On the first day of August I woke up shortly before six in the morning, laced up my sneakers, walked down towards the pond near where the swans were still dozing, and started to run. I ran up along a narrow gravel trail, over a small grassy rise, along a small road, past a two hundred year old towering monument to the Scottish hero of lore, William Wallace, down into a slumbering neighbourhood, and plodded across an eight hundred year old stone footbridge, where (as legend would have) the Scots routed the British invaders in the 1300s in a battle made famous in the film Braveheart.
We spent three weeks in Scotland (staying near Stirling) and Ireland in the month of August, and my training continued in the wee hours before everyone else in the forty-seven member travelling group had bothered to get out of bed.
Two weeks in, I skipped out on the official tour, boarded a train, then a bus, then a RyanAir flight to Dublin. The next morning I was standing in Pheonix Park in shorts and crowd of a few thousands of Irish runners getting ready to run a speedy five klick race through the misty rain.
Almost exactly one day later (after a long and convoluted adventure to find my race pickup package, some art supplies, and a cold pint of Guinness) I was standing on a street in Dublin getting ready to run the Dublin Rock’n Roll Half Marathon.
I wasn’t expecting to do too great. I mean, try travelling for over two weeks, sitting on planes and busses, and wandering up and down through tourist locations (which there are generally castles with narrow staircases leading up to vantages) and then do a race. Travel running is awesome, but expectations need to be kept low. When I pulled a three-year personal best out of my backside, in other words, I surprised even myself. It was a positive split, if I’m being completely honest, but filled with a kind of Irish spring in my step through the first eleven klicks, down cobbled roads, around castles and amazing old architecture, to the sounds of cheering crowds and loud music, it all kept be strong.
Then we hit Pheonix Park again, and the rolling hills killed me. But that’s how these things tend to go.
I returned to Canada with a neck laden with multiple bling medals and a few memories, too, and pretty much nothing else I did that month topped that weekend.