It’s nearly Connemarathon time again. I’ve run this three times now and maybe I will in the future, but not this year.
Once I’d got my very first Half under my belt in 2003 it became my goal to enter this race. I’d travelled around Ireland with my mate Eleanor many years beforehand and I was absolutely taken with the other-worldliness of the area. I have often said that you can almost touch the ghosts of Ireland’s past in the harsh landscapes of the west of Ireland. Although I am more familiar with the rocks and bogs of Kerry the bleakness of Connemara has a resonance all of its own.
My first Conn Half was in 2005 and it was as good as I had expected. The whole experience was one never to be forgotten. That year we were ferried out from Galway to be offloaded in Maam Cross, then a second bus took us onwards to the start at Leenane at the head of the amazing fjord that is Killary Harbour. The run itself was, of course, tough but it’s never a hardship to run in those surroundings. I was happy to conquer the Hell Of The West without walking and finished in 2:00.09, after having taken a minute to get through the start line. The bus dropped us directly back to Galway.
Two years later, in 2007, I had my grumpy head on. The event had suddenly (or so it appeared) got too big and I found the number of runners intrusive. Therefore I didn’t enjoy the experience quite as much and maybe that was part of the reason I was a couple of minutes slower. This time however there was a nice touch with all runners being dropped off at Oughterard on the way back to partake of the excellent post-race catering.
Last year I ran again in a more serene frame of mind. However there is no doubt that, by this time, the Connemarathon is a huge, corporate, money-making venture. Arguments and insults rage over the entry fee (€70 for the Half I believe.) However the event is quickly sold out and its defenders will, quite reasonably, say that no one forces you to enter. Whatever, the organisation was as slick as ever, though registration is at a hotel in the most unattractive part of Galway City. There is an air of a refugee camp at Leenane, but at least escape is imminent. This time I had my racing head on and attacked the course (though crawling up the HOTW as a consequence) to break the two-hour mark. This year the catering was at the finish at Peacocke’s Hotel and excellent it was as well.
So on 11th April I’ll be there in spirit and I wish everyone well. I guess I’ll be back there at some stage.