A few hours later we drove into the car park of Tullaroan GAA club. Tullaroan is a village on the west side of County Kilkenny in the Slieveardagh Hills near the Tipperary border. I immediately spotted familiar faces. Mark Hilliard, Meabh O'Leary, David Toomey, Stephen Mooney, to name but a few. All running aficionados from our club, Marathon Club Ireland. All tension and nerves gone in 60 seconds. This club brings the best out in me.
The nerves, I found out since, were because of the finite nature this race represented. I had promised Gorta Self Help Africa that I would run 12 marathons in 12 Months for them and Tullaroan was number 12!! In 9 Months! It was the end of a challenge. I like moving forward and the end of a challenge makes me nervous. What's next, like???
Anyway I was that busy catching up with everybody that all of a sudden it was 9.30am and we were good to go. Quick instructions by Race Director Vincent Guthrie and off we went. I mentioned earlier in the blog that Tullaroan is situated in the Slieveardagh Hills. I love hills. Well I love running up them, down not so much.
And I got plenty opportunity to run up hills in this race. We ran 2 loops of 13.1 miles and my guess is that 5 to 6 of these miles on each loop were uphill. Tough, unrelenting course. The small field for the 9.30 start (there was a 7am and an 8am start as well for the early birds) meant running most of the 26.2 miles alone. On roads in hills with little to no houses and no people out and about. This was as much a mental as a physical challenge.
Good news. I'm getting stronger both ways. Mentally the first lap was a struggle. I train alone but love to race in company. I had to go into training mode mentally and that took an entire lap. I came through the hills in 2h05 half way through. The second lap is a blur. I found myself in the zone and getting stronger as the miles went on. The finish line was reached in 4h14.
Lovely Tullaroan bling for number 12 this year!
I was happy with that because I felt I could have gone on. There was energy and stamina left for at least another 5 miles. I had this same feeling in Tralee and Cork earlier this year. It means that the more I run the stronger I'm getting. That's a pleasant feeling. And it means I have to try an Ultra next year.
At the finish line we had our usual celebrations. Every one in long distance running is so supportive of each other. In the Club we are all 1, regardless of speed or individual ability. We support each other in more than just running. We are each others second family. Congrats to Mary Hanly and Mary Toomey Roche on their 25th Marathon, Sheila Masterson on her 50th Marathon and Denzil Jacobs and Seamus Dornan on their 100th Marathon. Congratulations to Team Kerr (look them up on Facebook, inspirational people) for another successful marathon. We celebrated with buns, hugs and tea!
Showing off medals with Ultra & Marathon Runner Paula Wright from MCI!
So that's it. 12 Marathons in 12 months done. In 9 months. You can donate with confidence at http://www.mycharity.ie/event/patrick_mercies_12marathonsin12monthsin2015
A special Thank You this morning to Paul Flannery from Flannery's Bar in Shannon Street in Limerick for his generous and kind sponsorship of the Challenge. This is the place you will find me when I want to get a quality pint served with a smile!! Thanks Paul.
What's next? Brussels Marathon for number 13 in 13 days and Dublin Marathon for number 14 in 35 days. I have 2 more in mind after that and I will fill you in as we go. So please keep sharing this blog and keep donations coming!
What's next challenge wise. The clouds have lifted. I have a challenge in mind. For 2018 or 2019. It'll keep me going for the next few years planning and training. And reaching the 50 and 100 Marathon milestones while I do this.
Thanks to all of you for your support before and during the 12 in 12 Challenge. It is really appreciated and will not be forgotten. Let's make it a 16 in 12 year seen we have 3 months left :)