Monday, 27 June 2016

Run The Kingdom 40 Mile Ultra Race Report.

I have to admit defeat. I have fallen victim. I no longer want to fight it. It has won.

Rene Magritte spoke very eloquently about this: 'The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown'.

I have fallen victim to a love of the unknown. To trying out how far I can take the love for what I do without knowing where it will take me. Both in what I do 'for a living' and in my pastime as a long distance runner.

I have discovered that adventures to the Unknown come without maps, plans, systems or processes. And if there are plans and maps, they tend to not work out as intended. Instead adventures evolve from heartstrings, intuition and self worth which allows you to focus on love, passion and a desire for truly being that guides you nearer the limits of existence.

Last weekend's adventure and journey to the Unknown started with a Friday Lunchtime trip to Tralee. Regular readers of this Blog would know that this was the second time I made a journey to the Unknown via Tralee this year. I ran my first Back to Back Marathons there in March this year.

It might be time to invest in a Portal to the Unknown somewhere near the Aquadome so reluctant adventurers are only ever one brave step removed from it.

The adventure had a name. I was to take part in the Run The Kingdom 40 Mile Ultra. The Unknown was that I had never run that far. And that if I succeeded, new Unknowns were inevitable.

Run The kingdom events are among my favourites. Why? Because they are events by runners for runners. Because Marcus Howlett, Vivienne Li and all other volunteers and organisers share the same hunger and enthusiasm for long distance running than the participants. They know what makes us tick, what we need, what we don't need and how to treat us. And they succeed each time. Friday and Saturday were no exception. Whether at Registration or Briefing on Friday. Or on Saturday with kind words, support, encouragements, jokes by the MC about my Belgian roots at the end of a difficult lap, bananas, coke, sweets. You name it. I will be back at Run The Kingdom events, that's for sure!!!!

Marcus Howlett from Run The Kingdom giving the Race briefing on Friday evening in The Rose Hotel.
Between 45 and 50 brave and determined souls gathered from about 6.30am on Saturday for a 7am start. What takes away from the pre-race nerves each time is the many familiar faces. Member from Marathon Club Ireland, Kerry Crusaders and Born To run Tralee were all there! One I will mention here is Aiden Sheridan who was running his 32th Marathon this year as part of a 52 in 52 weeks challenge in aid of Breast Cancer Ireland. You can visit Aiden's FB page to find out more on 
At the Start line of the Run The Kingdom 40 Mile Ultra with Aiden's number 32 in the middle.
We were running 10 loops of 4 miles with 2 gradual drags on each lap. Both are runnable yet if you do they turn from inclines to hills by Lap 4 and into mountains by Lap 8! Local knowledge from master Ultra runner Brian O'Se to walk the hills from lap 1 and run the rest was ignored to our peril :) I have learned to bow to your superior knowledge Brian.
Spend the first 4 or 5 laps (16-20miles) running in the excellent company of wonderful people like Mazza O'Shea, Geraldine Cawley, the aforementioned Brian, Dec Mc Donagh, Conor Cusack, Simon Hallissey and Paul Comerford. To all of you thanks for the camaraderie, laughs, stories and jokes. You make this Ultra lark way more fun.
The tiredness of weeks of long hours spent at rebranding to The Intentional Academy then hit me. It was physical tiredness so I had to slow down a bit. I played at tag running with the strong runner that is Theresa Grimes who at every time we passed each other took some time to say some encouraging words. Thank Theresa, you are a star!
I fell further back and then realised what Randall Wharton wrote about in his blog about this race earlier today. This Ultra stuff is less of a race and more a gathering of souls looking to adventure into the Unknown kind of Alone Together or Together Alone. I'm not sure which.
Examples aplenty. At lap 6 Rachel Stokes lapped me. She was first lady and 3th overall at the time. Yet Rachel slowed down to ask how I was and offered me some of her electrolyte drink. At lap 8 Vincent O'Leary lapped me for the second time. He was flying it and on his last lap. He actually stopped on one of the hills and chatted with me for about a minute enquiring if all was OK before continuing on his merry way. Eamon Egan stopped in the middle of an astonishing run passing through the Marathon mark in 4 hours again for a chat, asking how I was and running part of the downhill with me. Moments like that by gorgeous people like Rachel, Vincent and Eamon are etched in my mind. Ye are fantastic people and I feel very happy to know you.
Also memorable was a downhill (that is running downhill not feeling like it went that way) meeting on the course with the ever joyous and fun loving Mary Toomey Roche and Siobhan Dowling.
L-R: Mary Toomey Roche, Le Belge, Siobhan Dowling and Paul Comerford.
Thanks to all the above I voyaged that bit deeper into the Unknown of my limits as an ultra Runner and finished the 40 mile race with a smile, waving the Belgian flag back at the MC and receiving a beautiful glass plaque and race Tshirt. Thanks and congrats also to Catherine Costelloe. I kind of coerced Catherine into entering. She did and took 30 minutes of her PB. Thanks also for walking to the race briefing with me.
 MCI running shirt and Belgian Flag
 BTR singlet, Race T-shirt and plaque.
Lovely glass plaque for finishing
To top a fantastic day I received an Honorary membership of the Born To Run Tralee Marathon Club. I have been informed this honour was only bestowed so far upon the legends that are Eimear Hurley and Team Hoyt. Brian and everyone at BTR, I feel privileged and will honour the commitment that comes with this.
Proudly showing the Born To Run singlet in company of BTR Miss Ultra, the wonderful Mazza O'Shea.
I have to admit defeat. I have fallen victim. I no longer want to fight it. It has won. The Unknown is taking over. What's next? Don't know but I'll keep you posted. Next Year all going well the Unknown might reveal itself as 50 mile trails and 100k runs. Will see. I really don't know. And I don't need to. I trust the Unknown.
Miles with Smiles,
Patte xxxxx


