Monday, December 29, 2008

Bandon 5

A very 'Irish' affair this, in mid-Cork. Registration in the local pub. A trek around the town bypass to a starting line that seemed to be decided as much by consensus as anything. Then turn around and run around a loop to arrive somehow back at the pub. The organisers were pleased with the turnout of 163, which was 18% up on last year.

After a fairly ordinary run at Athenry I was well pleased with this one. Early on I tagged on to a local guy, a better runner than me (who isn't?) Though I normally dislike running alongside others this actually worked as, after a trot through downtown Bandon, we worked together on mile 3 which consisted of a long uphill drag. Then when I might otherwise have dropped my pace I kept up with this guy until I found a bit extra with 200 yards to go and kicked to finish in 40.22. 40.02 actually on the official results for 123rd overall - well pleased. And I just pipped my good friend Deirdre who had set off with the walkers 40 minutes earlier!

And then some great hospitality at the pub - food, drink etc. Eventually the presentations and no end of spot prizes - I ended up with twin bottles of Chilean wine.

A great afternoon - well done everyone concerned.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bannister it wasn't

Not exactly Roger Bannister, nor were the cameras there, but a milestone of sorts nonetheless. On Christmas morning I ducked just under the fabled 7 min mark in the GOAL Mile at Irishtown - yay for me! In Foster-esque style I saw off the early challenge of a couple of 6-year olds and lapped a lady with a buggy. It was a good morning all in all with about 10 'heats' including a fast one with the Crusaders' best male runners. A few of our young group had a go too, and no doubt a few quid was raised during the morning.

Then over to the west of Ireland and the Fields of Athenry 10k the following day. A very-well organised run out of town, around the 'fields' celebrated in ancient song, and back into town to finish underneath the arch. The organisers claimed a huge and record entry of just under 1,000 though there were inevitably fewer than that at the starting post. I never really got going and contented myself with enjoying the race-day experience, the scenery, and the company of my fellow runners. Still, I finished strong, picking off more than a few scalps in the second three miles and got name-checked as I crossed the line in 55.02 by my reckoning - even slower by gun time of course. (Later - 553rd out of 829 finishers including the walkers - official time 55.30)Nice spread afterwards including homemade scones. I missed the presentation which was to have been made by Paul Hession of Athenry AC. The Hesh was agonisingly one place away from making that historic 200m Olympic final in Beijing.

Right, off for a little road test to see if my legs are recovered enough for the Bandon 5 a bit later.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Racing Snake

No early mornings this week - it's going to be full-on racing! I suppose I'm in sorta average shape right now - not great, but OK. And let's face it, with the best will in the world I'm unlikely to ever be in 'great' shape.

So, Christmas morning it's something called the GOAL mile, a charity event that takes place in a number of locations. Irishtown hosts one such. I reckon on a 7.30-ish as long as there's not too many buggies and new bikes on the track as I blaze my way around.

Then off to Galway for a couple of days, and on 26th December it's the Fields of Athenry 10k. They have nearly 1,000 entries as we speak so I'm looking forward to this one. Number pickup from Presentation College for an 11am start. Time prediction? Well, my last 10k earlier this year was a nice 50.30 at Dunshaughlin - I ran the second half of that really well. I don't know if I'll challenge that, let's say 52-ish.

Finally, down to the Rebel County of Cork - my heart always lifts as I arrive in Cork. On the 28th there's the Bandon 5. Assuming my legs are in reasonable condition I'll toddle over for that, but I'll be pleased enough with say a 43. By which time my Crusaders singlet will be a bit niffy.

Then in the New Year it's back into training with Connemara the main goal race. After that...? We'll see.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fdip 164

A pretty ordinary 10.12 miles at (strangely) 10.12m/m this morning. Couldn't get into it at all really, though it was nice to reaquaint myself with the northside.

A pretty featureless couple of hours was enlivened by listening to an excellent Phedippidations 164. Steve did a very good adaption of A Christmas Carol (or was it A Muppet Christmas Carol)? Then some good running stuff. But then the piece de resistance, an attack on CNN. You gotta hand it to the guy, he doesn't care who he takes on. This time it was in connection with some showbiz-type presenting of the Mumbai tragedy in which anchor and presenter were congratulating themselves on the superiority of their coverage. Great stuff. Now I must go back and find the episode where Steve does a critique of the running shoe industry, another perfectly legitimate and cynical target.

Unfortunately Steve then lost me by launching into prayer and the 'instrument of peace' thing which, although I can't disagree with any of it, just leaves me cold.

