Club trip to the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships in Cardiff

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Report by John O’Callaghan

As most of you will know a group of five Eagles traveled over to Cardiff this weekend to participate in the Half marathon world championships. I had never raced abroad never mind getting an opportunity to be a part of a world championship event (not many sports out there give you that). Four of us (Killian, Ronan, Alan and myself) flew to Bristol with Ray travelling separately.

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Killian, ALan, John & Ronan

We flew into Bristol airport where Killian had organised everything. He had a car rented and drove us to the YHA Hostel in Cardiff where he had gotten us a room. All I can say is that the room was very clean when we got there but as the weekend progressed and more warm ups and shuffles and sprints and half marathons were chalked down the running detritus started to mount up! 🙂

Friday was a lovely day. Weather was fine and bright a slight breeze and very little cloud. So nice in fact that we ate outside and enjoyed watching the many athletes passing up the main street. Kevin Seaward trotted passed out for a prerace reconnaissance. Gearoid O’Laoi looked in deep conversation with an Ethiopian athlete. Teams of Spanish, Japanese and African athletes passed us. The enormity of the occasion was beginning to dawn on me.

Back to the YHA we togged out and went for a “20 minute” shuffle. Killian had not scouted out a route here so we chanced it and ended up in what can only be described as industrial wasteland. Bits of car exhausts littered the path and an enormous steel works to our left (turns out to have been the location of an explosion 6 months earlier). 40 minutes later we’re back. Not the most picturesque of rambles, but the job done!

That evening there was much discussion on “Storm Kate” coming in from the south west and due to hit around midday Saturday. A map of the race route was rolled out and we made plans. All agreed that miles 12,13 would be trickiest into the wind, while miles 4 to 11 looked like we had Kate behind us and could make some banked time. I think most people we met had very similar plans.

We woke late on the morning trying to minimise the time we needed to hang around waiting for the start (14:10). We togged out and went for a shuffle to the nearest Boots store to pick up last minute supplies. Back to the YHA and time for some brekkie. As usual I stuck rigidly to my “one slice of toast and as much coffee as will fit” pre race diet. The lads on the other hand looked to have cooked an entire field of oats and were chomping their way thru it, bagels, fruit and whatever else lay close at hand! Sharing the table with us were a few English lads obviously down for the race too. I spotted a few of their race bibs (10 and 11) and calculated we were in the presence of 65 minute race time estimates. Not too shabby!

Kate was well and truly upon us at this time so we donned the provided ponchos and trotted down to the start line. It had started to pour down at this stage but we easily got into our race pen and met up with some Togher AC lads (Eric and Tony). The elites came out with 5mins to go to a huge round of applause. Time to get going!

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The route was superb. Flat out and where there were speed bumps or obstacles there were marshals shouting to make us aware of them. In all a very impressive operation. The first few miles were choc full of athletes. These miles were going south and so we had some wind to contend with but as there were so many people it wasn’t difficult to tuck in and get some cover. The rain had stopped just before the start too so at least we were dry (for now!). My plan had been to run even 6:05’s but with Kate and mile 11,12 straight into that wind my new plan was to run 6:02s, bank some time and spend it later on into the wind.

Just ahead of me was Eric Brown from Togher AC. It looked to me like we were running the same pace and I was making plans for later on…but as we rounded the most southerly point and crossed the bay now heading back north with Kate behind us Eric increased the pace and I said goodbye! The next few miles were fantastic. The crowds out cheering us on, big screens showing Mo just ahead of up the road (!!) and a nice wind at our back. I held my 6:02s not really knowing how I’d react beyond 10 miles, whether the wheels would come off from going out too quick or what.

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We had a few drags to contend with further north as we ran onto a dual carriageway (closed for the event), I knew this area as our YHA was close by and I knew that the lake and the 11 mile marker turning weren’t too far ahead. Head down and keep the pace. Somewhere in mile 9 Kate got sick of pushing me and decided to swing round and let her presence be felt. Wham! I was almost knocked off my feet. The lake was off to my left and I could see that wind was just whipping across it. Now I was starting to fight for my pace. Crossed the 10 mile marker in 60:32. Lost a good chunk of my banked time in the last half mile!

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And then “the deluge” arrived. You wont of seen this on the telly cos it knocked out the Satellite connection with the cameramen. I watched the race afterward and had to laugh at the frozen picture on screen and the scrolling “we apologise for loss of coverage at this time”. A wall of rain best describes it. It zapped you taking all heat out of the body instantly. It happened so fast that the crowd didn’t even disperse, they were as soaked as we were now and opted to stay on shouting encouragement – fantastic!

It stopped as quickly as it started but now I was frozen and acutely aware of every leg muscle screaming. The 11 mile marker passed in a 6:17. And now we turned back south for what we had predicted would be toughest 2 miles back into the wind. It was around this time that a runner from Derry came alongside and we setup our own mini race within a race. Just what I needed a kick in the ass to get things moving again. We duked it out for the next 2 miles running 6:01s to the finish (in fairness to her she got a step ahead of me in the last 400 and I had nothing in reply!).

Crossed the line in 1:20:05. Not far off a 3 minute PB for me. And the cherry on the cake, Mo Farah passing through the finishing area I stuck the hand out and got to shake the mans hand. Class.

Ronan finished less than a minute behind myself another PB chalked down for himself (and a top 5 M50 in a world championship to boot!).
Alan went sub 75 and was most likely already back at the YHA having a shower while Ronan and I were still congratulating each other!
Killian, who the day before was still unsure if the foot would even hold up came home in a very respectable 1:26:38. (and still managed to get back to the YHA before Ronan and myself!)
Ray had another great day of racing and only for a problem with his shoe looked comfortable to drop under the 1:30.

A fantastic event and one I couldn’t recommend highly enough. The organisation was smooth and made the whole thing feel very easy to navigate, not an easy trick to pull off when you have over 12 thousand participants!

Pos Name Cat Cat Pos Club GunTime Chip ChipTime
140 Alan O’Brien MS 81 Eagle AC 01:14:44 01:14:42
246 John O’Callaghan M45 6 Eagle AC 01:20:14 01:20:05
301 Ronan Boland M50 5 Eagle AC 01:21:34 01:21:25
702 Killian O’Connor MS 412 Eagle AC 01:26:48 01:26:38
1263 Raymond Harrington MS 724 Eagle AC 01:33:20 01:32:46

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