Claire and I shared a wonderful experience, running across Ireland with 12 other hardy and eclectic souls we'd never met before. We celebrated 25 years of marriage in some style, and no cross words were ever exchanged. Despite the threat of a hurricane at the outset, we managed to avoid bad weather for the most part. One day of headwinds and a few hours of rain were all we had to contend with. The last three days were beautiful, with some sunshine and great running temperatures.
Big thanks and gratitude are due to the crew for getting us through 11 stages - Rory, Jen, Ann, Paul and Jim. These races are profoundly affected by the quality of support received. We experienced nothing but positive affirmation from the race support team, and that counts for everything. As the race progressed, we became better at map reading, and the course became better and better marked. Having our son Rob join us for the last three days was icing on the cake; a great mental boost for us.
Ireland - as any country - has a great deal of variety, and we saw most aspects of it. The towns we passed through were generally uninspiring; some nice old landmarks, but generally a little down-at-heel and seedy. The countryside is easy on the eye, but has been spoilt by a recent rash of McMansion developments which look out of place amid farms, cows, sheep and peaceful lanes. The "Celtic Tiger" phase of economic prosperity has been replaced with a vague general feeling of economic distress and uncertainty.
Our bodies and specifically our legs and feet held together well. We had prepared well for the rigors of a 350-mile journey, and so felt strong almost every day. Because of experience from previous stage races, we were able to deal with Claire's toe and heel issues well. I seldom had doubts that we would both make it.
The only thing we'd change was the tour bus format. The bus had a great "cool factor", and it was nice not to have to pack & unpack every day. But it became cramped and smelly by the end, and we had several squalid days without toilets and showers. Although she pulled off some minor miracles preparing endless meals & snacks, our cook's catering area was too small for preparing high quality meals. Very close quarters with very fatigued ultra runners could quickly degenerate into a whiney, squabbly, acrimonious mess. We didn't quite get to that point, but there were times when it could've easily unraveled. Personal space is important for exhausted, stressed runners, and frankly there was very little.
Going into the race, my goals were listed as (a) to run across another country, (b) to have fun and (c) to make new friends. Given those goals, the race was a huge success for both of us, as we achieved all three. Would we do the race again? Probably not, as life and money is too short. Would we recommend it to someone else? A qualified yes, to the right person with the right attitude. It's an amazing experience and privilege to have run across this ancient country.