Where is this? What are these roads? Suddenly the course is split for traffic. The small bunch just ahead of me, which includes Lurchy Pinkface, continue on the left hand side of the road while myself and all those behind me are siphoned off to the right. The road is wide. The cars drive between us. I can see that the next turn is to the left. Our route will be longer. I am genuinely enraged. What the fuck is this shit I mutter. Closed roads my fucking arse. I cannot remember being this angry. I recognise that it may be time to eat a gel. I eat a gel. Mile marker. Twelve down.
You never feel more privileged than on a Wednesday morning. You're up at six thirty making coffee, eating porridge and getting the day going for the house. By 8.45 you have completed your tasks for the morning. Children are at school with some class of lunch upon their person. Spin classes have been constructed. Dishwashers emptied, clothes laundered. You no longer instruct on a Wednesday morning. You are privileged to have this time to yourself. So you get in your car. Privileged to own a car. You drive to Howth. Privileged to live so close to such a place. You park right at the end, up by the public toilets. You have been sipping water all the way out. You need, as usual, to pee. So you pee, then jog slowly back to where the village starts.
This is the beginning of The Bog of Frogs. On its website this trail is advertised as ten kilometres. More damnable internet lies. It is in fact just shy of eight miles. You will not find a better run in the county.
You've had your warm up jog now. It's time to get going. Do a little lean in, like you're on a start line, wait for the Runkeeper to count down from ten. And you're off. If you're lucky, and you're always lucky, the wind, and it's always windy, begins at your back. So you burst from your imaginary blocks and shoot down the promenade, flying past the slouchers you shuffled passed moments before. Make up your mind moron, you hear them mentally cry. East or west? Fast or slow? Make your choice. Stick with it. East it is, for now. East and fast. Why not fast? It's as easy as slow.
Go right at the pier. Bang. You're climbing. It's sharp, it's steep, it's probably about 200m long. You need to stay out of the red. It's too early for the red. But there is little option. Red is the colour. Left now and the slope drops to almost nothing. Recover. Breathe. You like this section, a quiet road of gentle incline that leads to the real beginning. Take it easy tap it out. Fun times await. Runkeeper chirps a mile and you're almost there. You smile. Here it comes.
For the next five miles you run the cliff path, constantly up or down, though more often up, hopping over rocks, charging up steps, barreling down descents, squeezing through narrow thorn corridors, briefly dropping all the way down to the beach before it's up up up again. Sometimes you meet a hiker, or a dog walker. All are lovely and stand aside to let you pass. You always shout thank you. You beam. They beam. How can you not beam? Look at the view. Feel the wind on your face in your lungs. The sun or the misty rain. Quick short steps, long galloping strides, everything happens in these five miles. One time you run this with "Songs in The Key of Life" in your ears and everything makes sense. And then you go right.
Up. For a mile. No relief. Some of it outrageously steep. It is the most you will hurt in your marathon training. Your legs and lungs will scream like they will not scream even in 400m repeats. Stop. Please stop. Please. Or walk. Please walk. Please. Just a few steps. Please let it stop hurting. But you have come from cliff joy and you know that a mile of descent awaits. So you do not stop. Shut up legs. Fuck you lungs. We're doing this. We're getting it done. You run through a golf course just before the last brutal incline. And even your scorn for this alleged pastime is softened by the effort and the joy. And then it tops out and brother do you fly. If it's a good day and you came to this run rested and you ran the climb smart, you may now effortlessly hit a 6'30 mile. Nobody, you feel, has ever moved this fast. Down through an estate, dropping dropping and then it's Howth again and a sharp u-turn and a final surge to the pier. You keep running until the phone calls eight and then you stop. You are exhausted and you are grateful. Grateful to have had the time, the health, the inclination to spend this hour in this way. You love to run. How you love to run.
I fucking hate running. My fucking leg. Jesus. My wrists hurt. Fuck. Why do my wrists hurt? The road comes back together and I find that I have lost my lurcher. Have I slowed? Quickened? I don't know. I don't much care. I hear music from afar drowning out my own tunes. I'm the cat with the base and drums going round like bom bom bom. Halfway approaches. The music is so very loud. I know this song. Sixteen pints of rum. I started using it in pump last week, It is a stupid song. I like it a lot. I allow myself a smile. I'm so cool and I'm so groovy. I'm also half way. Half way through a marathon, this marathon I said that I would run before I got too old. My leg. My wrists. Halfway. Bom bom bom.