Death-match at EAMS’ 6 Hour St Patrick’s Day Challenge in Belfast

In the pre-feminist days of the caveman there must have been many, many occasions where such a man had to fight off a rival caveman who wanted to dash his brains in with a rock, murder his children, and take his woman for himself.A caveman death-match could have happened anywhere at any time. It could have happened on the edge of a volcano that was about to erupt or on the edge of an iceberg in a blizzard or, indeed, along by a freezing and stormy sea which is the location of my six hour endurance challenge today in Belfast. The temperature is around 0 with a real feel of -5.

So, anyway, the route we are all doing is just over two miles out and back along a coastal path and I find myself gradually warming up as I plod along at a nice, easy pace. After about 5 miles I’m feeling a bit warmer and start to think everything will go smoothly.

I’m running today with my cousin who has never run a marathon before and has the sole aim of doing the distance of one in the 6 hours. I plod on ahead of him in the first lap and decide I shall catch up to him in a bit.

The sea is grey, angry and wild, and is mercilessly attacking the shoreline as if it was its most hated enemy. The onslaught is savage and rages on and on.

Towards the end of the first lap the wind is so strong against me that I think that if somebody were to attach a string to me, and I were to stop pushing forward against it, I would surely take off into the air like a kite.

At this point I spot a cormorant on the pavement in front of me and he has his wings spread while being blown along the path. I try to take a picture of it with my phone but my hands are so cold that the touch screen thinks I’m dead.

One lap turns into two and two to three and then BAM, I am hit by a massive wave and feel as if my whole body has been frozen to the core. A high five from a runner going in the other direction makes me feel as if my arm could have shattered into a million icy fragments if he had slapped my hand any harder.

My legs go numb, my arms go numb, my face goes numb. Hell, every part of my body goes numb, but sometimes the only way to get out of hell is to keep pushing through it.

To make things worse sea salt has caked my inner thighs and I can start to feel an increasingly stingy soreness all over my man bits. This just does not feel very sexy, this is part of the experience that won’t be going in the blog, I think to myself. I decided to put it in anyway, since I’m feeling daring, and a wicked part of me is even tempted to post photos but I lack the courage since even my own family were too queasy to have a look at my suffering. Isn’t it awful how fear of other people’s opinions holds us back?

Halfway through my fourth lap my cousin waves me to a stop. His whole body is a deep pink and his eyes look like they are badly bloodshot. “I’m too cold, can I have the keys to the car? I can’t keep going,” he says. He also got hit by a wave. I give him the keys and say I’ll see him in a bit.

I plod on and on and eventually decide I shall stop after six laps, which I believed to be a marathon as it said so in an email we received from the organisers.

Coming to the end of the sixth lap, at a time of 4hours 7minutes, I still have plenty of fuel left in the tank and I know I could easily maintain my pace for another two laps and be finished under 6 hours, but rather than giving my all to the moment I start thinking of my cousin in the car, of the fact that I’d like to have the wherewithal to go for a nice meal in the evening and also have enough juice left over so that I’m not a danger to myself or others on the five hour drive back to Galway.

I think again of the death-match scenario that I mentioned at the start of this post. Fuck it, I think, if that lad trying do dash my brains in with a rock is so keen to have my cavewoman wife then he can have her without any further objection from me. Some things just aren’t worth dying for.


Photos by Elma McEvoy.


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