Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Title: Sure, I’ll put you Michael Sexton
(The following piece was written for a Toastmasters meeting by Michael Sexton. It recounts his first road race which was the John Buckley 5k in June 2007 and I'm sure many of us had similiar experiences when we first took to the road! The photo below is not of Michael and his friend but it seemed appropriate ;o)
Read on.........)

Sure, I'll put you Michael Sexton
I knew I was right to be nervous when I agreed to run in a 5 kilometre road race last June around the Marina in Cork city. This was the first time I had ever run or should I say participate in a road race. Should I hope to win or hope to finish faster than the fastest woman or hope just to finish. I just had this feeling in my bones that this was going to be something different.

What happened was that at our last club Toastmasters meeting in May I received a slap on my back which was followed by John Buckley who is a member of our club and also happens to own a sports store with a twinkle in his eye saying:

We have our 5K road race this Thursday around the Marina. It’s only around the corner from you. Sure, I’ll put you down. There is a free reception afterwards which I’m sponsoring.

At this I said ‘pencil me in’, only to find out that the free reception was tea and sandwiches. Of course I couldn’t let on that I was only interested in free booze. So I made a mental note to recommend John to the club Toastmasters nominating committee next April as Educational Vice President. Consequently for his pleasure John could be organising each and every one of the twenty meetings the following season. If 5KM was three and a bit miles I was wondering whether maybe I could skip the 3 miles and run the bit part instead.

On a bright summer’s evening Thursday 8th June I drove the 200 metres down to the Marina as I wanted to keep my energy for the race. I queued and for the princely sum of seven Euro I paid the entrance fee at the registration desk and received a number in return taking a safety pin at the same time.

As I left the registration desk I met Danny Murphy who was in scouts with me when I was younger. We were inseparable back then. We talked for a little while and then I said that I would be waiting for Danny at the finish line. To which Danny replied:

Yea Mikey boy, looking up no doubt from the bottom of an oxygen tent

I made my way to the starting line and did some warm up exercises. A little stretch here, another stretch there. Checked out the opposition. From looking around it was easy to spot the professional athlete. For a start he or she is …. Thin, is wearing a singlet with thin shoulder straps, a little NIKE logo, has four safely pins tying up their number neatly, wears loose fitting light airy shorts, below ankle length socks and runners that look that bit large, maybe a little shiny.

So there I was amongst this crew of Olympians at the front in my white Italia ’90 T-shirt – Ole, Ole, O’Leary, St Bernard Special Edition. I had one safety pin for my number, so it was flapping in the wind – I was too embarrassed to ask anyone for a loan of their safety pins. I was wearing heavy cotton rugby shorts from around 1995, thick striped yellow and black Colaiste Ignais Ri knee length woollen GAA socks and a pair of dirty sneakers in which I had dug up from the bottom of the closet.

I felt a little out of place. To top it off I felt even more out of place being at the top amongst all these hotshots.

And then the starting gun went off and we were off. I led the 3000 athletes in John Buckley 5K for …. 2 metres before I was bundled out of the way.

Gradually I fell down the field. Very quickly I started getting pains in joints I didn’t know I had. I was overtaken by glowing twenty-two old young things, forty-year-old perspiring men and then the ignominy of it some seventy-year old sweaty geezer wearing sandals. I tried to speed up but my feet said

Fat chance buster! You never asked us whether we wanted to run in this race did you?

All I could do was look up and see this unconventionally heeled pensioner just run off like a mirage into the distance with the glowing twenty-two year olds and the perspiring men in tow.

Thereafter for God knows how long I was in a trance, in a world of my own; barely able to put one foot in front of the other, petrified to stop in case rigor mortis set in. When all of a sudden I turned the corner and saw the finish line in the distance – mana from heaven – the Promised Land was near!

Since I wanted to appear at my best crossing the end – you never know someone might have a camera – I dug even deeper than before. My vanity helped me find that reserve tank of fuel labelled ‘for looking good while crossing finishing line’.

I lengthened my stride and quickened my pace. I overtook one person, overtook another, then …. I was overtaken by … my so called friend forever Danny Murphy who whisked passed me with a swagger saying Hiya Mikey boy.

Some people say that there is nothing like a grudge to get an Irishman going. I remember when Danny put blackcurrant jam on my hair while on scout camp in Duncannon, Co. Waterford when I was twelve. Danny started to get faster. Danny must have remembered the time when I put marmalade in Danny’s hair in Kilcully scout camp the following year. I overtook Danny. Danny overtook me. I’d say we’d both have overtaken Derval O’Rourke over the last fifty metres, hurdles or no hurdles. We were belting it now, bursting a gut each, overtaking everyone in sight like supercharged rhinoceroses heading for the finish when whoosh.

We fell over the line. 27:05 and 27:06. ... I … lost. There we were – hands on knees, breathing like beached whales, aaah – huh, aaah- huh we raised a hand and shook promising to do the same again next year. My grudge would live to grace another day.

To conclude we queued up to make our way to the water station. At the waterstation John Buckley was giving out the fluids and John knew everyone. John, Mary, Tony, Finbarr, Eleanor, Joan. Of course then the penny dropped then on where did the other two thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine athletes bought their running shoes.

As I stood there punch drunk feet falling off me, legs like jelly, hanging onto the table with the one hand for dear life, unable to talk and parched John gave me a firm handshake and while still holding my hand and with that twinkle in his eye John started rabbiting on:

Michael Sexton, you were great. They way you came over that line – some going. Before I give you the water, let me tell you that the Glanmire Five MILE race is on this Wednesday week. It would be no bother to you. We’re meeting outside Grandon’s Garage at 7.30. Sure, I’ll put you down!

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