Monday, 20 June 2016

It's Ultra race week! Tralee 40 mile preview!

I got so many sincere congratulations this weekend. People actually walked over to me on purpose and congratulated me. It was mostly heartfelt and well meant.

There was no medal this time. No 'naked' running. No 26.2 or more or less miles. No diploma. No certificate. No personal achievement of any kind.

Belgium had won a game at the European Championships Football playing Ireland on Saturday afternoon and because I'm a Belgian living in Ireland many Irish people send these congratulatory messages to me.

Two things struck me. 1- Irish people are big-hearted people and magnanimous in defeat. 2- I wasn't on that pitch. All I had was an association through nationality with people I have never met and who don't know me.

Personally the notion that in this particular case one country had to be losers for the others to be winners is counterintuitive to what I do and to the way I think. Overall in this competition EVERYBODY will have to be losers except for 1 country. That is something that doesn't sit with me anymore. It used to. But somehow I 'awarenessed' my way past that.

So sincere thanks for the congrats and yes I did watch the game. Yet I somehow felt uncomfortable others had to lose for me to get those congrats.

Now for something completely different but related. This coming Saturday I'm going long distance again. It's time for my longest run ever!! 40 miles to be exact. It's time for the Run the Kingdom 40 Mile Ultra run in Tralee.

This consists of 10 laps of 4 miles with 2 hills per lap. (That's 20 frickin' hills) :) There is a limit of 100 runners and it's Sold Out so I'm delighted to be part of that group. I also know there will be a fairly large group of runners from Marathon Club Ireland and Born To Run Tralee so I'm going to be in the company of dear friends. We have a race briefing at 7pm on Friday and start Saturday at 7am. I expect it to take 7.5 hours yet you never know in runs of that length. If you are around Tralee here's the route to come and give us some support!

The fact I will know so many of the runners makes the run less daunting and more something I'm anticipating with giddy nerves. What's also great is the sense that come 4 or 5pm there will hopefully 100 winners and no losers.

