A weekend of racing

A weekend of racing
Letterfrack, Ireland

Letterfrack, Ireland

From the Sligo 5k to Letterfrack.

There are lots of short races in Ireland, especially 5ks, though I seem to be a week out in my appearance at most places. This weekend, though, it didn’t take much schedule jiggling to take in Lifford on Friday, the streets of Sligo on Sunday and parkrun, of course, a given on Saturday. I’ve mentioned the first two, and Sligo completed a trio of totally different experiences. On Friday I made a schoolboy error of line and pacing, catching a group at the top of the hill, with under a k to go, all of it downhill. An older runner detached himself from that group to go with me, timed his acceleration perfectly and took off round the front of a car which I had to go round. Next time: on his shoulder, kick for 17:59 to his 18:00.

On Saturday I took a lovely hat trick of first places in parkruns, which will probably never happen again to me. Taking first was straightforward enough, though I took the lead a little early and had to rely on a shout to turn right at the right point. From then on I knew to do three laps of the field-climbing up on the left then yomping down on the right-before hitting the same route on the way back. No marshals, or in fact anyone, there though as I crossed the bridge, so I stopped to make sure I was going the right way. Spotting the bloke in second I carried on for a finish on the cinder track.

The Sligo Champion streets of Sligo 5k was on the Sunday at 1:15. Registration was possible at the Champion offices on Saturday afternoon, I thought, though it turned out to be the evening. That done I was ready for the day. Lovely feeling to the whole thing, plenty of Garda out on the streets ready to stop or slow traffic. This event and Lifford did show the truth of parkrun’s existence as a run, not a race; both had a very different feel to any parkrun. I don’t know if it’s the sense of focus from some, more groups out warming up together, different conversation or how much of it comes from within, but I doff my cap to parkrun’s success in differentiating itself from races.

We set off outside the Champion’s offices. Learning from Lifford, I had put myself in about the fourth rank of the runners, knowing how many quick boys there would be. I couldn’t spot the quicker ladies this time, as they’ve been useful in pacing, though the only likely candidate I did spot turned out to be a good minute ahead. The start is on a good wide road, allowing some sorting out in the field and I found my spot without trouble. Sweeping round town there was a slight down and then an uphill towards 2 km which helped keep the effort level up. I was passed here but chased him down, again that helped keep me working. I knew the course from 4k, having driven it earlier and was thinking ahead, before realising that had distracted me a little. I concentrated again, trying not to have a duff km in the middle.

By now I was settled into a place. There were plenty of local Sligo runners, in white club colours, and I had passed a number. There was one more up ahead I could see, and as we swept left for the final km into town I worked on reeling him in. Just ahead of him was a grey haired runner and I was determined that this time I would beat someone older than me. I caught the first with about 700m to go and he gave me a ‘go on!’. As we created a small rise ahead of the final right turn I had got onto my goal’s shoulder and decided to make it stick, pushing hard as I went past. This was it, I felt him lift his effort, I’d been working hard and in pain for a while now but there wasn’t far to go. We were back in town, onto the final straight, through a shopping street. I could see the finish 300m away and gave it everything, full gurn face on to the finish, legs moving as quickly as they ever have done.

Inelegant it almost certainly was but it worked. I had done for both those behind me and picked up a time I was happy with: 17:47. I sat with a bottle of water for a long while before a cool down jog, accompanied by a sense of satisfaction. There was a gathering in the local town hall, sandwiches all round, though no prize for me-I had beaten the first v45, but was only 7th v40.

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