A blast from the past with lessons learned for Cork Marathon 2023

Our marathon leader, full time chancer and occasional runner Ruairí O’Hagan digs into the archives to present a report from last year’s Cork City Half Marathon.  
Where we sported and played – Cork City Half Marathon, June 5th 2022.
The face of a man who knows that the finish line is near. And pints. Pints also are near.
I was like a kid waiting for Christmas waiting for this race. The Cork City Marathon is returning for the first time since 2019, and while I had run legs of it years ago, this would be my first time running the half. I couldn’t wait.
The day of the race arrives and…. it’s overcast and drizzly. My vision of running down a sun kissed Patrick’s Street to finish, taking in the adulation of the amassed crowd, is out the window. I’ll have to take in the adulation of the amassed crowd in the overcast and drizzle instead.
I’m collected by Joe and Cian and we head for the park and ride. I’m gutted that there are people already sitting in the front seats of the upper deck on the bus, so I can’t pretend to be the bus driver for the short journey into town. The day isn’t off to a great start.
We arrive at City Hall in plenty of time, and because it’s lashing at this point we just hang around inside the lobby to avoid getting soaked. Various Watergrasshill runners are floating around, eager to get going. I am too, I’m kinda getting nervous at this point. I just want to be running.
A quick jog down to the start line and I bump into a few people, and the chit chat helps ease the nerves a bit. Dunno why I’m so nervous. It’s like I’m in school with no homework done. Maybe it’s because I’ve decided to aim for under two hours, which I’ve never done before. I’ve also never run a proper half marathon before – my first long race was the 25k Cork-Carrigaline run, and then the Surf Turf and Tar in Rosscarbery which was more of an adventure race than a proper half marathon. So this would be my first proper road half.
Watergrasshill AC’s own Ed Dunphy sees me hanging around in the second wave and tries to throw me into the first insisting I should be aiming faster, but I’m having none of it. “You’re only doing that for the photos at the start” he laughs. Eventually the first wave is off, and I thought we’d be not long after them, but we end up starting 15 minutes later. We stroll down to the start and I find the 2 hr pacers, and I stand behind them. Actually, I move right up the front to get into the start line photos, just for Ed. Former Lord Mayor Cllr. Tony Fitzgerald is starting the race, and he’s good craic as he chats to everyone before we start.
“ONE MINUTE” is the shout. One last check. Gels, tucked into my waistband as I hate using belts, check. Laces tied, check. Watch ready to go, check. Right in view of the cameras for the photos, check. It’s fun being right at the start of a race for a change, I’m usually nearer the back and you don’t get any of the pre race formalities, you just start running when the crowd does. Nerves are gone, I’m enjoying this.
The race starts. And pretty much as soon as we head off, I realise I need to wee. Really urgently.
I didn’t have too much to drink that morning, so I thought I was fine.I had gone to the portaloo outside City Hall before trotting down to the start line. I thought I was grand. Obviously not. Disaster.
We run around Pairc ui Chaoimh and I start trying to plan a pitstop. Everywhere is wide open, no chance of stopping there. I carry on. We join the marathon runners at the Marina, where there’s a great buzz and lots of people around by the Rowing Club. Which is fine and all, but it limits the places where I can sneak off for a pee.
It’s raining at this point, and I start contemplating just peeing in my shorts. Shur no one will notice, it’s raining anyway. This thought sticks with me up the South Link and into Turner’s Cross. Should I? Could I? Will I? Can I?
Turns out it’s impossible to wee and run at the same time. So that’s out.
I’m really looking forward to running through Ballyphehane. It’s where I grew up. It’s where I lived for nearly 30 years. This proud Haney couldn’t wait to run through his beloved the Hane. Up past the GAA pitch, where I played many games as a kid. Up past the old Manhattan Bar, and Madge’s shop next door, both long closed down. Down Connolly Road, passing friends’ houses. Up the hill on Connolly Road, past my old school, Gaelscoil an Teaghlaigh Naofa. Past the Community Centre where many a game of indoor ball was had. Past Ballyphehane Park, where I played right back for Casement Celtic’s underage teams. I say played, I mean mostly sat on the bench. Past the.. oh wait, there’s a van here behind which I can wee.
Christ almighty, what a relief. I’ve never felt relief like it. The two hour pacers head off into the distance, but I don’t care. I got to pee. Bliss.
I rejoin the race, feeling so much better. I resist the temptation to speed up to catch up with the pacers, but I can still see them, so I’m not too worried. I stick to my planned pace. I probably lost about 45 seconds all in all but holy sweet Jesus it was worth it. I can start enjoying this race more now.
