Halloween Half Marathon
Headlamps and heavy legs
28 October, 2023 - Ian SynnottThe Halloween half marathon through he woods near Kilworth in Cork, would prove to be quite the experience.
I had a bit of travelling to do to arrive down there in time for the 7:45pm start, but made it to Kilworth by about 7:30 and used the jog over to Glensheskin woods as a warm up. A mix up on where the starting line for the race was led to a delay at the start, as half of us were gathered too far down. But that was soon rectified, and after the race brief, it was headlamps on and then off into the woods.
I started out up behind the leading pack, making sure to stick to my effort pace and not get caught up in the race. A few runners charged past me and I let them go. Being disciplined at the start is key... and quite difficult to execute, but I held firm.
The first two kilometers were pretty straightforward with good fire track underfoot and relatively flat. That would all change!
We didn't have to wait long to start climbing. Nothing major here at first, and again I made sure I held the correct pace. It started to steeper after the 5th kilometer and continued up to the 10th k. This part of the race was pretty brutal as we had to traverse puddle strewn single track which filled my shoes up with muddy water. Water that was very cold and numbed my feet a bit, which in turn increased the difficulty of running.
After 7-8 k we reached a very steep and water soaked slope. Organizers placed a rope here to aid with descent. I met a runner here attempting to descend using this rope but he immediately slipped onto his butt. The problem was, the rope wasn't tight enough and using it forced you out at an angle. I quickly decided to abandon it and just hope to hold my balance on the way down. I slipped once but stayed upright and made it to the bottom safely.
At the bottom, I met the first river crossing and just powered straight into it just as the runner I observed ahead of me had. The water was up over my knees and as I was nearing the end, my left foot slipped on the rocks which made up the river bed. My big toe took a bang here and I feared I injured it. I climbed out, starting running again and realized it wasn't too badly injured. I ploughed on.
After this we were up into the woods and still climbing. The ground here was an absolute bog and there were many low lying branches I had to avoid hitting my face. I failed on that quest with one of them. I was with a group of four here which helped me hold the pace as the legs got very heavy pushing through this terrain.
We emerged out of the woods and were back on fire track again. I upped the pace on a slight downhill and left this group behind for a bit, coming to a sharp left turn which led back into the woods for a short stint before coming to the aid station. Here I gulped a large mouthful of water and continued on. No need for anything else.
Up another climb here, then it was downhill and flat for a stretch which lasted about 2k, before looping back around to the same aid station again. I was about 14k in here, and I took another gulp of water before setting off again.
The climbing was over... and it was now time to let rip on the fire track descent. I opened the legs out and began motoring at 3:45/k. The legs were heavy, breathing was laboured, but I pushed on at that pace for 3 kilometers. At the end of the second k of this spicy speed running, I was passed by a runner who was absolutely motoring. Kudos to that guy. It wasn\'t long before I lost sight of him.
Towards the end of the 18th kilometer I came to not one, but two river crossings. The second was across rapid water, and using the rope here was prudent. A marshal guided me across and as I reached him I extended a hand out for a welcome hoist up and out of the water. I took off running again, but almost immediately I found myself in thick bush. A runner behind me called me back and directed me to the right course. there was a short steep hill here and I slowed to a hike to the top alongside my helper.
"I\'m cooked, are you?" he turned to me and said.
"It\'s pretty rough now alright", I said. "But I\'ll motor on"
I took off down the hill. 2k to go here (or so I thought).
I was travelling quite well here, and still had a bit left in the tank. The Nootropic SiS gel I swallowed a while back was helping. Good ole caffeine.
At around 20k I heard a runner approach up behind me. I increased the pace slightly and he tucked in behind me. I felt he would make a move at some stage and I glanced down at my watch... 20.3k it read. "Okay, 700 metres or so to go". And with that, the runner in my shadow took off at pace. I felt this was a bit early for a full on sprint so I just upped it a little to keep tabs. But then to my surprise, as we came round a bend, I noticed some lights up ahead. And after examination I realized this was the finish line!!!
I injected the turbo booster but it was too late to catch him. Dammit!!! But well done to my conqueror for nailing it.
Finished in a time of 1:41 which was very satisfactory given the terrain and conditions.
Thank you to all for organizing another great race. It was very challenging in parts but a really enjoyable experience. I'll be back next year.