People who run 40 miles can only be winners in my eyes. And that is the beauty of running long distance amateur style. The idea that we are all winners. That we all achieved something out of the ordinary. That we lived an adventure. That we are alive. That we do what we love to the best of our ability.

That we just be ourselves.

There will be a Race Report next Monday! Have a fabulous full of Miles with Smiles!!

Patte xxxxx

Monday, 13 June 2016

Portumna Forest Marathon race report. 50K Ultra.

I've always been a Madness fan. Some people close to me will definitely agree when they read this. Others will know I mean the English ska band from Camden Town. One of their many, many hits has this refrain:
It must be love, love, love
It must be love, love, love
Nothing more, nothing less
Love is the best

I think that  is the best description of how I feel about long distance running right now, pure love! It is the only reason I can come up with as to why I would get up at 4.30am on a Saturday morning in order to leave at 5 for a 50K Ultra in Portumna at 7 and this just 5 days after Cork City Marathon in warm and humid conditions.

I also really LOVE the annual running fest that is the Forest Marathon. Sebastien Locteau and his team most definitely know how to cater for runners. It is an extremely well organised feast that includes a Half Marathon, Full marathon, 50K and 100K. All this on a 5K loop through the beautiful surrounds of Portumna Forest.

I'll hopefully be back next year and highly recommend this race to people who truly love distance running. The fact it is a loop and there is 4 different races with 3 different starting times means you meet with other runners continuously and pass the finish line roughly every 30 minutes where there is lots of supporters. The official food & drinks table is really well stocked and the supporters add to this with their own.

There is room for camping and children and animals are welcome. It is a true running and family feast!!

7am is the start for 50 & 100K, 9am for the Half and 12 noon for the Full. Arriving at 6am on the Saturday morning there was already a jovial atmosphere you associate at that time of day with long distance running. :) We lined up with over 100 for the Ultra distances.

Leading up to the event I had spoken to a fellow Marathon Club Ireland member Louise O'Rourke about running together. She agreed and we spent the next 50K sharing stories, jokes and having (as far as I am concerned) pure fun! Louise is an established Ultra runner and the ease with which she runs and her great sense of humour made the entire run easier for me as I started to really feel Cork in my legs after about 30-35K.

With great spirit and attitude, Louise kept us going and we finished with smiles and lightness in our step. Thanks so much Louise for the most excellent company. Let's do that again some day!

 Finishing the 50K with Louise!
Excellent running company!

Secondly I must once again thank Sebastien and his crew. They really know how to organise running events. From the registration to the location, the support, the food/drink tables, the smiles, the care for the runners, the volunteers and marshals. All were excellent and make sure I will be back again and again. This is very much one of the must run events on the running calendar!

Met with Fleur who ran 50K as well. Ran about 13 miles of my first Ultra in Connemara in her company.
Thirdly a big thank you to all the crew on the side of the road!! To Maura Coppinger for drive up and back. To Brenda Barrett Dunphy, Maryse O Connor Mackessy and Vincent Guthrie for the shouts and offers of drink and sweets. To Mary Mockett for some excellent photo's that will be memories for years to come. To all my fellow runners both from MCI and others I know. If I start mentioning names I'll forget half of ye! It is such a great community to be part of. Every second or third weekend I run I get so much back in hugs, stories, friendship and togetherness. Ye are all wonderful human beings and I love you all!

This is the energy AFTER the Ultra's! :) Great bunch of people!

We are involved in a selfish sport but somehow we get ourselves to care so deeply for each other that it becomes a team effort where everyone should be and is a winner. Look at how we got together this weekend when David went through a rough patch during his 100K! That's the beauty of long distance and Ultra running. And that's the beauty of a Club like MCI that is ideally the embodiment of that spirit!!

