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  • Chris O'Connor

Hardman Half Marathon Gap of Dunloe, Co. Kerry, Ireland

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

Sometimes it's good to do something unplanned and spontaneous and that's exactly how I came to enter the Hardman Half Marathon last week.

I was chatting to my friend Petra about us getting together for some Trans Atlas Marathon training runs when she told me that she'd entered a half marathon at Killarney at the weekend. This would be her first running event and she explained that her plan was to run, walk or crawl to the finish! So I checked out the race website and the first thing that came to mind was 'how did I miss seeing this one?' I usually keep an eye out for interesting races coming up but this one had gone under the radar. So I took the plunge and put in an entry. The previous few weeks had seen me hit some pretty high mileage and a lot of hill sessions so I was under no illusions that I would run a fast race, but the chance to run somewhere different and especially in such a scenic location was too much of a temptation.

And so it was an early start on Sunday morning with a 5.30am dog walk on the beach before setting off for County Kerry to arrive in time for the registration deadline.

The race start line was a few minutes walk up the hill from Kate Kearney's Cottage, where we registered and received our Hardman Half tee shirts and race numbers. Once sorted we joined the line of runners slowly walking up the steep hill to the start.

Petra looking confident at the start line

With just ten minutes to spare we took our place amongst the (mostly very serious looking) runners waiting to set off from the windswept and rather chilly roadside - but with views up the valley towards the Gap of Dunloe we were distracted from feeling too cold. And, of course, once on our way we'd soon warm up.

Serious looking runners at the start line!

And warm up we did as the first five kilometres stretched up and up relentlessly. However the scenery was awesome and as we passed mountain lakes, rivers and small waterfalls the cloudy grey sky cleared to allow a few beams of sunlight to penetrate and give at least the illusion of warmth.

Running into wind on the outward leg was tough but came with the knowledge that it would be behind us on the return leg and would surely help when we were starting to feel the effects of the distance and elevation.

The long grind up to the Gap of Dunloe

Finally reaching the Gap of Dunloe we then headed downhill towards the turning point, which was at around the ten kilometre mark. Some of the leading runners were already on the return leg and passed us as they headed back up to the Gap.

Again, the scenery was amazing as we descended into the valley - but there was always the niggling thought that what goes down has to come up again and that downhill section seemed to go on forever!

There was no shortage of breathtaking scenery

Finally at the turning point, we grabbed a cup of water and headed back towards the long and winding road that we'd just run down. It was a daunting thought that we'd be slogging uphill for almost five kilometres but, as noted earlier, the wind was now from behind us and helped big time with climbing the long ascent back to the Gap of Dunloe. And from that point we were able to enjoy a fast five kilometres downhill to the finish line where we were presented with finishers medals, a warm drink and some post race snacks.

In conclusion, this has to rank as one of my top races in terms of organisation, scenery and value for money. I'll be back next year!

I completed the distance in 02:13:24 and Petra came in with a very respectable time of 02:35:53

The overall winner was Derek Griffin with a time of 01:17:24

First female Michelle Finn 01:26:21

For more Hardman events in 2019 check out their website

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