but is relatively fast. I made it to the start line with minutes to spare. The start was a bit congested with close on 500 runners lined up on a mild sunny evening. Once the gun went I took off at a steady fast pace and had to do a bit of weaving in and out over the first ¼ mile to get to the comfortably hard pace required for racing. Still most of the Eagle club mates that have similar race paces to me were out in front and despite the hard effort I thought I was off pace. The time-keeper calling out 5:55 at the first mile marker was enough to tell me that my pace was fine as long as I could maintain the effort. The manual lap on My Garmin turned out to be 5:58 for Mile 1. Still I was lagging behind the pace group ahead. - Pat Murphy was running on the back of the group of 5 or 6 leading females with John O’Callaghan out the front of the group. Kevin Geary had gone ahead chasing down Pat O’Connor. Eventually I pulled on to the back of the group passing the two mile mark in 11:54 (Mile 2 in 5:56). The first half of mile 3 is a gradual rise before the left turn for Churchtown South past the finish line and around the corner for the 2.5 mile mark with the timekeeper calling out 15:07 – in the space of half a mile I had fallen off the 30 minute pace. It was only a matter of time. At this stage I had passed John and Pat and was with the three remaining leading Females St Finbarrs Emma Murphy, Leevales Jessica Vonhatten and Eagles Rhona Lynch, who is leading the overall female standings after 2 races (I don’t think the other 2 had run the previous races). This was certainly unfamiliar territory for me. The longer I was able to hang on to this group the better. Out on the 2nd loop and Rhona had dropped off the pace and I was with the two leading females. They pulled ahead by a few yards and I caught up on a slight downhill and even went ahead for a while. Emma was back in front and I kept pace with her passing the 3 mile mark in 18:13 (Mile 3 in 6:19 - the slowest mile by far) – I was still well on pace for sub-31 though.
It could have been so easy to ease up at this stage as I had managed to hang on pretty well. To keep motivated I kept telling myself to seek out the pain and could honestly say that despite the fatigue in my legs I could not feel any real pain, so I continued on at the same effort. Emma, the leading female dropped me at about mile 3.5. She was followed a few hundred yards later by Jessica and a guy pacing her. I kept within a few yards of them and could see Pat about 20 yards ahead and Kevin off in the distance. Mile 4 came in 24:13 (6:00 Mile 4 - not bad at all) – 11 seconds under my 4-mile PB set in January. No chance of getting near 30 minutes though as the long rise towards the left turn for the finish took any speed out of my legs. I kept the even hard effort counting down the minutes to the finish line (about 3 minutes to go = 300 steps) – left towards the finish but still a gentle rise so no chance of a sprint. A guy passes me over the last 400m - I just don’t have that sort of sprint but don’t care as I am heading for a big PB - crossing the line in 30:24 (6:05 pace Avg & 6:11 for Mile 5), 46 seconds under my PB of two weeks ago and a full minute down on my pre-summer PB. Kevin had a fantastic race getting under 30 minutes just ahead of the leading female. There were plenty of Eagle AC 5 mile PB’s - Pat O’Connor, John O’Callaghan, Andy Gibson, Ann-Marie Power & Denis Looney to name a few (don’t know about Robert Doherty) – well done to all. Pat Murphy took the first M50 spot with Denis Carroll coming in second. John Quigley took second M55 spot & Rhona took third female spot – so great club results all round. A 2.5 mile warmdown over the race loop gave me 13 miles for the day. I finished off the evening with a cup of tea and a few biscuits in the hall. Well done to Ballycotton running promotions for putting on another fantastic race that was very well managed, from the car-parking stewards, marshals, timekeepers and caterers.
The results put me in 54th Place (52nd Male) with 14 guys in front of me who haven't run both the previous races - so there's a good chance that my number should be under 50 going into the last race of the series. McMillan puts this as my 3rd best performance after my 1:24:30 half in September 2008 and my 1:02:38 10 miler in January this year - so not quite there yet. Finally a little plug for the Paddy Games taking place at the Mardyke Arena on 14th August where you get the chance to participate in or watch (if you don’t like sticking out from the crowd) a few wacky track and field events all in aid of not taking life too seriously – after all you only live once. Former work colleague, John Meade, is one of the promoters of the games along with the other half of his three legged 3:25 marathon world record - on two legs he managed 2:44 this year in Cork, just think what he could do on one leg. John is currently 4th overall in the Ballycotton series – a bit too fast for me.