Not only was it a marathon, but it was a trail marathon starting at 9pm and to top it off I was sick the week before it and still not 100% at the time of doing the race, so here goes with my race report.
Given the late start for the race, I took it nice and easy on Friday as I knew it was going to be a long night. The plan was to catch a lift with Jaime, Ger and Paul to Kilfinane for the start of the race with the aim of leaving around 6pm, sure this would mean we'd be at the start for around 7.30pm but it's better to be early rather than late to the start of the race.
|Credit: MMRA - Munster Mountain Running Association
The start time quickly approached and before we headed out into the night there was a short briefing to cover the course, the importance of checking in halfway etc. After a few minutes, we headed out the door and away we went.
|Credit: Jp Tierney
Heading into the wood was the first of the nights many, many climbs and instantly I could feel the effects of being ill the week before and also the lack of training but I knew things would likely even out once I'd got a bit of a workout.
As myself and Ger ran through the wood we figured either Paul and Jaime had either gone way ahead or they had been part of the unlucky group who continued running down the road and missed the turn into the wood, we continued on through the forest and after a few miles we hit the first of the more awkward descents which involved lots and lots of mud. Just as we hit the end of this Paul and Jaime arrived, it turned out they had been part of the unlucky group who didn't turn right into the wood.
From here on we stuck together for a few miles but as we approached mile 6 I managed to lose the group as we hit a section of the course which was a single file climb in an area called Darragh Beg, it also involved a loop of about 4miles which took in two hills, much of it single file track as well.
This section was challenging but was immense fun in parts, fog also started to roll in on these sections due to the elevation. At around mile 9 I came across a runner who was down due to hurting their ankle, luckily for the runner there were people already looking after them. As it turns out it would be a number of hours until they were safely off the mountain with South Eastern Mountain Rescue.
I continued on and returned to the single-file section at an area called Darragh Beg and from here on it was road from around mile 11 to mile 16. (Not ideal when you are wearing trail shoes!)
As the miles tipped by I finally arrived in at the checkpoint at mile 14 at the Ballyhoura Mountain Lodges which seemed like a nice wooded area to stay in, the requirement at the checkpoint wasn't just to run by it and pick up water etc but instead you had to ensure you signed your name so they knew you had passed through. The second I walked in I couldn't see as my glasses fogged up (the joys of glasses!) but thankfully a volunteer signed for me.
By the time I arrived into the checkpoint all the half marathon had been through so there was next to no coke left, but I did get the last half cup full. Even though there was no coke there was more than enough soup, sweets and anything else a person might want.
I filled up my water bottle, grabbed one or two things and headed out the door walking and eating....there is no benefit in sitting down to eat after all!
Shortly after the checkpoint as I was walking, I met up with Ray and JP who I've run a number of races with in the past, as it turns out JP was using the Ballyhoura Moonlight Marathon as training for the Wicklow Way Solo 127km race, they were making better progress than me so by the time we started to climb again I left them off.
Just before mile 16 I began the long climb up Seefin and again the fog started to roll in, this climb continued until around mile 17.5miles and it was hard going especially with all the loose scree. Eventually, I hit the turnaround point near the summit and was fairly amazed to encounter a race steward at this section, it was fairly foggy here and the wind kept picking up now and then so it can't have been the nicest place to stand for the night.
After hitting the top I started the descent via the very, very muddy trail back into the wood, I'll admit at one point as I couldn't see anyone else or even a head torch light being reflected in the fog in front or behind me I thought I may have missed a turn. But thankfully I didn't take any wrong turns and eventually burst out onto the fire road at the end of the mud trail!
From mile 21 to the finish around mile 27 was a mix of road, wooded areas and fields, some of the sections were particularly frustrating due to the level of mud which would cake under the shoes and make it awkward as hell to make any decent progress. The last 2miles or so were just on road back to the finish and it felt pretty endless,
I eventually crossed the line in 05:50:12, full details can be found on my Garmin.
Also in hindsight I will say that given my lack of trail running and the climbs involved I would have benefitted from bringing the new trekking poles I picked up in December. These would have likely knocked 10-15min off my time as I really found the mud slowed me down, also there were also plenty of people who were using them during the race.