“I’ll never be good at running…”

The above line was taken from an article recently by Irish Times columnist, Jennifer O’Connell. I don’t know much about her, save what I have gleaned from the pieces she has written for the magazine. But this quote caught my eye. She goes on to say:

“But I don’t have to be good at running. I just need to be good at going for a run.”

And that, I think, is an excellent quote, and a rather splendid ethos to boot. It may not fit on a T shirt (Jim at Fit Recovery has all the best ones anyway) but it’s one I think I will use now and again. (Maybe it should have a © symbol 😉 )

So after a week which saw a few reasonable runs in the local park, including a not too shabby 10k in just over 50 minutes, I decided I needed to spread my wings a bit. And with a day off on a Saturday – a rare event around these parts – I headed west to Donadea, a short spin of about twenty minutes in the car. In a few weeks time, this place will be thronged with some of the fittest and fastest marathon and ultra-marathoners in the country. And I’ll be there too. I better wear some dark glasses 😉

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Donadea Castle is a bit of a mish-mash, as many of these old place were; often built as tower houses in the 1600s and then just as often attacked, damaged or destroyed, and then rebuilt after a fashion, and remodeled for a way of life that didn’t necessarily include getting things thrown at you (such as rocks, arrows and cannonballs, etc.). I grew up in a smaller, more modest version of one of these, in Leixlip.

It was one of those cold days that suck the life out of you. A day that never warmed up. It was just bitterly, frosty cold from the start, and by midday, I’d say the day just gave up hope, and so it remained until night fell. It was like running in a fridge. If you had a big fridge…

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Donadea is a small, mixed woodland, but we don’t have that many in this part of the county so it attracts a lot of visitors. As such, the owners, Coillte, have decided in their wisdom to charge €5 in to the car park, and it’s an automated barrier, so if you rock up to the woods without the correct change, you can just bugger off again, because it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Not sure where the money goes; Coillte is state-owned, and the car park is in a poor condition. Perhaps it goes into paying for the fancy barrier? But once in, it’s a lovely little wood, with the old ruin and lake being the main features.

There is also a 9/11 commemorative piece at Donadea. You can read a little bit about why this is here at this link. It’s a nice tribute.

I wasn’t sure of the route for the 50k next month, but I figured it was going to be the boundary walk, known as the Aylmer Walk, after the family that built the original tower house. There are lots of little link paths, but overall, there’s only one obvious path that clocks in at about 5k, and this is probably the one we’ll have to run ten times.

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The paths are all like the one above. Hard packed ground, mostly, with some grit, and lots of trees all around. I set off and did a couple of loops.

Near the lake, I passed a small tree that was decorated with child’s soothers and bottles. There is a tradition in Ireland which pre-dates Christianity of hanging votive offerings on trees, often found beside holy wells. It’s a Celtic thing, though one needs to be careful of labeling anything pre-Christian in Ireland as ‘Celtic’. The whole Celtic movement has been somewhat questioned of late, and rightly so, but that’s for another blog, and another day. But no doubt there is a story behind this tree; just don’t know what that is.

On my third loop, I caught up with a couple of runners, and we fell into conversation. Paul and Jacinta were also training for the 50k, and had already clocked up an impressive 30k. We did another couple of loops together, and the company is nice when you’re on a long run, not least when it’s loops of the same thing. And it keeps you honest too. Each loop takes you past a pretty little wooden cabin in the heart of the woods, and they serve tea and coffee and you can sit outside on chairs and benches in front of a wood-burning chiminea. So each 5k brought you past cheerful scenes of warmly-wrapped up folk supping on hot drinks and scoffing buns, and getting some heat into their bones. There was a gentle waft of wood smoke as you shuffle past, on into the woods for yet more punishment. An evil temptress. Yes. It’s an odd pastime alright!

We parted company, and no doubt at some point in the next few weeks we may share a few kilometres again. I struck out on my own and finished a fifth lap, and figured I had done enough for one day, but the niggly thought crept into my head that this was probably my last, longest run, so with a promise of hot chocolate in the cabin as soon as I finished, I put in a final loop. 29.2k on the watch, or about 18 miles in old money.

After my well-earned lunch, I headed home and soaked in a hot bath ’til my bones thawed, and the complaints from the muscle and groin department had subsided to a level where I could at least ignore them.

We were out for dinner with friends later, and when we got home, I thought I’d catch up with the footie on Match of the Day. I even cracked open a bottle of beer. Within minutes I was snoring…

Next morning, a cheerful Mark was on the phone, wondering when we were going running. So by half nine we were out in the park again for a six and a bit lap. Legs were a little heavy but overall I was surprised how well they seem to have recovered from yesterday’s exertions. This training business must be paying off.

Enjoy your training. The days are getting longer. The snowdrops are out, and soon the Lesser Celandine will be poking up all around the hedgerows. Spring is not far away.

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6 thoughts on ““I’ll never be good at running…”

  1. Love the photos and the reminder that, though Winter has not made much of an appearance this year, new life is on the way. I’ve lost my 80th pound and have recently registered for my first 5k… which will probably take me longer than your 10k. Really enjoyed this one!

    Liked by 2 people

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