That’s it, done, finished.  At the third time of asking I sailed (well…) over the finishing line in Cork yesterday.  I trained well for 18 weeks and finally executed a good race.  4:27.23 was only a little way outside my target time of 4:22 so I’m well pleased.

Weather-wise there couldn’t have been a bigger contrast to the last three race days; but there was no doubt which the runners preferred though it was pretty miserable for the many helpers, paid or otherwise.  Heavy rain was forecast for the 9-12 timeslot and duly arrived with a vengeance.  But before this I had the good fortune to meet Woddle and eliwallach from once again.  There were a lot more boardsies in town but on this occasion I missed them.

So, off with bin-liners and on with the race, starting from Patrick’s Street as usual.  Off around the town with me determined to stick to steady 10-minute miling.  Up to Blackpool and back (with their usual carnival band), back to the quays and the long drag out past the Silver Springs to the Jack Lynch tunnel.  Always a bit surreal this section and the Garmin panics at the loss of signal.

I’ve hooked on behind the 4.15 pacers, which I think is reasonable, and I don’t need to bother so much about checking the Garmin so often.  I’m running OK but I really don’t feel as strong or in control as I did during the Hash Half 15 days ago.  From the tunnel there’s a bit of a dreary stretch through the nondescript ‘burbs until we’re woken up with a vengeance.  A new section from Blackrock Castle along the estuary walkway and we’re left open to the elements – wind and rain howling in on us.  A few degrees colder and it might have become an issue but no major problems arise.  Then a really nice sheltered stretch along the old Passage West railway line.  It looks like I’ve lost the 4.15 pacers though – still doing OK but not feeling strong enough to haul myself back in touch with them.

Along and out of the deserted Marina and back into town where we’re now about 17 miles in.  Going out along the South Ring I hook up with a foxy nurse from Kinsale who’s running the second half of the race as part of a team of two.  (The relay is actually at the heart of the CCM, often to the derision of the ‘proper’ runners.  There are vast numbers of relay participants and it is they who create the fabulous community spirit that the race has got.)

Turner’s Cross, the Lough, Dennehy’s Cross.  As we head up the Model Farm Road with about five to go I’m weakening rapidly and my nurse pulls away slowly (thanks for the company.)  The weather has relented but it’s all irrelevant now as the pain increases as we turn onto the Straight Road with a long three miles to go.  As in Longford ’08 I’m now determined to finish this thing without walk breaks but every step is slow and painful.  Finally over the footbridge at the end of the Mardyke Walk and onto the north quays, the finish within reach.  My 4:22 target goes as I drag myself past the Franciscan Well Brewery.  The focus is on the right turn across the river into the finishing straight in Patrick’s Street and, after a long age, my wrecked legs make the turn.

At which point, miraculously, all pain ceases.  It’s a 200m ‘sprint’ through the crowds, past Deirdre my lucky mascot, towards the gantry and the commentator, all the way grinning like an idiot.  I’ve been waiting for this moment for years and it’s great.

My mile splits – 1. 9.16, 2. 9.40, 3. 9.39, 4. 9.41, 5. 9.58, 6. 9.48, 7. 9.41, 8. 9.37, 9. 9.40, 10. 9.12, 11. 9.19, 12. 9.55, 13. 10.04, 14. 9.50, 15. 9.37, 16. 9.48, 17. 9.48, 18. 10.09, 19. 10.26, 20. 10.29, 21. 10.15, 22. 10.55, 23. 11.18, 24. 11.27, 25. 11.42, 26. 11.41

So goodbye to marathons, they hurt too much.  But this was one of my best days ever.