Kilkenny Medieval Marathon Races – 14th September 2019

Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle
Photo by Pete Hickman

Stacey Marston reports: Our third meeting with twinned club Newbridge AC took us back to Ireland, this time to the beautiful medieval city of Kilkenny. Yet again the sun shone for our visit, leading us to believe that Emerald Isle is always secretly bathed in sunshine! The Medieval Marathon races were a great choice for our visit, with a range of options (10km, Half Marathon, 30km and Marathon) and a Saturday noon start time, giving time at the beginning of the day for those obsessed enough with parkrun (Lesley, Clare, Gráinne and myself) to squeeze in the stunning Kilkenny parkrun in the castle grounds and also ample time to enjoy the licensed establishments (of which there are plenty) after the race without the thought of a morning race to prepare for.

The number and t-shirt collection was in a pub the evening before. I must admit, it always makes me slightly nervous picking up a race t-shirt before the race, especially one saying ‘I won the war’ on the back; given my recent form this felt like tempting fate! We all tried to ascertain the course elevation and there were rumours of 4 miles of uphill (but with it the promise of the equivalent downhill at the end of the race). The noon start time (12:30pm for the 10km runners) was tricky for timing breakfast and also given the September sunshine it was beginning to worry me that my running demons (overheating and stomach issues) were going to come together in a perfect storm. Given that I have a marathon on the horizon I was viewing it as more of a long run with a break between parkrun and the half marathon, so I tried not to worry too much about the time. Guy was targetting a PB, and although he is much more comfortable with the warmer conditions after 40 years working in hot kitchens and enjoys a later start (he’s just not a morning person), it still seemed like a big ask to PB on this course on such a warm day.

The course started on St. Francis bridge (the ‘New’ bridge). There were pacers for all the distances with balloons, but as the road bridge was open to traffic and the runners were lining up on the footbridge it was tricky to get a good starting position, but since it was chip timed we didn’t worry too much about that. We managed to say a few quick ‘hello’ and ‘good lucks’ whenever we spotted the green vests of Newbridge and after some instructions from the race director (including a reminder to be nice to the marshals and the pacers ‘even if you’re having a bad run’) we were off. The route steadily climbed from the bridge out away from town, and onto a shady tree-lined path with a gentle ascent. It was cooler here and I steadily picked my way through until the 2 hour half marathon pacer was in sight. After a while we turned off the path and the ascent got a little bit steeper as we lost the benfefit of the shade from the trees. There were some roadworks which seemed to increase the temperature and the sun was really beating down on us. We soon turned onto a main road but on fairly wide pavements and there wasn’t much traffic, so we were able to enjoy the view, with green fields in all directions. The miles were marked for each of the routes and there were plenty of water stations along the course with friendly marshals. Richard Shearing appeared alongside me looking comfortable but just as we thought we’d have some company the half marathon route turned off from the 30km route that Rich was on.

I finally caught up with the 2-hour pacer and had a chat with him and a couple of other runners as we wound round the loop before returning to the main road for the return trip. I saw Pete and then Guy running back in the other direction, both looking strong, although Guy muttered something about having set off too fast. The turnaround point came eventually and there was another little bit of uphill back onto the road; I was looking forward to running back and picked up the pace a bit, eventually easing away from the pacer (I figured he was maintaining a pace rather than an effort so I reasoned that we’d probably do-si-do with me ahead on the down hills and him catching me on the ups… but I thought that was all the ups done!) Eventually we were back on the tree-lined path in the shade and I was looking forward to the welcome sight of the castle, but we seemed to be approaching too soon and I wondered where the route was going to take us. We ran back into town through residential streets which were very windy and narrow, I saw a bit of a close call with a car at one point but the marshalling was excellent in the circumstances; they each had a whistle to alert drivers, pedestrians and the runners to each other as well as any road ‘furniture’. With a mile to go I felt that I should just about come under two hours and the pacer was still behind me, but I started to anticipate the hill on the far side of the castle (which I’d run up three times at parkrun that morning, albeit on the inside of the park, I knew the elevation would be similar on the road). Annoyingly I struggled to keep the pace going and sure enough my friendly pacer came past, along with some of those finishing the 30km race. Still, there wasn’t much further to go and as I turned down ‘The Parade’ towards the finish gantry I checked my watch and realised I was really going to need to sprint to the line, crossing what I thought was the finish line, under the archway, I saw that I still hadn’t finished and had a few seconds counting to go… why does 2:00:05 seem so much slower that 1:59:59?!

I was handed a small cup of cola, as I must have looked a little bit wobbly after my sprint and I had a little sit down. Guy appeared to see if I was okay and I was pleased to hear some familiar names being announced; Simon in the top 10 of the Half Marathon, and Newbridge friends including Seamus in the top 10 of the 10k, Olivia winning the 10k, and Emma and Dave winning the 30k. A lovely medal was put round my neck and I was handed a useful shoe bag with some popcorn and chocolate in it and cans of Heineken 0.0%. I’m quite a fan of a non-alcoholic lager; I know some people compare it unfavourably to beer, but if instead you think of it as comparison to other soft drinks then it’s much better! I was pleased to hear how well the others had done, and especially chuffed for Guy getting a PB, which bodes well for a future, more favourable course, where I’m sure he’ll be able to go under the 1:40 mark.

Kilkenny Medieval Weekend
Fun in the sun post-race
Photo by Breda Tynan

It was lovely sitting in the sunshine by the castle, watching others come in and having photos in the Castle grounds. We were all kindly given Newbridge hats as a memento of the weekend. I really enjoy the camaraderie and chatting with friends after a race, comparing notes about the course and sharing the little funny moments; being able to do that with friends in both BvH Teal and Newbridge Green is what the twinning is all about. I’m already looking forward to next year when we will meet up again. I’d really encourage people to join in with these weekends, it’s great to visit somewhere different and to meet like-minded runners, many of whom I now consider to be friends.



141 Grainne BERMINGHAM 01:00:30 01:00:52 775 F (57)
225 Lesley PYMM 01:12:25 01:12:47 2097 F (116)
99 Clare MULLIN 00:56:40 00:57:02 2063 F (35)

Half Marathon

40 Guy MARSTON 01:42:56 01:43:33 1709 M (36)
138 Stacey MARSTON 02:00:05 02:00:40 1710 F (31)
15 Simon NEWMAN 01:33:25 01:34:01 1752 M (14)
65 Pete HICKMAN 01:49:01 01:49:36 1653 M (51)


188 John CHEEL 03:05:02 03:06:48 1204 M (118)
109 Richard SHEARING 02:48:04 02:50:52 1463 M (82)