The upcoming, or more accurately impending, Cork City Marathon will be my first run over such a distance, all going to plan. I have run a couple of half marathons many years ago. Doubling that distance, however, will be a daunting undertaking.
As well as the obvious physical challenges, the mental fortitude required to keep going for mile after mile of unforgiving road will be something that I’ll need to have in my arsenal. My only comparable feat of exertion, in terms of time taken, has been the Gaelforce Connemara Adventure Race, held every year just outside Leenaun in North County Galway. Consisting of a ten-kilometre run, followed by a climb over one of the foothills of the Maumturk Mountains, then a twenty-kilometre cycle, a kilometre of kayaking and finally a cheeky little two-kilometre jog uphill to the finish line, it takes place amid some of the most stunning scenery this country has to offer.
The stark beauty of the area, alongside the breath-taking Killary Fjord, is a welcome distraction from the lactic acid accumulating in one’s joints, and the variety of types of exercise also mitigates against the gruelling monotony that can be an unwelcome feature of a running race. The first adventure race I did at Killary Fjord was in 2017, and I hadn’t had cause to visit the area before. I now make it my business to get back there every year.
In the summer of 2021, my girlfriend and I spent a few days hiking around Leenaun and the surrounding countryside. It was lovely to have more time to take in the sights than would typically be the case when partaking in a race. Also, the feeling of isolation was wonderful when sharing the views with a couple of hundred muddy, sweaty adventure racers. I had recently finished my first year as a part-time Master’s student at Griffith College when we took the trip, and I was anxiously awaiting my results when we arrive in Leenaun. They came through the morning we embarked on a thirty-kilometre hike that took us along the banks of the Fjord and through the mountains to the village of Maum. Basking in the relief that came with the results, and overcome by the feeling of having so much gorgeous countryside to ourselves, I permitted myself a little dance in celebration, captured by my girlfriend in the video below.
We’ll get there again this summer, though I think that I’ll probably sit out the race. A thirty-kilometre hike might also be a touch on the ambitious side after completing this marathon, but it’ll be lovely to get back to the beauty.