And thank the Lord (I'm at it now!) that Colin Murray is back at the helm of Fighting Talk.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Our first few months of junior athletics at Crusaders AC ended today. A loyal 11 athletes turned out - indeed most of these have been with us since that first Open Day at the end of the summer. And a nicer set of kids you couldn't wish for. The session ended with an 800m, their first opportunity at the distance. The outcome was

1. Kevin Woods (U13B) 2:56.9
2. Fiachra Thirroueiz (U15B) 3:05.4
3. James Woods (U10B) 3:10.0
4. Rachel Maher (U12G) 3:12.2
5. Sarah Maher (U10G) 3:48.4
6. Ella Thirroueiz (U9G) 3:58.0
7. Grainne McGuill (U12G) 4:08.9
8. Orla Murray (U12) 4:10.5
9. Lorna Carr (U9G) 4:37.4

Running-wise I've continued with my early-morning short runs, this week extending the Thursday run out to four miles by skirting around Ringsend and up Sean Moore Road, doubling back to the East Link. Although these are undemanding runs my old legs are definitely rebelling by the end of the week. Too bad, toughen up.

Tomorrow I head up the Royal Canal for my long run - renew my acquaintance with that particular part of Dublin which I discovered shortly after my arrival in January. The final stages of that run - back through town, should be fun with the Christmas shoppers. Pretty chaotic last night by all accounts with an encounter between the LUAS (tram) and a taxi, with five taken to hospital.

And I'm trying to be serene about Birmingham's quite woeful performance at lunchtime, meaning Reading leapfrog us into second place.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Time to retire Mr Tarbuck

Back into my running with a vengeance with a strong 10-miler yesterday morning. Usual route - down the river and out to Blackrock and back. For some reason I am ignoring my previous long-run route which was up the Royal Canal to Phoenix Park, with loops and extensions as necessary. That route will, I am sure, come back into play at some stage.

And I need to find a hill or two to practice on with Connemara coming up in March. There's a great one from Howth harbour up to the village and beyond - a bit of a surprise that one the first time I ran in that direction!

But yesterday was good - a slow 52 mins for the five miles out to Blackrock but I got into it on the return trip and did it in 47 mins. It was another cold but fine day and Sandymount Strand (Dublin's very own beach) was being well used by all and sundry. I caught up with a couple of Fighting Talk episodes with guest presenter Kelly Dalgleish doing a good job as guest presenter on the first one but Jimmy Tarbuck was woeful. In the meantime I am falling behind with my Phedippidations and will probably catch up with those over Christmas.

But for now it'll be back to early morning runs this week.

PS - England lost the cricket as foretold in my 13th Dec post...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Euro Cross

A chance for Union Flag waving as GB dominated proceedings at the European Cross Country Championships in Brussells. Unsurprisingly with British success promised, BBC gave it the full treatment.

And what a start as the cameras picked up the junior women's race with Steph Twell, Charlie Purdue and Lauren Howarth occupying the podium positions at halfway. Then Emma Pallant and Emily Pidgeon came into view - the first five?! Unprecedented. No late mistakes either, across the line in that order and just when we thought that was it, Laura Park broke out of the chasing pack to make it a clean sweep. Never seen before and probably won't be again.

The U23 girls, led by Sarah Tunstall, also won gold. Then the senior women put in a very solid performance with Hattie Dean leading the team to silver.

The junior men also medalled, in third place, with David Forrester in 5th place. More gold in the U23s with Andy Vernon an impressive second. Finally Mo Farah looked set for victory in the senior race but the amazing Lebid, winning his eighth title, had too much for him. But nevertheless another team silver with Lee Merrien of Guernsey being 3rd counter on his international debut.

Ireland flattered to deceive. Mary Cullen did exceptionally well to finish 4th in the senior race. The other great white hope Martin Fagan fell early on when looking good and finished back in the pack.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Crusaders Christmas

What a pleasant morning we had at Irishtown Stadium today. A short but lively series of events in which the age group winners were

60 metres
U8G - Laura Ferry 15.1
U10G - Sarah Maher 13.7
U11G - Isabel O'Leary 12.9
U12G - Orla Murray 12.1
U10B - Alan Francis 12.6
U11B - James Woods 12.8
U13B - Kevin Woods 11.9

Long Jump
U8G - Laura Ferry 2.00
U10G - Ella Thirroueiz 3.05
U11G - Laura Shaw 3.20
U12G - Orla Murray 3.07
U13G - Isabelle Flanagan 2.73

Ball throw
U10G - Roisin McGuill 8.90
U12G - Aisling Stokes 15.50
U13G - Isabelle Flanagan 9.70
U11B - James Woods 15.00
U13B - Kevin Woods 22.50

This was followed by a little get-together in the aerobics studio with prizes, presents etc. The young athletes were delighted - as indeed was I, to meet the legend that is Mr Ron Delaney (of whom more later), He presented each of those that had represented Crusaders AC in the autumn cross country fixtures with a personalised and autographed log book.

