While our club mates were lining up on Fitzwilliam Square for the start of the Dublin City Marathon at 9 this morning Paul Daly and I pulled into a small lay-by about a mile north of the crossroad village of Bweeng in North Cork at the head of the Duhallow Way (part of the Blackwater Way). It was a beautiful cold morning with clear sunny skies. We were planning on doing a recce run covering about 9 miles of forest and minor roads with a bit of cross-country thrown in, about as far away from the congested streets of Dublin as you could get.
Straight away we started into an uphill section along a forest road which got the heart pumping and quickly shook me out of my slumber. We followed the way-mark posts where visible but I also had a map in my backpack for insurance. The crest of the first hill took us close to some radio masts and down the other side where we could open up the throttle. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us at the time, we missed a left turn before the crest of the hill and took a left instead at the end of the trail - crossed a field, forded a steam and took a path heavily overgrown with furze, that stung the legs a little. After collaborating for a while (Paul was right) we corrected our heading and were back on track after adding about a mile to the route - all part of the fun.
Paul had sent me this link to the Art O'Neill Challenge earlier in the week - a 55km run from the centre of Dublin to the Wicklow mountains on 7th January 2011 - starting at midnight. So you could imagine the navigation challenges that would bring - and I couldn't even find my way around a few forest roads - with a map - in daylight. Anyway you have to start somewhere I suppose.
Left onto the road for a few 100m and right onto another forest road. Nothing terribly challenging but a very enjoyable contrast to the normal weekend club run. I was wearing a pair of cheap off-road shoes I had bought a few months ago and they were performing pretty good. The soles are much stiffer than road shoes so that the foot is well supported over the uneven surface (no country for vibrams - yet?). That was until I got onto the only long section of road on the route (about a mile in total) where my right calf began to tighten up and by the time we turned off the road with about a mile and a half to go it was noticeably uncomfortable and I was fearful of straining/tearing it.
With about a mile to go we came to the end of the forest road and only for the way-marker directing us through the trees in front of us we wouldn't have found the trail. The next section over about 500m was soft underfoot through woodland with a few bog holes and ditches thrown in. Great to mix it up a bit, even if it did mean taking water on-board. Before long we were back on a forest/bog road heading for the car with exactly 10 miles clocked on Paul's trusty Garmin. Covered in about 1:32. (just over 9 minute miles) but this wasn't about clock watching - maybe a bit of bird watching as Paul pointed out an endangered Hen Harrier in the distance as we descended towards the car.
Here is some footage from the run although my video uploading/orientation skills needs a bit of fine tuning.
My right calf remained tender for the day causing a slight limp initially but easing off the more I walked on it.
Well done to all those who ran Dublin this morning. Fantastic running weather and times