I had a detailed version of this report typed up for the past couple of weeks but I’ve decided not to publish it. It was full of the usual questioning my sanity narrative that goes with most of my running reports.
At the time of writing this blog post I’ve been in regular email contact with the organisers of the event about a problem with the posted results. This has left a sour taste in my mouth and despite grabbing a PB by 48 minutes and finishing in 11hrs 18 minutes I cannot look back on this race and recommend it to anyone who expects the fair play that a sport like Ultra running requires given the incredible personal commitment by the participants.
I finished 10th (8th male) but through a combination of poor race organisation/marshalling and what I guess can be put down benevolently as human error I am listed as finishing 12th. Two competitors behind me on the road took a short-cut (a bit of a misnomer when you’ve run over 95km!) and are listed as finishing in 10th and 11th. I know two places doesn’t seem like much but when you make a commitment to a race like this proper placing is the least you can expect.
Let me explain. The last 5km or so of the race involves a small circular loop out towards Dingle and around the back of Blennerville. As I entered this loop I could count the runners coming towards me and we all cheered each other on. I knew who was in front of me and my first time crew of wife, kids and father-in-law were chatting to the crew of the woman immediately in front of me (she had cruised past me at around the 70km mark). As I completed the loop and made my final chest-out-ignore-the-pain run for the line I met my wife and collected my kids for the dash to the line. My wife shouted after me that two runners had come through between me and the woman in front of me. She had never seen them on the road on the last 5km of the Blennerville loop. At that point in an ultra marathon you are having trouble with anything more cognitively challenging that putting one foot in front of the other so I can safely say that that comment didn’t really sink in.
At the behest of my wife I mentioned something to the race organiser (the director wasn’t at the finish) and they said they thought the results were all fine.
As the blood flow returned to my brain the niggle started. The next day I was up early for a weeks holidays so I decided to push it to the back of my mind and pick it up again once we were back in Ireland.
When I did get around to considering whether I had been cheated out of my rightful finishing place I had to consider a few things: I have serious doubts that anyone would maliciously take a shortcut in a 100km race, especially towards the very end. But on the other hand there was a fairly comprehensive race briefing that went along the lines of “it’s your responsibility to know the course and if you take a wrong turn you are allowed be given a lift back to the point where you went wrong but you must re-commence from that point”. Secondly, what evidence did I have apart from personal testimony?
So, I set about cataloging my experience of when I passed the two runners who had finished in front of me and who I had met on the last 5km loop. Of the two runners, one had never passed me and I had passed the other at the 80km mark in Fenit. I had met and saluted both during the out-and-back to the tip of Fenit harbour. Apart from that I had the testimony of my wife and kids. Much as I know she can barely tolerate my running she would never lie to me about this sort of thing so I had no reason to doubt her.
The final piece of evidence I had to prove that I had not taken leave of my sense was the electronic breadcrumb signature that the live GPS units we were all issued with the day before the race had produced. This breadcrumb trail showed the mapped route and the route taken by the runners. Of the two runners who had bypassed the Blennerville Loop only one was wearing the GPS unit. It was pretty clear that he had gotten lost before the last loop and rather than complete it he had headed for home. To be fair to the competitor, there was no race marshall at that point on the course.
Armed with all this evidence I set out my case in an email to the race organiser (Marcus Howlett) in mid-August. By the start of September he acknowledged the problem and promised to have the results changed the next day.
And here I am 6 weeks later writing this outraged consumer story.
No change to the results.
I swapped a few more emails but nothing has changed on the race results page.
I’d like to be able to tell you in my next blog post that all has been resolved but given the delay in this I doubt it.
My advice to anyone seeking to enter this race is that with adequate training you’ll score a pretty good time as the route is favourable with any real climbing in the first 50km. But if you want to rely on the race organisers for anything more that collecting your money and firing the starting gun then I’d steer clear.