Hot. Smokin’ hot. Smokin’ hot on the beach in summer. Who? No, not me. Saturday was the Clontarf Half Marathon and she was a hottie.
One of my favourite races of the summer is the Clontarf Half Marathon. This race always takes place on the first Saturday of July and has always been a scorcher, apart from last year when there was rain before, during and after, though to be fair to mother Earth, she did allow for occasional intervals of sunshine to burst out so that it wasn’t all doom and gloom. There was no doom and there really isn’t ever any gloom when you finish a half-marathon anyway is there? Saturday was a hottie. And thoughtfully, Mother Earth, not wanting the sun to be out there on its own today, decided that it should be kept company by wind. A good solid, healthy wind. But I’ll get on to that in a moment.
The Clontarf race starts at the seafront, near the Yacht pub, with the half-marathon route running all along the promenade before you turn down the wooden bridge at the bull wall and head out down to the beach. From there, you run about 2.5 miles along the sandy beach, before turning off the beach to re-emerge onto the promenade and continue in the direction of Sutton. There’s a turnaround point before you reach Sutton (thank God, because Sutton is far, far away…) at which point you literally just turn and double back to the finish line. There is also the option of a 5 mile race, which my mom and my aunt did. Their route seemed to involve just a shorter version of the half-marathon route.
Just before the start, a big nasty looking dark cloud came above us at the start area and I feared the worst but my Gran must have been looking after us today as it simply spat a few drops and then went on its way. Happy people. It was a rolling start for the half-marathoners with the sub 1.39 people heading off first, then the 1.40-1.45 people, then 1.45- 1.50, etc, all in 30 seconds intervals. It worked really smoothly and effectively no congestion and that you also found yourself running in a group of people who matched your pace almost immediately. I found this very settling as I have a poor habit of going out too fast… almost every time, so I appreciated this little touch from the organisers.
Admittedly, my first mile was a bit too fast for what I should have been aiming to run for my half-marathon pace and it clocked in at 7.58. I consciously made a mental note to pull it back a bit because while I knew I’d be able to hold that pace for about 6 miles, I wasn’t sure how able I’d do with 13 and I didn’t want my legs to be toast by mile 7 and have to struggle through the remaining miles.
After the first mile and a half, I think, we were down onto the beach front, over some loose sand and then eventually we reached the wet sand, which made for better grip and a more even running surface. I find running on loose sand hard as it demands a lot more effort both in terms of balance and energy and it seriously slows you down. The sand leg was about 2.5 miles and was a bit tougher going, then the earlier miles but the view out to Howth in the North and around to Dun Laoighre and the Sugar Loaf in the South was simply stunning. The kite surfers were out en masse early this morning as well so there was plenty to keep me amused as we trundled along.
Off the beach and out to the turnaround was a long stretch but it was completely flat and we were soon met by the super fast race leaders coming the other way. This is always a great lifter-upper when you meet the leaders and it always seems to give my tired legs a boost when you need it. I was delighted to see the turnabout, I’m not going to lie people. It was seriously hot. But be careful what you wish for… The moment I hit the turnabout, I got a good blast of wind, which rather bluntly notified me of its presence. Ooh, nice cool, fresh air to cool me down, I thought. I also simultaneously heard a voice in my head saying “Yeah. That’ll get old in about 1 minute”. She was right. Basically, it was wind in your face for the second 6.5 miles. Meh. Nothing you could do so I just stuck the head down and boogied away.
One thing I did like about this race was that they gave you water in 250 ml bottles, not cups. The advantage: you can carry them and ration it out for much longer. On a hot day like today (25 degrees celsius or 77 fahrenheit for my American friends), this is a beautiful thing. I poured a lot of water over my head, down my back and on my face, as well as obviously drinking it and it made a big difference to how I felt, even if I wasn’t running any faster!
The second stretch back along the beach was hard. The wind felt even “healthier” down by the sea and I definitely felt it was a slog to get the end and get back to the boardwalk. On the plus side, I was so distracted with just trying to get off the beach as quickly as possible and get through that leg of the course, that when I got back to solid ground and turned off the wooden bridge, we only had 2km left to run. This was nice and I suddenly felt a little burst of life. Off I went and ended up running the last 2 miles in 8.50 and 8.42 respectively. 1.54.37 for the 13.1 miles. I was happy enough with the run and knocked about 9 minutes off the time I ran this race in last year. It was also nice to have my mom and aunt cheer me over the finish line!
Best bit: jam donuts at the end of the race. Wow. Okay, on any ordinary day, if you offered me a donut at the end of a run, it would be the last thing I’d want but good God, they were so good. Not particularly special donuts – just your run of the mill sugared jam donuts – but it was the sugar and the carbs that just absolutely nailed the spot. I’m not even a donut person but see how much I’ve already written about them? Can I just say thank you Clontarf, thank you.
To finish off the healthy finish to the race, we headed back to my Grandad’s house, who lives 5 minutes away from the seafront and had lunch with him and I had the tastiest ham and coleslaw salad on a brown crusty roll and a savage cup of coffee.
Today, half-marathon. Next Saturday, marathon. Right so.