Racing vs enjoying the scenery of an international half-marathon

Back in March when I registered for the Kildare Thoroughbred Run, I realized my training and Ireland’s much cooler weather could come together at the right time for a PR race. Well, okay, I was kind of shoved into it when I discovered only 250 people ran the half marathon last year, and all but one were faster than my PR. Either way, I decided it would be my goal race.

But part of me regrets putting all my PR eggs in this basket.

I’ve spent a grand total of three days in Ireland (all in Dublin, seventeen years ago) so after some fairly extensive itinerary-planning, reservation-booking, and spreadsheet-making, I am looking forward to seeing all the things. Yeah, I’m a planner. And yeah, I created a spreadsheet. But that’s for efficiency–it’s not a tourist trap checklist. I mean, in 2010 we took a two-day side trip to Southampton, England because that’s where Titanic began its only voyage. Who else does that?? See, I take pride in blending in when I travel and distancing myself from The Ugly American stereotype–and I know I’ve succeeded when someone asks me for directions. There’s a time and a place for organized bus tours (we take them for our NJHS trip to Washington as a way to cram eleventy-seven thousand things into four days) but nine times out of ten I’ll choose to struggle with a manual transmission on the wrong wide of the car on the wrong side of the road so that we can do our own thing.

What drew me to Kildare is our opportunity to experience real Ireland. Especially considering that after the race, the town is holding its annual Derby Festival and Taste of Kildare in the town square. I even decided we’d stay an extra night in Kildare Town so that we wouldn’t have to rush through the festival in order to check out of the hotel.

From the race’s event page:

All runs will start and finish in Kildare Town where there will be family fun and entertainment provided in The Square before, during and after the event, be assured you will not find a more family friendly event than this one on Father’s Day or any other day.

A prize giving ceremony is planned for the town square after the event and all race competitors will also receive a voucher for hot food which is redeemable at the “Taste of Kildare” food stands which set up in Market Square close to the finish line.

This year’s event yet again coincides with the start of the Derby festival in Kildare Town, so there will be plenty happening all day in the town.

This is exactly the kind of experience I want when I travel. Why NOT stay the extra day and really enjoy small-town Ireland? Skip the Blarney Stone and do stuff like this.

But I also have a pretty challenging time goal for this race. I kind of wish I didn’t care about my results (or the prospect of being last–which is slightly less of a concern now that 700 people are registered for the half) so that I could just cruise along the course and enjoy the sights, taking pictures and soaking it all in.

The course is particularly flat and is unquestionably a PB Course, The Marathon will comprise of two loops of the half course, almost 2k of the half, 5k and 10k pass through the tranquil and unspoiled grounds of the Irish National Stud where you will have the unrivalled opportunity to run on the land where thoroughbreds and world class horses have been bred for decades, over 100 years in fact.

I started taking horseback riding lessons in fourth or fifth grade, and we owned a few horses when I was a teenager–Dad and I spent many a Saturday riding around southwest Austin. I haven’t ridden much in recent years, but the big beasts have a special place in my heart. And the race runs through Ireland’s national breeding facility! But … how can I stop for pictures when the clock is ticking?

I came up with something of a solution, though, when I remembered that we have a GoPro camera still in its box, likely the result of some clearance sale a few months ago. Dad and B are running (walking?) the 5K, which also routes through the Irish National Stud grounds, so B is going to take it with him for his race.


It came with four billion attachments–most of which look like medieval torture tools–to secure the thing to your person in a variety of interesting ways. He picked out a few–let’s see how long the telescoping selfie stick survives before I snap that sucker in half–and is going to play around with it over the next few days. I’ve got a couple of SD cards (a 64GB and a 32) but I have no idea if that will be adequate for two weeks. We’ll have a wifi hotspot most of the trip, though, so I need to experiment with uploading the videos to YouTube or somewhere every day in order to free up memory, just to be on the safe side.

The drawback is I don’t have any control over what he records–or its quality–but in the past he’s made some pretty amusing documentary-style videos on our travels. So I am optimistic. Besides, the (way-too-early) forecast shows a decent chance of rain–the GoPro is made for stuff like that. Rain, and teenage boys.

Knowing he’ll be documenting the events will allow me to focus on my race. But I also don’t want to be so hyperfocused on my time that I am oblivious to the scenery, either. Maybe, depending on crowd support, I’ll put my headphones away and distract myself with the view instead. Which in the end is the whole point–whether I get pictures or not, the experience is what really matters.

That, and the hot food voucher.