Now I’m at the foot of the longest hill in the race. For a mile and a half it twists and turns and sometimes you think you’ll never reach the top, this hill is called the Hell of the West. I’m feeling OK at this point but as I start to climb the intensity of the wind is increasing until I’m holding onto my hat and trying not to be blown into the middle of the road. The wind is so strong that I’m struggling at times to walk, never mind run so I resign myself to battling through to the top of the hill and hoping that when I start going down the gentle downhill on the other side the wind will decrease. I reach the top of the hill, 37 miles done, just two miles to go, no more hills to climb just downhill and flat, but the wind isn’t letting up and I struggle even to run/walk .
Finally, I can see the finish ahead of me, Ray the race director waiting on the finish line as he does for every competitor, those last 4 miles into the wind destroyed any possibility that I could do a course best but I’m pleased to have finished in 7:53. A quick chat on the finish line and proudly wearing my medal and clutching my Ultra runner’s shirt it’s back into the hotel for soup and sandwiches, perfect post race fare, then onto the coach and back to Galway. What a great day we all had and the mood on the coach is cheerful and we’ll be back next year to have another go at the Hell of the West.
I wasn’t the only one to struggle into that headwind; Lezan was disappointed to finish in 4:08, twelve minutes outside the course record. First lady was Ruthann Sheehan in 5:05, a fine run by the Irish 24 hour outdoor record holder.
A little further on and the road starts to go downhill, I know now I have a long stretch of easier running into the picturesque fishing village of Leenane which will also take me to marathon point. I always mentally divide this race distance into 3 and treat it as 3 half marathons with a target time for each 13.1 mile stretch so reaching marathon distance is a significant point for me.
There’s a wind turbine, I don’t remember seeing that before and it’s turning at a furious pace, in this wind would surely generate a lot of power, it’s quite close to the road and is very noisy, I’m glad to get past it.
The run in to Leenane is very scenic as it’s situated at the head of Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only fjord as I get closer I can see the buoys for the fish farming.
I reach marathon point in 5:01 so I’m exactly on my target pace, I’m feeling good even though I’ve not taken much fuel on board.
I run through the village past the pub and I come to a T junction, and you’ve guessed it, I turn right and up the long steep hill out of Leenane. This is my least favourite part of the course, probably as there is less in the way of scenery to distract me but I walk strongly and pass 2 more runners. At the top of the hill the course levels out and the next few miles are gently undulating and although there is still a strong cross wind it feels quite sheltered on this part of the course. At 30 miles I am feeling good and I carry on for the next few miles passing on average one runner each mile and this spurs me on. At 34 miles I come to another junction and yes, I turn right here too, and pass 3 runners within the next mile, all looking very tired.