I had the great fortune to be able to visit Ireland this past week. A rainy, green island full of abandoned medieval castles and sheep-filled hills, Ireland gave us Guinness, the Blarney Stone and U2. My brother spent the past semester “studying” abroad at University College Dublin. I thought I’d bring him some American cheer and surprise him with my parents for Thanksgiving. Great craic (that’s Irish for fun). He didn’t have a clue that I was coming.
While vacations can be educational and adventurous, they are not exactly conducive to training for a half marathon. My days were spent hiking on the Cliffs of Moher, kissing the Blarney Stone and doing pub crawls with the lil bro bro. It’s hard to come all the way to Ireland and be like “Nahhh sorry guys can’t venture to see the home of the Titanic or visit that
second sixth pub because I gotta wake up tomorrow and run seven miles….” Consequently not wanting to get behind on my training schedule, I got pretty creative with my cross-training days (miles of walking through the city/sneaking in squats and lunges on tours) and had one miserable treadmill workout.
From what I can tell there is a general consensus across the running community that treadmills suck. They’re bad for your knees. They have those annoying scrolling red numbers that persistently blink at you to take your heart rate. They’re excruciatingly boring. And I know boring–I’ve done my fair share of swim sets just chasing that black line at the bottom at the pool… But that’s a rant for another time. In summary, treadmills are the worst–unless you’re OkGo. I motivated myself to do one tempo run on the treadmill while in Ireland but haaaaaalllsss no am I doing my long run trapped on a conveyor belt like a hamster for an hour plus. No thank you.
That leaves the next option which is running outdoors…solo…through a foreign country…in a city that I arrived in last night…and setting my alarm to run at some god awful early hour so that we can make our tours for the next day. Alright sign me up. At least the people here speak English…
So I refrained from beer the night before, set my alarm for 7:30am (sun doesn’t rise until 8:15am) and embarked on my run at 7:45am. With no cell-service/wifi, I had Taylor Swift as my only running companion and my memory as my only available map. To add a little fun to my run, I took a page out if the book of Kelly Roberts this girl who instagrammed a pic of a cute guy at every mile during her half marathon. With no way to track my mileage (would it be kilometer-age in metric?) I decided to take a pic every 10 minutes–that quickly turned into whenever I wanted–but here are the results.
Let me take you through a tour of the second largest city in Ireland: Cork, around sunrise in late November.
Minute 0: Auburn B&B.
My Home base. Taken just before I embarked on my journey. I decided to take pictures the night before my run to emulate Kelly and serve as a distraction from the actual running bit. But as I proceeded on my journey through the winding hills of Cork, I realized these pictures might also serve me if I get lost and need Irish locals to help me retrace my steps.
Minute 10: Sweaty Sunrise
Despite being about 45F degrees (that’s about 7C) I was somehow sweating. Half my pictures were blurry because I didn’t realize my body was the culprit until about halfway through. Just call me Amateur Anastasia.
Minute 25: Hedgerows and Brick Wall along N8
Many of the major roads in Ireland are just combinations of letters and numbers. A typical set of directions would be something like “take N1 to A5 to and exit B205.” We’ve yet to get the system figured out (N1 and M1 sound a lot alike) and spend a lot of time driving in circles–literally around roundabouts.
Minute 30: Sunrise over River Lee
Minute 35: Port of Cork
Sunday morning in Cork is a busy time of day. Plenty of dog walkers and other runners jogging along the river bank (why? Because where I started in the neighborhoods it’s damn hilly). I amused myself running along the river by trying to keep pace with the rowers on the water.
Minute 48: Row Houses on Lower Granmire Road
Minute 54: Trinity Presbyterian Church
Minute 60: York St.
I think my entire run was uphill. Honestly every around every corner I found myself going up and never down.
Minute 65: Staircase on St. Patrick’s Hill
I knew I needed to get more mileage in and somehow decided going up this steep hill of stairs was the best way to do it. I may not have moved fast up the hill, but lawd knows I was flying when I came back to a flat stretch.
Minute 68: Cork City Skyline atop St Patrick’s Hill
The stellar view was certainly a great reward for making it up 100+ stairs.
Minute 70: Top of St. Patrick’s Place
Minute 71: Row Houses in Georgian Style
In Ireland, the predominant design is Georgian architecture, built from 1720-1830. So, yeah if you’re doing the math half the houses are older than the US. Georgian homes are typically two rooms deep with large windows on the main floor, and strict room symmetry (the the length, width, and height is all the same height). Many houses are cheerfully painted different colors with brightly painted doors.