I first met Pascal last summer (2015) during the 100 marathons campaign for The Laura Maguire Foundation. Pascal was one of those guys who repeatedly turned up at The Phoenix Park in Dublin to run the four loop 10.25 km course with us.
I’ll remember Pascal’s contribution and that of everyone who came out to support us during that escapade for a long time. I liked Pascal’s other writings so I invited him to write a piece for us and happily he agreed.
And so, it is with pleasure that I introduce you to Pascal Derrien and his first contribution to The Smart Runner blog. He hooked up with Stevey McGeown during his 60 Ultras in 60 Days for Autism earlier this year, check out how it went.
Take it away Pascal!
So here I go, I have become a contributing writer on the Smart Runner. Past the initial moment of excitement, I have started to ask myself if it was very wise from Larry Maguire to make such a move. I can write about rock, personal stuff and other weird stories but me a morale authority on running don’t make laugh!
So let’s get something out of the way first guys;
I confess I am not a great runner, and while we are at it, the same goes for cycling. Yes of course some are thinking hu!? He is a wheeler?
Well I thought it would be fair that I come clean up front. Yes, running is not my exclusive love I have a mistress called cycling she is called Orbea with a beautiful carbon frame she is gorgeous really!
The Plan Of No Plan
But back to running for a moment and hopefully you are still with me after my coming out. I should also add that I don’t do plans and I don’t run with a watch anymore. Bling and t-shirts don’t impress me, and if you speak to me about Strava, Garmin and other nuisances it’s very likely that I’ll switch off.
I get a great deal of pleasure from running, but what I call “running noise” leaves me a bit cold. I am not a member of a club either, and I very remotely (almost loosely) follow some running groups. Some say that’s not very smart if you want to achieve your GOALLLLLLLLLLLLLS.
Plan X with graph Y and measures over three weeks don’t really excite me…. Sorry.
Now that said, it’s not because I run mainly on my own that I am a hermit. I like running and even if I am not really a runner yet I love running events; I read somewhere that road races are a bit like going to a disco for a runner.
Between March and October, I always try to attend one or two events a month anything from 5k or 10K, to half-marathons or more. This year between cycling events, baby duathlons and a few road races, I have built great memories.
But one July event in particular is my personal highlight.
An Epic Adventure
I quite like the Northern Irish runners and a few names spring to mind almost immediately. The marathon legend in his own right Peter Ferris, Eugene ‘’Oggie’’ Winters with his 200 + marathons, and a superhero called Stevey McGeown. Now I don’t do heroes and all the worshiping stuff but it might be fair to say Stevey is a special dude.
I got lucky in the field insofar as I have run with all of them and I have run a fair bit with Stevey (and Larry Maguire) on his 100 Marathons in 100 days campaign. When the word got out he was doing 60 ultras in 60 days this summer I knew that this would be way out of my league this time around.
However I was determined to join in one way or the other.
Stevey’s challenge kicked off in June and I had pencilled two options; one day in Cork that didn’t work out, and one on Day #43. The plan was to join Stevey in Ballybrittas, roughly an hour and a bit from Dublin, and run with him from there to Athenry some 21/22kms further down the road.
It was a weekday so that meant it would be an unsupported event, however I had figured out and verified that my bike could also be part of the adventure and rest nicely in the support crew van while running with Stevey.
The Arsehole Of Nowhere
Ballybrittas is in the arsehole of nowhere really, probably 5 houses altogether , a petrol station, a post office and a pub. For some reason Stevey got delayed. I think the locals were probably about to call the cops as I looked pretty suspicious with my bike and running attire.
Finally, Stevey’s showed up all the way from Portarlington after Mark (his support crew) called me to arrange the meet up 3 hours later than originally agreed.
I let Mark take care of my bike and I found myself on my way to Vicarstown running with your man. Stevey had done 10k by this time and he was already in ultra-mode, so I had to adjust to the pace relatively quickly. Considering I had not done any more than 11k for the previous six months I was not too sure what to expect.
The previous month I had done Galway to Dublin on the bike so I was in good shape fitness wise. But running beyond an hour was unknown territory so far in 2016.
I know Stevey relatively well so we picked the conversation where we left it off almost a year prior in Gosford Park Armagh. I ran the full marathon on that final day of the 100 Marathon campaign and I remember it was savagely hard.
“Any day that you don’t have to drink your own urine to survive is a good day” – Aron Ralston.
Good Conversation Makes Miles Fly By
It is always easy to speak with other runners, you can have very intimate discussions. We spoke about kids, society, life, universe and Aron Ralston. (The guy who cut off his own forearm in order to survive a freak climbing accident in The Grand Canyon).
We also touched on the obstacles and challenges Stevey faced in the early days of the challenge. It was only the two of us for miles and we drummed up a great conversation, even though we got soaked a few times in the process.
I picked up a few tips from Stevey on running on open roads. For example; stick your arm out and wave at approaching cars. This prompts the driver to build some distance between you when overtaking.
We also changed over the road a few times to avoid running the same camber too often. (More applicable to Stevey than me imagine 60 consecutive days).
I was feeling good but quickly realized that I had picked one of Stevey’s fastest day of the challenge. So I had to dig deep to stay with him. Athenry finally in sight, I realised that we had stopped chatting for the last few kilometers.
I told Stevey I’d stop in Athenry and he quickly organized a video of the two of us while running. I did my best with my divergent accent and sweaty betty look to articulate something coherent (not always a success).
The Medal Presentation
Smiling like a dumb donkey, I got a friendship medal and briefly shook hands with Stevey all while still running. Mark stopped, unloaded my bike. Then came the journey back to BallyBrittas. I changed my top, put my helmet and cycling gloves and on I went.
My muscles welcomed the change but I must admit I was sore. The wind was low and the ride went fine for about 20k until I missed my turnoff. At that very point, it started to piss rain and I realised I was lost.
I reached a junction and asked myself, “where do I go from here?”
Luckily I met a car on the road, so putting my pride in the back pocket, I asked for directions. I am normally good with directions but more than 3 hours of efforts were taking a toll on my brain.
I finally reached Ballybrittas, shoved the bike in the car, had a bite to eat and reflected on the day. I could not help smiling thinking about the discussion we had earlier with a particular emphasis on Aron Ralston.
Let’s say your Garmin doesn’t work, you missed a PB, or you are injured and plagued with why me questions. Maybe you got the wrong size T shirt, or you don’t like the wave you have been allocated…. Maybe spare a thought for Aron Ralston
“You think you’re having a bad day? Maybe you are or maybe you’re not. Any day that you don’t have to drink your own urine to survive is a good day” – Aron Ralston.
Keep er Lit folks!
We’re always open to writers who wish to contribute to The Smart Runner blog. No matter what level of running you happen to be at, we value your unique perspective. To find out what we’re looking for and make a submission to the “Stories” section check out the writing guidelines.