Causeway Coast Marathon – Report by Di Di

19Oct09

Di Di and Reilly running up the step at the Giant's CausewayDisappointed at having missed out on the Mourne Way Marathon due to it clashing with our local Triathlon race back in June, I had eagerly said I would be signing up for the Causeway Coast Marathon, organised by 26Extreme. Having run my first marathon in May this year, I found the most difficult part of it the boredom of running alone for such a long time (I’m not a fast mover!) So this time I contacted an American friend of mine, now living in Galway, a seasoned ultra-marathoner and Ironman competitor, wondering if she fancied doing the half-marathon. Fortunately her response was a definite yes, but only to do the full distance, it would make up for the long drive.

As seems to have been the norm this year, work got in the way of training and the week of the marathon arrived with my longest run stretching to about half the distance I should have covered. However, Reilly and myself were looking forward to doing the race for the craic, and had been told the views were spectacular. She is also doing the Dublin Marathon on the 26th October so didn’t want to be pounding around this.

Didi on BeachI wasn’t particularly worried about the race, that is until I arrived at the start line and realised that everyone else there were proper runners and adventure racers. The one girl that told us she had only recently taken up running was in fact doing this as a warm up run for the ultra runs… I started to think that yet again I had signed myself up for something that was perhaps a bit out of my league to say the least!

After a few encouraging words from Rowan, one of the race organisers, telling us not to fall over the cliffs, and some less scary ones from the local Mayor, we were on our way. As the faster competitors took off, the more relaxed amongst us started to chat. I recognised Peter Jack from his commentary at various triathlons I’ve raced at over the recent years. He’s always good for providing a laugh, whether you are a competitor or a spectator. He was running alongside Catherine Butcher setting a nice pace, and so we had a bit of a chat as Reilly explained how she came to be a Californian living in Galway studying frogs… always a good conversation opener!

Reilly on BeachPretty soon we were into the Giant’s Causeway, and Reilly was getting my phone out to take some photos. It was obvious that we weren’t going to be breaking any records in this race! I was glancing up at the magnificent scenery of the cliffs to our right when I realised that people were running up them. Ian and Rowan had thought this the perfect way to start a marathon, send us up a cliff that most tourists take a bus up. Fantastic! Making sure to pose for the cameras on our way up, Reilly and I were amazed by the beautiful scenery once we got to the top. This continued for the length of the race. Whether running down muddy steps or climbing over stiles, there was just so much to look at around us. Having laughed at the warnings about falling over the side of the cliffs, I soon realised what Ian and Rowan were talking about, a whistle wouldn’t have been saving us if we went down there!

The course went along beaches, over boulders, through caves, past cows, up and down hills, it was just amazing, and all the time these spectacular views. By the time we headed on to the long stretch of sandy beach, the serious competitors were coming back at us thick and fast, including my Rat Race team-mate, Barry Tinnelly. I was glad I didn’t have to make an attempt to try and keep up with him this time (earlier he had declined my request to carry me in a rucksack around the course.)

A quick run through knee-deep water and before we knew it, we were at the halfway point, where yet more bananas, oranges, and top ups of water were waiting. It was really nice to have something non-sickly sweet to eat on the course. The lovely people at the stand were so encouraging, and we turned to head home having arrived exactly on our target time.

Heading back we started to close the gaps between some of the other runners in front of us, but this wasn’t the type of race in which we were watching the clocks. We had to keep slowing down to take some more photos – that is how incredible the scenery was. However, after we passed the big orange tent at the 6-mile marker, I started to suffer a bit more than I would have liked. Before we started out we reckoned this would take us about 5 hours, an hour longer than our normal marathon time. At this stage I’d run for as long as I’d ever done, and those hills and steps were getting tougher each time. Reilly was a better prepared having ran a 50-mile off-road race earlier in the year. At this point, some of the faster half marathoners who had set off from Ballintoy started to come past us, and we congratulated ourselves that we were far tougher than them. So armed with some more haribo, and continuing our catch up on the latest gossip, we slowly covered the remaining miles.

Thankfully we didn’t have to go down the Shepherd’s Path steps, as I don’t think I could have faced climbing up the hill path again. We even got to stop and let the tram go past – it was like that steam roller scene from Austin Powers, the tram was moving so slow, but we were afraid we wouldn’t have made it across in time! Coming up the hill to the finishing line this was definitely one race where I couldn’t find any energy for a half decent finish; my legs just gave way as we went across the line. This really was a true test of a marathon, my previous marathon I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t more of a challenge.

Surprisingly I was able to walk almost normally the next day, although taking a group of children to Belfast Zoo with all its hills on Monday morning with work was not one of my brightest ideas. However the benefits of not having pounded along tarmac for 5 hours were pretty clear. I’m already looking forward to the next race 26Extreme organise, but hopefully I’ll have put in the training beforehand!

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