Last bank holiday weekend a few friends and I did a trip to Cork to run the #CorkCityMarathon. It had been more than one year since I had been in Cork and that was a perfect excuse to head to the Rebel County. At the same event there was a full marathon, a half marathon and relays. We went for the half, as it was our first time. The atmosphere was nice, it was not too crowded and you wouldn’t have the feeling that it was an ultracompetitive environment, as it was a rather small event compared to marathons organised in bigger cities. There was a good variety of people, nationalities and ages. There was even a fireman of the Cork brigade with the aim to break the marathon world record in the full official fireman outfit! You can see him in the picture below.
Cork is the second city of Ireland and the county town of the biggest county in the island. It is a small and cosy city, especially compared to Dublin, a much bigger capital.
Before moving to Dublin, I was used to hearing not precisely loving comments from Corkonians about Dubs. I thought that that would be a general attitude of other parts of Ireland towards the capital. However, once in Dublin, I was very surprised to learn that Corkonians were also regarded by the rest of the Irish as somehow arrogant or ‘special’. There are a few reasons for that: Corkonians are very proud to belong to the ‘Rebel County’. Their GAA teams are cheered with ‘Up the Rebels!’ and they consider themselves ‘The True Capital of Ireland’. Obviously, this rivalry, mainly between Cork and Dublin, is a healthy one as in any other normal country. However, I have to say that when I moved to Dublin I had my prejudices towards the people from ‘The Pale‘ after a few years of Corkonian nationalist propaganda. The video below is a promotional ad produced last summer by RTÉ for the GAA match between Dublin and Cork. It is a quite clever and funny way of showing the ‘clash of cultures’ between the two cities.
But rather than to do a contrastive sociological or politologist study, the reason that brought us to Cork was to run a half marathon: our first half marathon. Although I hadn’t had the best preparation (I had recently been in a wedding in Spain for a few days, with the high doses of food and drink implied), we managed to finish it at a decent time. During the run, the people were very cheerful and helpful, there were a lot of water points and local neighbours gave us oranges and jellies. That was really helpful, especially in the last 5 km, when the muscles were becoming stiffer and stiffer and energies were fading away. We managed to finish and at a quite good time for being our first time. We of course celebrated with good Irish beef and a pint of Beamish stout, what else?
As I was saying, Cork is a small but friendly city, and a good place to work or to study as there are multinationals (Amazon, Apple, McAffee, Dell, etc.) and an important university like University College Cork (UCC). The day before the race we went for a walk around UCC. When I lived in Clonakilty, I went every second Friday to UCC to the seminars organised by the Hispanics Department. After each seminar we had some red wine and Spanish cheese in the department. It was a good way to get to know the teachers and researchers there. In UCC you can learn Catalan, as there is a Catalan Studies lecturer and a Galician Studies Center. The campus is very nice, it has an old part ‘Harry Potter-wise’ and more modern facilities, like a museum of modern art in the campus.
Afterwards, we had brunch in Triskel Arts Center. This is one of my favourite spots in Cork. It is an old church converted into a concerts, exhibitions and cinema venue. There is also a funky records shop upstairs and a nice cafeteria to have brunch, lunch or a beer while reading a book or chatting with friends.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t show my friends The English Market, as it was closed on Sunday. Ironies of life, The English Market is the only indoors food market in Cork and probably in Ireland, as far as I know. They have very fresh products at a decent price. It would be very similar to any normal Spanish market, with fish stalls, meat stalls, fruit and vegetables, etc. We Spanish people would be very used to this kind of market, as we have one in each neighbourhood (more than 40 just in Barcelona city! – being the most popular for tourists La Boqueria in La Rambla), but in Ireland a market of this kind is a unique place and a tourist destination. For instance, when the Queen of England visited Ireland in 2011 (a hugely symbolic event, as she was the first British monarch to visit the country in 100 years!) she visited the English Market.
After that, as semi-professional athletes that we are, we headed towards a pub to complete the last details of the training preparation: pints-lifting. We went to The Crane Lane, a must-visit pub with a concert venue. My friend Isaac, the only poet rugbyman in the village, joined us there. It was nice to see him as it had been more than a year since I had last seen him. That’s the problem with rugbymen poets, that they are all the time playing rugby or doing Poetry World Tours. Hopefully he leaves for a few days the True Capital of Ireland and pays us a visit in the Administrative Capital of Ireland.
Afterwards, Noel the Galwegian, former team mate in Clonakilty pub running competitions, joined us to continue the pints-lifting session in a funky craft beers pub of the Northside (Southsiders of Dublin, don’t be scared, I’m talking about the Northside of Cork). Noel is exactly the opposite of Isaac: he really looks like a rugbyman and he even borrowed Gordon D’Arcy’s beard. However, the only rugby activity he does is running the wing to the bar at a frenetic rhythm.
Around midnight we decided that our muscles were properly toned, we finished the last exercises and went to hit the leabah, also known as to go to bed.
At 8 bells, I pulled the curtains to see that the light of the new day had come. We rose and shone, ate copious amounts of bananas, water, and some sugar, just in case. The moment had come and we, well, we… “We” were 5 going to Cork and “we” ended up just Sascha and I running the half. But in all fairness, like, to be honest, like, the rest hadn’t planned to run it. Vedran was more interested in taking pictures, deconstructing, constructing them again and uploading them in Google +, and Blagoj joined us for around half of the half marathon. Dimitri was sleeping. He got injured in the pints-lifting exercises.
I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish it. If one month before I was pretty confident that I would make it, as I had run a couple of times 15 km, the last month I had done a very poor to almost non-existing training. I hadn’t done anything the week before and I had been 10 days on holidays just running only twice and less than 8 km and eating a lot. From the beginning I could feel I wasn’t very fresh, but I knew that if I paced myself and reached the 10-11 km feeling more or less ok, I would trespass the psychological barrier and it would be then just a count down, as long as I didn’t speed up and kept myself properly hydrated.
That’s more or less how it went: my muscles were very stiff and the last 5 km were quite hard, especially the last 2-3. The km/miles signs were very bad, as they were in miles (the official measures changed years ago to km), but sometimes in km, and in the last 2-3 km there weren’t signs saying if there was 1, 2 or 3 km left, so I didn’t know if I could speed up or not, and when I speeded up I realised I had to stopped as there was still 1 more km to go. Anyway, the important thing is that we crossed the finish line and walked a bit before sitting down. That was the moment where I felt very tired and disorientated, but after eating a few bananas and Oreos that the organisation provided, I felt better and we walked towards the hotel.
Overall, it was a really good experience: it was nice to be back in Cork and to be able run and finish my first half marathon. I think that my next goal will be the #ClontarfHalfMarathon in 3 weeks and I am considering giving a try to the full #DublinMarathon the 27th of October. Anyone interested in joining me?
PS. To finish I leave you this video of Rory Gallagher. Following the ‘clash of cultures’, if Dublin has Thin Lizzy, Cork has Rory Gallagher. Although he was born in Donegal, he was raised in Cork and lived all his life there. Someone told me that once a journalist asked Jimmy Hendrix how did it feel to be the best guitar player ever. He answered that he should ask that to Rory Gallagher.