For those that love the figures. That was Ultra number 2! Which brings me to 45 races of Marathon distance or longer. 5 to the #50at50. Next run is my longest to date :)

Saturday June 25th (in 12 days) I am taking part together with 99 other brave souls in the Run the Kingdom 40 Miler race in Tralee!! Woohoo! It must be love, love, love!!

Miles with smiles,

Patte xxxxx

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Cork City Marathon & Sixmilebridge 10K race reports.

Irish Summers are notorious. For their brevity. Or so we are led to believe. The popular opinion is that the Irish Summer takes place on a random Thursday somewhere between mid May and mid September. And when the Leaving Cert is on. Those 2 times!!

Not this year. It has been going on for what seems like forever and this particular 'Autumn/Winter' person is feeling betrayed. I love living in Ireland for many reasons and one is because there is always a sense of impending rainfall. Not so recently. In fact this pluviophile is now considering a short break somewhere for more suitable weather conditions :)

All that to say that both races I took part in were ran in hot weather and in the case of Cork City Marathon near 100% humidity. I prepared well for both knowing my lack of love for running in warm weather. It routinely puts 20-30 minutes on a Marathon for me and sometimes more.

I took on 2 races this weekend and not more because I had work I wanted to do on Saturday. This was a huge running weekend as there were Marathons on Saturday in Tullaroan and in Derry on Sunday. The feedback from both these races was 100% positive, in fact I am told Tullaroan excelled it's already high standards and I heard a lot of good things about the Walled City Marathon in Derry so both are now on the I want to do (again) list.

On Friday the short trip to Sixmilebridge was made for the 5th Annual BMOH 10K. I had never ran this event yet it is only 20 odd minutes from Limerick. Thanks to Ger Donohue and BMOH volunteers and marshals for a magnificent event. All went seamless. The registration was easy and well organised, 2 water stops on 2.5k and 5k well stocked and staffed. And a nice undulating course around beautiful Clare countryside. If you are around this neck of the woods early June next year look out for this event and enter. It is great craic.

I felt good and should have held back a bit more with Monday in mind yet ran a negative split and finished in 51.20. Loved it!

After 10K finish in Sixmilebridge, Clare! Excellent event, thanks BMOH and Ger Donohue!

On Sunday it was time to travel 'home'. You see Cork City is one of the favourite places I have ever been to in my live and my 'spiritual' home in Ireland. (Don't tell all the wonderful Limerick folk this, it's between us alright?). I love their I don't care whether you like us or not, we like us attitude. It turns them into more carefree, friendly, no nonsense people. And that suits me. I have felt the same excitement about Portland, Oregon and a place called Millau in the Aveyron in France. And there was Crater Lake in Oregon too but you can't live there!! :)

Went by train and arrived in Cork on Sunday in the middle of the Red Bull soapbox races down Patrick's Hill. That's one steep street to race down. The City was thronged so I had to walk the longer way round to collect the numbers in City Hall. Once again this went smoothly and the Expo though very small was full of running related friendly folk. Went for a meal with a fellow runner and member of Marathon Club Ireland and had an early night after that as I knew the race was going to be energy sapping.

Starting at 9am in Patrick Street the race itself was ran in warm weather with very high humidity. Hydration and Nutrition were crucial. The best running gift I got in the last year or so was a Flipbelt (thanks Katie Miller). These are wonderful. Look them up online. It kept my electrolytes, sweets and a bar and has room for more. It doesn't move or chafe and when flipped around keeps all items locked in place.

The route in Cork is ever changing with housing estates, the docks, the Jack Lynch Tunnel, Blackrock Castle, Lough Mahon, Cork Lough, the Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment, the Mardyke etc.. It is always changing and that is lovely. Also the people of Cork come out in their 1000's and are very generous. It seemed in every street someone had sweets, water, oranges etc.. out for us. If it is possible I love ye and your City even more after this.