Down on to Pouladuff Road, a road I’ve walked more times than I can count, and down past the Harp Bar, the site of my very first job, collecting glasses when I was 16 for 2 pounds an hour. Good times. Just outside the Harp I pass a fella running the full marathon in a pair of Crocs. “I”m doing it for charity”, he says, grimacing. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to ever run again after this.” I wish him well – at least I could pee out my discomfort, this poor fella still has 7 miles to go in Crocs.
Up past the Lough and everything is grand, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. It’s raining but it’s not lashing, which means I’m being kept relatively cool. I’m having good chats with some people around me. I’m inside my target time. It’s going well.
I’m given a shocking reminder of how tough marathon running is though not long after, as a woman running in front of me just falls to the ground, exhausted. She’s immediately looked after by spectators, stewards and a nearby Garda, but the image has stuck with me since. Marathon running isn’t something to be undertaken lightly, and it made me think of how seriously I’m going to have to take training for my first marathon in Dublin over the next few months.
It was around this point where my right hamstring starts shouting at me. It’s happened before, usually about 20k into the Rosscarbery Surf Turf and Tar and the Cork – Carrigaline 25k run. It’s a bit concerning with 10k to go, and although it hasn’t forced me to slow down, it is annoying me.
“There’s a bollocks of a hill coming up” announces pacer Cian as we go down Orchard Road towards County Hall. There’s been a few hills in the half so far but nothing unmanageable, nothing too bad. Nothing that can compare to running up the hills around Watergrasshill.
We cross the main road and start running up Farranlea Road behind County Hall, and while it’s not a terrible hill it is a very long drag, and it’s fairly energy sapping at this stage of the race.
I’m mentally preparing myself for the straight road when an ambulance whizzes past at high speed. Just past the old Tennis Village I find out why – another runner has collapsed and needs medical attention. Marathon running is fucking terrifying.
I haven’t run the straight road too much to date, but I was fairly wary about it heading into the half marathon. County Hall always seems like it’s a million miles away and never gets closer. Today though… the trees to the side of the road do a great job of blocking my view of County Hall so I can’t keep looking at it as I splutter and wheeze past the Lee Fields. The ambulance I just passed whizzes by again, and I hope the runner is ok. My hamstring is screaming at me at this point, and I’m worried it will cramp up before I finish. “SHUT UP HAMSTRING” I shout to myself as I pass the County Hall, to a puzzled look from a runner next to me. I notice that my race number has torn off from the two top safety pins and is now back to front hanging upside down, but I decide not to stop to fix it.
The straight road is done, it wasn’t bad, we’re into the home stretch. There’s a DJ by the Crow’s Nest and that gets the mood up. Turning on to the Mardyke, past my pal Jamie who arrives with a well timed high five, past Fitzgerald’s Park and you can literally feel the atmosphere change. Everyone is getting excited knowing that the finish line is almost in sight. Over the bridge, about a mile to go. I’m struggling a little bit with this stupid hamstring, but I’m fairly confident it’s not going to stop me dead in my tracks.
Past the Gate Cinema and on to North Main Street, more spectators on the street and that’s a big boost. I’d love to be able to speed up and finish strong, but with my hamstring yelling at me I don’t want to push it. I’m with the two hour group, I’m going to finish inside two hours. One foot in front of the other. Breathe. Take it all in. This is flipping great.
Turning on to Washington Street and my grimace turns into a smile. I’m literally beaming as we turn on to the Grand Parade, there’s still plenty of spectators lining either side of Patrick’s Street. I hear a few GO ON ROAR shouts, broadening my already wide smile. Last couple of hundred metres, the legendary John Cashman on commentary duties on the finish line, welcoming runners home. Loads of applause. 2.13 on the half marathon clock, but wave 2 started 15 mins late so I’m under two hours. Across the line. Finished. Magic. Absolutely magic.
I’m not given much time to take it all in as you’re shunted along to get your medal, then on for some water and a banana, and then I have to try and find my wife and kids. I find the girls eventually and they’re absolutely delighted, my wife though is stressed to the gills having had to entertain two small children for 45 minutes in a large crowd. “I thought you’d be faster” she said. Words no runner wants to hear.
The face of a man with a medal that knows pints are near
Off to the post race drinks and to catch up with everyone. The Hill’s Linda O’Sullivan has finished fourth and Laura Rooney has finished 8th, incredible stuff, your friends have done marathon PBs and half marathon PBs, the relay runners have smashed it and everyone is buzzing. There’s a lovely atmosphere in Deep South as we tuck into some grub, and I’m happy out.
A great day out with a great group of people and a great run. What more could you want? Running, lads. It’s class.
Posted in CCM, CCM Leaders.