“YOU WON! YOU’RE GOING TO IRELAND!”
Most people’s reaction to hearing this would be joy, excitement, or disbelief, right? Mine? Questions! Who am I running with? How far will I be running? Did I really “win” or are there a bunch of other things I need to do to “officially” win? And lastly… where exactly IS Kinvara!?
Obviously I found out! So let me explain what the Race to Kinvara is and just how I won the trip. During the month of April, Saucony holds a competition amongst running specialty stores around the world. Every time you sell Saucony shoes you get entered to run in the Race to Kinvara, along with 69 other lucky winners. Starting in Dublin and ending in Kinvara, the Saucony Race to Kinvara is a two day running event that brings runners through the picturesque landscape of Ireland. The trip is 100% expense paid, thanks to Saucony, and the goal is to be completely immersed in the “Run of a Lifetime”.
10 Teams. 7 Runners per Team. 2 Days. 200K Relay Race.
Race Day 1: Dublin > Kilkenny
My team chose me to start the race. Lucky me! Typically I am very nervous for races, so much so that I tend to just avoid racing in general. But this race morning was different; I was consumed by pure excitement, despite being jet lagged. I slept great the night before, had a wonderful breakfast with my team, and was more than thrilled to line up on the starting line.
Stage one consisted of 4.67 miles of rolling hills. I considered the hills an advantage considering how many of them I have trained with in Tennessee! The pain in my legs felt real, but the beautiful country side I was surrounded by quickly made it all worth it. The miles floated by and before I knew it I had passed off the baton (a snap bracelet in this case) to my teammate. Shortly after finishing, I jumped on our private pacer bus and set off to meet our runner at the next transition.
Stage 9 (of 14 total for the day) rolled around and it was my turn to run again. By this time it had started to sprinkle, after all it wouldn’t be Ireland without some rain! My 5.2 mile stage consisted mostly of tall grass on uneven trail, not my ideal running terrain! Regardless, the route followed along the river and delivered more beautiful scenery.
Race day 1 ended at Loughlins Pub. We were greeted with fresh Guinness, Irish food, and massages. I was beginning to feel like I belonged in Ireland. This was a day I could relive a million times!
Race Day 2: Kilkenny > Kinvara
Today consisted of 8 stages – I was overjoyed to run the longer stage of the options, 7.42 miles along the coast of the North Atlantic. I knew this would be my last run in Ireland, so I made it count.
Shortly after starting the stage, I was overcome with emotion. I was surrounded by the most beautiful scenery I had ever witnessed. I couldn’t believe I was experiencing Ireland doing what I loved – Running. I realized there was a good chance this run would stay at the top of my list of most memorable runs, (and I’m only 25!), so I soaked in every stride. For a moment I actually thought about writing this blog during that run – How would I attempt to relay in words what I was experiencing? I now know the answer, there wouldn’t be a way.
Along the way, strangers pulled over to take photos of me running, I ran through puddles that well submerged my shoes, and I hardly felt out of breath even though I finished in 52:40min (7:05/mi). I guess that puts it in perspective how much I was enjoying myself!
We finished the last 1,000 meters of the Race to Kinvara as a team, sharing high fives along the way and keeping the memories we had just made for a lifetime.
The Saucony Race to Kinvara was truly the Race of a Lifetime. I am forever grateful for the opportunity (thank you Saucony!) and for the gift of running (thank you God!). As I told a group of high school cross country athletes upon returning from my trip, your legs will take you to some amazing places, so
Don’t. Stop. Running.
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