Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once wrote that “the love of sport is one of the great agencies which make for the happiness of our people. It lies very deeply in the springs of our nature”. He was writing about boxing, but it could equally apply to athletics, particularly reflecting the fact that many of us turned out this weekend to complete a medley team relay predictive challenge in what has to be said were the most Baltic and blustery conditions imaginable! As usual, many of us had left it to the last day of the challenge to get our 3k or 5k runs in and, as a consequence, several of us would not have been overly surprised that we missed our targets. Having said that, it is becoming clear as we progress through these months of lockdown, with just the challenges to keep us motivated, that some of us are consistently better at predicting our times than others.
For those reading about the challenges for the first time (and who may indeed be thinking of joining us, there will be more to come), it is necessary to stress that the whole adventure is based on honesty (although some of us have the public visibility of Strava to keep us on the straight and narrow perhaps!). At the beginning of the week we have to predict what time we think we can complete a particular distance and then, once run, without looking at our watches during the mission, we compare the two times. Generally speaking we are all motivated to run as fast as we can, rather than engineer a slow time to meet the target, because for our own self esteem if we can get an improved time this is a totally acceptable outcome and it’s great to see many of us are recording PBs, whilst being significantly faster than what we thought we could do. This is really part of the aim of the whole adventure. None of us who is taking part can be complaining about loss of fitness!
The last report covered what we did in December and, for 2021, our challenges kicked off in the first week of January, with the first such challenge ending on Saturday 9 January. For that week we each had to run 3k, and 42 of us picked up the gauntlet. If memory serves well, it was a chilly week and, in particular, those of us who left it to the last minute were faced with fairly icy conditions, albeit on an otherwise sunny and calm day.
So, for our first challenge of the year, the winner of the event, who was only 2 seconds out, running 10:57, having predicted 10:59, was Darran Lovely. 2nd place was held jointly by three runners. Dee Lawlor was only 5 seconds off (having predicted 10:10 and ran 10:05) together with Aine Kenny, out in Galway, who ran 12:16, having predicted 12:11, and also Tanja Narancic with a 13:05 result in Kilbogget Park following her expectation of 13:10. An honourable mention should go to Liz Nixon who was only 7 seconds out in running 13:13 along the Royal Canal towpath, having expected to run 13:20. Indeed, Liz, like Darran, is fairly consistent in her ability to predict her times, whilst generally improving on each occasion.
The fastest runner for the challenge turned out to be Orla Drumm who ran 10:40, and joining her on the virtual podium were Aine Kenny (12:16) and Joanne Carey (12:52). For the men, Dee Lawlor was leader of the pack in 10:05, followed by Ronan Moynihan (10:44 and only 9 seconds off his prediction) and Darran Lovely (10:57).
We move on to the next challenge which was held in the week leading up to Saturday 16 January. Teams were selected from the previous results with the aim of being as balanced as possible. Each of the 4 members of each of the 13 teams (52 runners) had to determine which distance to run. It was left to the teams to determine who would be the sole runner to cover 1 mile. The remaining 3 members each had to run 3k. So, the overall distance was 10.61k. It was great to see the effort that was put in by the teams and, at the finish, the difference between the first team home and the 13th was only about 6.5 minutes (incidentally, virtually the same difference as was predicted). Team 12, comprising Margaret Foley, Evelyn Neary, Conor Macguinness and Celine Bonce were only 7 seconds out in running a combined time of 47:03 versus a prediction of 47:19. Joining them on the podium in joint first place was team 11, comprising Kenan Furlong, Fiona Lane, James Harding and Tim Purdy who ran 46:26, having predicted 46:19. Third place went to the fastest team of the challenge, team 10, comprising Gian Piero Allerta, Fiona Shine, James Cottle and Brendan Glynn (a late minute substitute for Donna Barry who unfortunately developed a back problem midweek and who hopefully is on the mend as this is written), who missed out on the win by a whisker with an 8 seconds differential, running 42:12, having predicted 42:20. Notable performances during the challenge were recorded by Mairin Shine, Liz Nixon and Barry O’Neill, all in the same team. Mairin ran a PB for her mile challenge, breaking 8 minutes for the first time. She must have been confident as she predicted 7:59 and ran 7:58! PBs also went to Liz Nixon who ran 13:11 for the 3k, having predicted that time, and to Barry O’Neill who ran more than 50s faster than his predicted time for 3k, with a time of 11:48.