My running has taken a little break but tomorrow I get going again. The Euro Cross - in which both GB and ROI are expected to feature prominently, is being televised at lunchtime, so the plan is an early run. My immediate race plans include the Fields of Athenry 10k on 26th December and the Bandon 5-mile on the 28th. So I'll be hiring a car and getting off 'down the country' for a few days.

I write as Birmingham City have just thrown away all three points in injury time at Preston, so lose ground on Wolves and Reading. Never mind, England are in a winning position going into Day 4 against India. However, never under-estimate England's ability to make a bollox of the most favourable circumstances.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tragedy at Tythe Barn Lane

On 25th February 1967 - three days before my 14th birthday, I went to see a football match. Although it lasted only 30 minutes or so it became one of those things that have you asking yourself 'did that really happen?'

The match was Highgate United v Enfield. The occasion was the quarter final of the now-defunct FA Amateur Cup. Enfield, from London, were aristocrats of the amateur game. Highgate were, and are, a modest club knocking around the minor leagues of the English Midlands. They were having a good season though and had done superbly to get to the last eight of this big national competition.

Highgate play on a bleak sort of pitch outside Solihull, completely surrounded by picturesque farmland. In expectation of a crowd larger than the usual handful, temporary stands had been erected and the pitch roped off. I dumped my bike in a hedge and got a good spot on the half way line. The crowd built up to maybe a couple of thousand. It was raining and very grey as the reds of Highgate and the greens of Enfield took the field. The visitors soon burst the bubble and took the lead.

Soon the rain increased in intensity and there were claps of thunder. But I don't remember any lightning until....there was an even more intense burst of rain, a deafening clap of thunder and - a surreal moment this, a fork of lightning struck the centre circle. Several players and the ref hit the ground amidst a blue puff of smoke. After a few seconds silence many of the crowd ran under the ropes and onto the pitch to help the stricken players.

As I cycled back up the country lanes the ambulances from Solihull blued and two'd their way in the opposite direction.

Some time the following day Tony Allden of Highgate died of his injuries.

The abandoned match was rearranged for Villa Park in anticipation of a large sympathetic Brummie crowd. But no one anticipated the 30,000+ that turned up, an astonishing crowd for such a fixture. (I still say the crowd was much larger and over 40,000). As one the Brummies roared whenever Highgate were on the attack. Regrettably that was rare. Enfield won 6-0 and went on to win the competition.

Today Highgate still play at windswept Tythe Barn Lane. But there have been no temporary stands since that fateful day in 1967, nor is there likely to be.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Price of Rice

Running-wise this week has been pretty non-existent, but I'm not beating myself up over it. Three early-morning three-milers is the sum total of it, and I'm contemplating whether or not to go out for a long run today (Sunday). One of the joys of amateur sport is the fact that it's not compulsory. At any given time I can make a choice to run or not to run. This makes a positive choice so much more satisfactory. I can't imagine how a professional sportsman can actually enjoy what they do, because they have no choice in the matter!

I have my mother from Birmingham staying with me for a few days. Yesterday evening we had a couple of drinks on Baggott Street - the 'traditional' old bars there were mobbed with very untraditional-type Saturday night drinkers. We then strolled in the crowds over to the Grafton Street/St Stephen's Green area. On an impulse we decided to pop into a Chinese restaurant there in the middle of Dublin's touristland. Which was almost a bad move moneywise. Rice is an inevitable accompaniment to any Chinese meal and it is usually ordered as routine. But I happened to spot the prices - Fried Rice €17, Special Fried Rice €19. Forget it, I'm not a cheapskate but I'm not paying those prices, which would have virtually doubled our bill. The word outrageous was use when the no-rice order was queried.

How many people have been unwittingly ripped off there?

Down at Irishtown Stadium it's been a cold and frosty week but the young athletes kept warm yesterday with some 60m sprints, their best times being

Kevin Woods (U13B) 9.0
Orla Murray (U12G) 9.3
Alan Francis (U10B) 9.3
Christina Francis (U13G) 9.4
James Woods (U10B) 9.6
Isabel O'Leary (U11G) 9.7
Alix Hughes (U13G) 9.8
Rachel Maher (U12G) 9.8
Grainne McGuill (U12G) 10.3
Emma Eustace (U12G) 10.5
Sarah Maher (U10G) 10.6
Jemima Mulligan 10.7
Clodagh Ferry (U9G) 10.7
Hannah McDevitt (U12G) 10.9
Roisin McGuill (U10G) 11.1
Ella Thirroueiz (U9G) 11.5
Juliet Storan (U11G) 11.6
Roisin Crowe 11.9
Emma O'Leary (U8G) 12.7
Laura Ferry (U8G) 12.7