The Great Railway Run takes place along the old railway line that’s runs from Cork City to Carrigaline. They offer two distances on the day, a 25k and a 10k, with runners on the longer route merging with the start of the 10k at Monkstown where the old railway station use to stand. At the 10k start line you can see Cobh (the home of the White Star Line ticket office where the last 123 passengers to sail on the Titanic boarded the ship) just across the water.
I was originally entered into the 25k as I fancied an unusual race distance but I dropped down to the 10k after getting instructions from my sports physiotherapist (unfortunately, until marathon training comes around, there’s no long distance running for me!). Still, I was excited to be on the start line after 2019 got off to a wobbly start on the race front. I was feeling nervous as I knew I was going to push myself. The goal was a PB or a sub-60 minute result but I was happy to just enjoy the day. I cheered on runners coming through on the 25k before heading to my own start line.
The race started bang on time and the first mile was lovely and flat with views out to the marina. Usually, in smaller races like this where you’re running on roads that aren’t closed to traffic, the first mile is crowded but this was perfect. I surprised myself with how comfortable I felt at the pace I was running and, when my watch buzzed to signal the end of the first mile, I saw that I was on target for a sub-60 minute at 9:38 (although it was probably a little too premature at that stage to get excited about this!).
Unfortunately, the race organisers had to change the course with short notice due to road works on the original route so just after the first mile we turned into the countryside at Raffeen Village. This is where the hills started. I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so hilly so I got a bit of a shock when I came up against the first ascent (Portsmouth is flat so I don’t get much chance to train on hills!). Despite this, my second mile came in a 9:58 so I was really pleased with that!
My legs did start to feel a bit zapped of energy even at this early stage but the course is fairly well supported by families living on the route so it was nice to have some encouragement from the locals. It felt like one long climb at certain points and my third mile came in at 11:15. At this stage I knew I had lost both a sub-60 minute and PB but I was enjoying my race so much that it didn’t really matter. I just decided to enjoy myself, try my hardest and be happy that I was back out racing.
There was a nice long down hill section at mile 3 which took you down through a country lane with fields either side. It was nice and quiet and away from traffic (I’m not sure if this was open to traffic or not but no cars travelled that road while I was running on it). This long down hill was a lovely break for my legs but it soon levelled out just before the 4 mile point. The race provided a small sign with your number to wear on the back of your shoulder that identifies which distance you’re completing so it was nice at this stage to offer some support to those running the longer distance.
The rest of the race gave us more rolling hills in the countryside until you come out to see the Owenabue River on your left just after mile 5. As you start to come into the finish in Carrigaline, just before mile 6, you do have to cross the road to finish the race on pavement but this is well marshalled so there was no stopping or slowing down for traffic.
The race finished with a nice downhill section of about 200m so of course I was on for a sprint finish! I crossed the finish line in just under an hour and five minutes, hearing my name being read out by the race organisers. The line to collect your medal, goodie bag and water was quick and efficient (the volunteers have to work quickly as they have to identify 25k and 10k runners to give them the right medal). They also provide food for runners inside the community centre. From the finish line it wasn’t far to walk to the car and we were soon on our way back home.
So, I didn’t get my result but all in all this was a brilliant event and I’m happy that this was my first race back after illness. The scenery was beautiful, it started on time and the course wasn’t crowded. It was well organised from start to finish, the goodie bag was excellent and the the race marshals were brilliant. It’s a race I’d definitely recommend. I’m not sure it would have been quite so hilly if it wasn’t for the course change but I would love to go back when they’re able to do the original route and see for myself (plus, I’d still love to do the 25k).
In the mean time, 10k PB attempt number two is fast appraoching. Can I do it? We will find out in three weeks …