Yesterday, I ran the VHI Dublin Women’s Mini Marathon with my mom, my auntie and over 37,000 other women. I’ve ran this race nearly every year since I was fourteen years old which amounts to in or about 12 times and I love it. It’s one of my favourite races in the entire racing calendar for so many reasons which I rambled on about in my previous blog bit which you can read here… https://eatandrunthis.wordpress.com/2015/05/30/teeny-country-eclipses-the-running-world-for-one-day/ … which I won’t go on about again but just wanted to emphasise how BIG my LOVE for this race is.
The Women’s Mini Marathon takes place every year on the Monday of the bank holiday June weekend and is typically an absolute scorcher of a day. Sun-cream, shades and sweat are never far away and I have many memories of flopping out on the grass in St. Stephen’s Green in a big melting heap after finishing. Yesterday was not a typical day. It rained. It winded. It winded big time. And all in all, it was not a pleasant day. But we were not to be deterred! Over 37,000 mna na hEireann from every county in Ireland turned out in force to brave the elements, determined to conquer the 10km course and collect their medals.
The course was altered last year to take account of the (forever) ongoing Luas track works, which has good and bad points. The start used to be in Fitzwilliam Square, with competitors heading down towards Holles St. hospital (to wave at all the lovely midwives!) and then turning right onto Baggot st. Now, the race begins on Baggot st and you more or less follow the same route until the Stillorgan road where instead of running up one side of the Belfield flyover and back down the other side, you now continue to run out the Stillorgan road, under the flyover before doing a turnabout further up the road and heading straight back into town. On the old route, the finish line was in Stephen’s Green but the new route sees runners/walkers finish on Fitzwilliam Place.
The plus points: You no longer have to run UP the Belfield flyover, fairly obvious this one. Also, due to the extra distance you cover running out the seemingly interminable Stillorgan road, there is less ground to cover on the way back in so for those who are so used to the old route, it feels like a nice little surprise to realise that you are further along than you thought you would be at that point.
My gripes: I don’t like either the start or the finish areas as the atmosphere just isn’t as good at all as it used to be and Baggot street is a much narrower start area which means bottle neck, which means major congestion. Not a good way to start a race. I also like waving at the nurses and the new mammies in Holles st maternity hospital on the way down Fitzwilliam and I missed this yesterday 😦 Secondly, and this really is a kicker: no one likes the Stillorgan road. It is crazy long and all kinds of boring and while I realise it was part of the old route, there is now even more of it on the new route and while you don’t have to do the flyover, you, instead have to tackle two big dips in the road which run under the flyover. I actually didn’t mind the dips too much but my mother was so under-impressed by what she considered to be a sneaky amendment to the course that I thought I would throw it in here. Lastly, and I promise this the end to the negativity, the finish area is a bit sad. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer running down Leeson st. and around into Stephen’s Green to the finish line. There’s a much better atmosphere all around the Green and with the crowds from Grafton street and the surrounding bustling streets, there has typically been great crowds to meet the finishers coming in. Being further away from that area, it felt like we had been removed from the buzzy area and existed in a bit of a vacuum. Don’t get me wrong – these are not complaints, they’re simply notes for improvement for next year!
On to the positivity! I had a great race! I haven’t done much speed work at all in my training so far this year- it’s not my favourite session at all so I tend to avoid it if there is an excuse available. This year, rather than forcing myself to do a speed-focused running session every week, I’ve just been conscious of including some extra speed somewhere in my week and then doing it when I’ve felt up for it. Last year, I was absolutely determined to get my 10km pb down and made sure every week to do a tempo run. I built up my distance gradually every week and was confident at having a good shot at making 50 minutes in the mini marathon. Alas, it didn’t happen and while I walked away with a new pb of 51:30, it was still over the 50 minute mark and I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. Of course, if I hadn’t put so much effort into training for it, it probably wouldn’t have mattered as much to me. So this year, on minimal speed training, in horrid running conditions, I beat the 50! I couldn’t believe it. Best day ever! What can I say? I may have looked like a drowned rat at the end of the 10km but I was smiling like a twit all the way to the pub.
My typical modus operandus is to go out too fast in the first few miles (of whatever race distance) and then try to cling on to the pace, only for it to inevitably fall away and I end up struggling to the end. I was more relaxed yesterday, maybe because I wasn’t expecting to beat last year’s time having done so little speed-work, so I just told myself to relax into the pace and let it come, rather than trying to force it. It worked! I ended up with almost even mile splits, averaging out at 7:41 per mile and ended up finishing in 47:57, knocking 3 minutes 33 seconds off my personal best. So maybe this will be the new mindset I should adopt for all races – try to convince myself that I don’t care about pace, just relax into the pace, don’t try to force it and trust that it will come. It’s funny because I’ve been reading articles, blogs, you name it, about not going out too fast at the beginning of a race- and I get the reasons, I get the science – but for some reason, I couldn’t help myself gunning it in the first few miles. You nearly always have that extra energy bouncing around your legs at the beginning of a race and it’s so hard to resist the temptation to fly out of the gates and let rip. But now, having actually done it differently this time, maybe I’ve learned my lesson. I hope so.
I’m also mad proud of my mom and auntie who ran the entire 10km for their very first time. I’ve mentioned previously that my mom only started running about 18 months ago, believing for years that she “just couldn’t run” and now runs the parkrun 5km every week. She hadn’t gone beyond the 5km but with some regular, gentle encouragement, I got her into thinking that maybe she could do a 10km. I drew her up a training plan and yesterday she ran her first 10km, finishing in 1:01:00. Running continuously for the 10km would’ve been impressive enough but I don’t know about you, but I think her time is pretty awesome too. She’s never run the full distance before and her 5km time is in or around the 30 minute mark so her 1:01 is nearly an even split. I think she’s awesome. My aunt also did her first full 10km run (she’s also walked/ run-walked a lot of races) and rocked home in 1:04:43.
Happy with our team effort, we legged it around to Hourican’s pub on Leeson street and re-hydrated with some well-deserved libations and some yummy crisps. A whopper chinese takeaway and a glass of wine in front of a big fire for the evening made for a perfect end to the day.
Just a note for the sponsors/ organisers of the race this year. You had most of the surrounding roads/ walkways closed off with barriers and were very strict about not letting people take shortcuts to their cars/ various exits after they had finished and frankly, this was unnecessary and rather mean. It was a very wet, miserable day and I think an adjustment of attitude here would not go amiss. There has been none of that in previous years and there were never any issues. No need lads. Also, apart from a cup of water at the end, there was nothing for competitors and in previous years with this race, there has been bananas, apples, oranges, etc. As it’s VHI’s first time to sponsor this race, I understand that this was a learning experience and it would be great if they could perhaps consult with the previous organisers/ learn from other similar events and deliver a tip-top race for next year. It’s a very good event and it would be a terrible shame if the standard were to slip now with so many women looking forward to this event every year.
Well done ladies! You make me proud 😀
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