Listowel was a mystery to me. 21 years long it was a detour on the 13 Bus to Tralee. That changed this weekend. For the first time ever on Friday at around 5.30pm I got off the 13 Bus at the stop on the Square in Listowel.
When getting off the bus I spotted Geraldine Cawley from Mayo had been on the same packed bus. Then a yelp. It was Tena and Rochelle Griffin with a welcome banner for Team Kerr. They were arriving in their van just as we descended. Cue lots of enthusiasm and hugs. Marathon Club Ireland is like a second family, it is always fun and emotional to meet each other.
Went to the B&B to drop the bags and headed back for the Listowel Arms Hotel were about 10 runners had gathered to meat and greet Team Kerr. It is such a tonic to meet all these wonderful people at every race. I get a real boost of mental energy each single time. After catching up for a chat some of us headed for a meal in the Horse Shoe Bar where Geraldine played a blinder of an April Fools joke on the Waitress. Ask her to tell you the story when you meet her. We were in stitches.
Following that we were waiting for the arrival of one more guest at our B&B so we headed for 'one' to John B. Keane's Bar and Eimear Hurley convinced Billy Keane to be at the 8am start to meet Team Kerr. He duly obliged.
Breakfast at 6.30am. Meet up with Team Kerr and others at 7am in the Listowel Arms and at 7.30 we were at the Community Centre for registration and later the race briefing. At 8am we started. I had decided to run with Team Kerr today. Because they need support when running with Aaron in his wheelchair, because they are the most wonderful family, because I get so much back from it, because it is a very nice way to spend 6 hours or so doing the 26.2 miles.
The first loop was just over 11 miles with 2 more loops of 7+ miles after that. Everything went smoothly at first and we even stopped at 9.40am to celebrate the exact moment 22 years ago that Sandra and David Kerr got married. It involved some Daffodils and a delivery on bended knee :)
1 mile later the first obstacle. The path had gone country trail on us and one of the tyres on the wheelchair burst. It took over 5 minutes to replace and involved lifting the chair so the wheel could be removed and put back. Team work was required for this and I am amazed how Sandra and David do this when there is just the 2 of them.
There was another banner from the Kerry Crusaders on the course welcoming Team Kerr to Listowel. Nice touch! Everything went smoothly from there on. The banter and camaraderie was great, the spirits high, Aaron beaming.
At the start of Lap 3, about 20 miles done, a piece of the rim of one of the wheels broke off and 5 spokes jumped loose. This affected the balance of the wheelchair. Luckily our mobile kit man for the day was close by, jumped into his van and went back to the Listowel Arms for 2 spare wheels from the Team Kerr van. He was back 1 mile or so later and we replaced the 2 wheels once again lifting the chair to do so. Eamon Egan was that kit man and without him it would have tough to finish. Thanks Eamon, I hope you get back running soon.
With all that we finished in something like 6h40 to rounds of applause from all gathered with local women Tena and Rochelle pushing Aaron over the line. Having performed a bit of traffic duty along the way as the roads were open I have to acknowledge the superb job one of the Gardaí did for us in helping with that. He was marshalling on the Square and told his superiors he was of more use going around with us. I shook his hand afterwards as he was an integral part of the team on Saturday.
The merry band of runners that finished this epic journey of miles with smiles, I salute and thank you for your company and a wonderful day together. Aaron Kerr, Sandra Kerr, David Kerr, Tena Griffin, Rochelle Griffin O'Riordan, Eimear Hurley, Valerie De Burca, Grainne Reilly, Tara Nic Chormaic and Derek Mackessy. You are all true friends.
Also the welcome from the Listowel brigade of MCI was 110% the entire weekend. David Toomey was an excellent Race Director and the organisation was perfect. Thanks David for all the hard work. Thanks also to Lindsey and Vincent Guthrie for registration and finish line. Thanks to Mary Toomey Roche, Julie Byrne-Hilliard and Brian Byrne for the refreshments afterwards and on the course. Thanks to all marshals and volunteers. Thanks to Mary Mockett for the pictures. To say it with Arnie's words: 'I'll Be Back!'
Listowel did itself proud and is no longer a mystery to me. Although there is still an air of mystery that lingers in every nook and cranny of John B. Keane's Bar. I'll have to revisit just to try and figure it out!
Next up is the Connemarathon. A race I always respected for it's wonderful landscape and it's tough enough course. Only this time it comes with an added 13.1 miles to make it 39.3 for the 1st Ultra. Ooops, the nerves just kicked in. I better stop writing about it :)
Miles with Smiles and until Friday,