Despite the warm conditions I was feeling OK and ran through the Half in 2.02, my fastest Half in Cork in 4 attempts and I was running without the watch again. Then it dawned on me I have a 50K and a 40 Mile later this month so let's just hang back a little and relax into the 2nd half and enjoy the occasion. It was at that point I met up with Cathy from our Club and we decided to run the last 10 miles together coming in at 4.25. I must say I was so happy of the company as I met part of the wall on Mile 23 and not being alone really helped. Thanks Cathy!!

Marathon Club Ireland group photo before the Cork City Marathon start!
Somewhere en route (thanks Rocio Nace for the picture)
Number 44 in gorgeous Cork City!

The story of the day might have caught your attention already as it was covered in newspapers and on TV. Marathon Club of Ireland member Kay O'Regan and her husband Joe ran Cork City Marathon to celebrate having turned 80, being 57 years married and 30 years after running their 1st Marathon in London to celebrate their 50th birthdays! What an inspiration and what beautiful people!!

Kay and Joe O'Regan
What's next? Well it is coming really quickly now! Saturday, that's in 3 days arrgghh! :) It is time for Ultra Marathon number 2 of my running life. I'm taking part in the Portumna Forest Marathon running festival, running the 50K there! This is 1 of 4 races on the day with a Half Marathon, Full Marathon and 100K also on the menu. It starts at 7am. I'll tell you a bit more about it here on Friday!
Portumna Forest for this coming Saturday's 50K!
Miles with Smiles everyone and have a great day!!
Patte, xxxxx

Friday, 3 June 2016

Like you stole something, busy race weekend!

Run like you stole something. This and many other motivational signs will line the streets of a few Irish towns and cities this weekend!

June Bank Holiday weekend is always a full on running weekend. I know of brave women and men who are running 2 or 3 Marathons this weekend, driving from Kilkenny to Derry and back to Cork in 3 days!

You see, tomorrow Saturday is the Thrills in the Hills Tullaroan Marathon in Kilkenny. I'm working tomorrow during the day so can't make it. Yet I ran it last year and it is a race I recommend you look at for next year! Very well organised, great camaraderie, rural roads, a good few hills and a great spread afterwards. There is a 5K, 10K, Half, Full and Ultra (39.3 miles). Good luck to all taking part!

Sunday is the day for the Walled City Marathon in Derry. I haven't been to this race but have heard many nice stories about it!! It's on my running bucket list.

Monday it is the turn of one of my personal favourite races of the year, The Cork City Marathon! Regular readers of this Blog will know Cork City is a favoured spot of this Belgian and it's Marathon enhances the reputation of the Rebel City. We start on Pana then head to Blackpool and back, follow the Docks to the Jack Lynch tunnel which we run through then with some loops we end up at the beautiful Blackrock Castle from where we follow the gorgeous banks of Lough Mahon to Jacob's Island and via the Marina back to the City. One more loop sees us run to St Finbarrs Hospital, Cork Lough, the Model Farm Road and back to the City via the Mardyke to finish once again on Pana. I love this course!!!

Not to forget that there is other races on as well, the biggest one being the Women's Mini Marathon in Dublin where 40,000 athletes turn up for this annual running event. In 2014 it is estimated that almost €12m was raised by the participants bringing the total since the race started in 1983 close to €192m. Good luck to all taking part.

My running weekend consists of 2 Races! Tonight I'm taking part in the Sixmilebridge 10K Road Race. It is only 20 minutes from Limerick and I was planning a training run tonight anyway and BMOH are a cracking good running club so that's where I go at 7pm tonight.

Then on Monday I'm running Cork City Marathon. I'm going to fully enjoy it and will run it watch free (I freak people out when I mention naked running so I'll go with watch free today) :) as it is also a prep race for 2 Ultra's I'm running this month, 50K in Portumna tomorrow week the 11th and the 40 Miler in Tralee on June 25th being the longest race I will ever have done.

So once again best of luck to everyone running anywhere this weekend, enjoy your miles with smiles!!

Patte xxx