The next challenge, a solo effort, concluded a week later on 23 January. This time it was a 5k that everyone had to run. 47 athletes took part and, again, as usual, we had some super times and some really close predictions. The two winners were Lorraine Fitzsimons and Evelyn Neary who were each only 1 second out. Evelyn ran 1 second faster than her prediction in 26:59, whilst Lorraine was 1 second slower than her prediction of 30 minutes. The virtual bronze medal went Gian Piero Allerta who ran 21:41, having predicted 21:39, only 2 seconds out, whilst honourable mentions should go to those 3 athletes who were only 5 seconds out in their predictions. They were Kenan Furlong who ran 5 seconds faster in 19:03 than his predicted time of 19:08, along with two runners who were 5 seconds slower, Emily Glen (23:45 versus 23:40) and Mary Horgan (20:05 versus 20:00).
The fastest runner overall was once again our ex-national 1500m champion, Orla Drumm, who ran 17:56. Behind her came Mary Horgan (20:05) and Aoife Quigley, a long-time member of the club returning from a break, who surprised herself hugely, running around 2:30 faster than her predicted time in 20:51. The men were led home by Eugene McDonough (18:07), followed by Michael Fitzsimons (18:14) and Dee Lawlor (18:39).
Finally, we come to the last challenge of the month, again a medley relay. This time 3 members of each 4-person team had to run 3k, whilst the 4th had to run 5k. Who ran which distance was very much left to the teams to determine. Again, the teams were constructed based on the previous challenge and again it was good to see that, in terms of prediction, only 9 minutes separated the 13 teams who took part in the aggregate 14k challenge. Once the runs were completed the difference between 1st and 13th teams was only 10 minutes.
The winners, with a margin difference of 12 seconds were team 2, made up of Eugene McDonough, Iseult Ni Chuinneagain, Darina Scully and Margaret Foley. They predicted 66:25, but ran a faster time in 66:13. The virtual silver medal went to team 7 of Darran Lovely, Fiona Lane, Emer Kenny and Gill Earley who were only 16 seconds out. They predicted 59:39 and ran a faster time of 59:23. Joint third place went to two teams who recorded a margin of 17 seconds between their predicted and actual times. Team 4 comprised Dee Lawlor, Lorraine Fitzsimons, Kate Murray and James Harding. They predicted 68:51 and ran 69:08, whilst team 12, comprising Karl Walsh, Joanne McGlanagh, Rebecca Fleming and Aine Kenny, predicted 61:54 and ran 62:11.
The fastest team in the challenge was the all-female team 10 of Mary Horgan, Amy Roe, Liz Nixon and Aoife Quigley. They covered the 14k in a great time of 58:56.
Those of us who left it to the last minute to run on Saturday were greeted by tough cold and extremely blustery conditions. It was truly difficult to find a 5k route where the wind didn’t hit you head on at some point. Also, the rain that accompanied the wind was so strong that one’s eyes took a battering. Your correspondent ended up almost seeing stars by the time he finished his cooldown into the wind as the constant bashing created a kind of stroboscopic flickering effect on vision briefly once he had stopped running. The blustery conditions made it challenging to say the least to achieve one’s predicted time. Having said that, on the day, at least two runners were spot on. Cormac McGuire predicted 11:40 for the 3k and in the Phoenix Park he achieved it, whilst Dee Ni Chearbhaill, a late replacement for Gian Piero Allerta who had to cry off for flu, predicted 13:01 for 3k and met her target running on the Docklands 5k route along the Liffey. The evening before, as the easterly wind was building, Maria Kennedy was only 1 second off her predicted time of 13:30. Also, remarkably, on the Saturday, Mairin Shine recorded another PB, this time by running 16:05 in the 3k.
Many congratulations to everyone who has been taking part in these challenges. It’s been a great way for us all to get to know each other, even if only virtually. There will be more to come before we get released and can resume proper training, but for the time being, these are a perfect substitute.
Our next challenge is a solo 8k run without watches and teams will then be worked out on the basis of the results. All the best to everyone taking part.