Happy… cough… New Year

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The playing fields in St. Catherine’s Park, where I do most of my running. Not, I should point out, the last day of the year, or even the first of the new one, but the 29th of December, on a short run to test the knee…

So the New Year has started not so much with a bang as with a cough and a splutter. Mostly from S, poor thing, but I have not escaped either. It would appear the whole country has come down with some sort of head cold/sore throat/generic aches and pains. Tick as appropriate.

But let’s be clear. THIS IS NOT THE FLU’!

As anyone who has ever had the flu’ will tell you, it’s a mean bastard of a thing to carry around. It sounds rather innocuous and almost pleasant (“a touch of the flu’ last week, dahlings, and I couldn’t make bridge club”) but the real deal will flatten you, good and proper. The only thing I ever had that rivalled it was a case of strep throat so bad I was hallucinating.

Anyway, I digress; (one habit that the New Year will not see the back of either). Nor my extensive use of the semi-colon. We love our semi-colons here at the unironedman…

So the end of the year was wrapped up nicely with the half marathon trail run along the Royal Canal. But before we could tackle that, we had the Run for Mum charity to take care of, which happens at midday every St. Stephen’s Day in Maynooth. The proceeds go to tackle suicide, and Pieta House are the worthy recipients. The Mum in this case was the mother of a fireman in Maynooth, and the Leixlip crew would not let him down by not showing up. It’s only a short 3k, and in previous years, it has been run in a number of unusual ways. Sometimes reindeer outfits, sometimes wildfire jumpsuits. But the one that sticks out is the full fire-kit, helmet and gloves, and the BA (breathing apparatus) set on, under air.

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Me and Ciaran, after the run a few years back.

A full cylinder gives you about 40 minutes duration if you are just mooching about, but once you start doing a bit of work, the air starts to vanish quite quickly. If you’re running hard, it turns out it lasts me about 15 to 20 minutes. But this year we were not so adventurous and just decided, for a change, to be conventional and put some runners on and give it a lash. Which is what I did, and managed a good time, though I cannot tell you what that is because it wasn’t recorded anywhere. I reckon I came in ahead of the other firemen, though, so that’s not a bad way to wrap up the year, for an old geezer like me.

There was the small matter of a gig to get out of the way before we would tackle the Lock up the Year run. Last year, our old band got together and we played a fairly hastily thrown-together gig in our local pub. Well, it seemed to go down well enough for the owner to ring me in the run-up to Christmas to see if we would do it all again. Not that they are big fans, I suspect, but the jingling bells of the tills ringing was definitely a complementary style of music that they like on their playlist.

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From left to right, Tadhg, myself, Jonny and Dave. Ciaran (not the fireman one) the drummer is out of shot.
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Me, Tadhg, Jonny, Ciaran and Dave, who does have a slight look of demonic possession about him, but that would not be uncommon for bass players… Note my sporty shirt which S gave me for Christmas. It has foxes on it, and that’s handy when you’re born in Leicester.

So, this year we managed a few more rehearsals than previously, and put on a slightly better show. Not that anyone was really there for the music; it’s more of a social gathering of family and friends from the old days, and we are happy to oblige. Note in the picture above, we both have music stands so we have a fighting chance of singing the correct lyrics (even to our originals). Amnesia is a bitch. With any luck, we’ll forget to play next year…

The sickness in the house was spreading, and I could feel it taking hold the day before the half-marathon. But Mark and I had trained for this for months, and it was his first one, so no gammy knee or sore throat was going to stop me. I hoped. A short run a few days previous to this had seen me pull up a few times with a sharp pain in my left knee. As all good runners do when this happens, they stop running, head home, rest up and take a few weeks off. Do they f**k. I kept running until the pain went away and did about 6.5k in the park, and hoped that whatever the twinge was, it was a passing thing.

The morning came, and the kit was dutifully donned. I was well-hydrated and the belly was stocked up with sausage sandwiches. The race belt was stuffed with bars and gels, jelly babies, and even a small bottle of water. I knew I wouldn’t touch half the stuff, but as the old adage goes, better to be lookin’ at it than lookin’ for it. Not least when you know the trail run along the canal is largely self-supported, and for long sections, your only companions are your fellow runners, and some local wildlife.

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Cloncurry Bridge on the Royal Canal; the ‘halfers’ gather for the off.

We were bussed out to Cloncurry Bridge near Enfield, and Brendan the race organiser walked the ‘halfers’ down a short stretch to try and balance out the extra diversion we would need to take in Maynooth as the towpath is temporarily closed for renovation. After a few hasty pics, and without any fanfare, we were off.

The pace was good, and we aimed for about 5.40 per kilometre, once we had settled into the rhythm. The towpath was in better nick than in previous years when it had the power to suck the runners from your feet. About six of us stuck together the whole way, and the pace gradually creeped up to about 5.30 and beyond as more familiar landmarks came and went. My Garmin died after about 14k, and though I had switched to my iPhone and SmartRunner, as we stayed with a small group, we had plenty of watches to tell us the time. And in truth, this run is not about time, it’s about taking part.

The official 21k mark was passed as we approached the last bridge, Louisa Bridge, in Leixlip, and there was an extra half a kilometre or so, just as a way of letting you know you ate too many mince pies over Christmas. But no matter. We did it in just under 1.57 for the half-marathon ‘plus’ version 😉

A huge thanks to Brendan and the Le Chéile AC for putting it all together. For a tenner you get the bus up to the start, and this year they had two stops with water and gels along the way, plus all the soup, sandwiches and cakes you could possibly eat back at the clubhouse. Medals, schmedals. This is about really shaking off those cobwebs. And Mark did great; not just for his first half, but for any half. To come in under two hours was great stuff.

The bath afterwards was luxury. Tired limbs, sore heads and itchy throats all needed a rest. Our planned festivities were all cancelled, and the best we could muster was a night with Jools Holland on the telly. The choice of artist was a bit hit and miss, as is often the case with his show. The highlight was Imelda May though I may be showing some bias here. With her new black locks, she reminds me of a young Chrissie Hynde, and her performance of Black Tears was powerful. Watch it here.

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The new year may not have started in rude health, but at least the stock of runners in the house has risen once more. Added to my collection is a pair of Asics Gel Fuji Trabuco 5 trail runners, thanks to a gift voucher from S. I didn’t officially own any trail runners, and my Brooks Vapor 3s were not really designed for the off-road stuff. They are, indeed, standard road running shoes, and the reason I think they can stand up to a bit of punishment is really down to my other fave pair of old Adidas Energy Boost runners; the ones with the stretchy fabric uppers and odd foam soles. I love them, and have had them for a good few seasons. I bought the Brooks to take the pressure off them, and get a few more races out of them. Plus the Brooks have a fairly solid sole. I used the Adidas for all the triathlons too, with the elastic laces. And they are still holding up well. I also went through a few pairs of Cheapo runners too, such as Karrimors, and currently there are a pair of Lidl trail runners sitting behind me in the office…

(“Aha! So you DO actually own a pair of trail runners, then?”
“Well, no, not exactly…”
“You just said…”
“Yes, I know, but I what I meant was…”
“What you mean is that you are just another brand runner snob…”)

Okay, guilty as charged. Anyway, there are new runners to be broken in, so that will be fun to do. And I plan to get more trail-running in this year, especially up the mountains.

Have a good one, wherever you are. Despite all my guff above about shiny new runners (and who doesn’t like shiny new anything?), at the end of the day, it’s all about getting out, regardless of what you wear on your feet, or on the rest of your body.

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7 thoughts on “Happy… cough… New Year

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