Céide Coast Half Marathon and 10k – “THE LAST OF ITS TYPE”

September 05, 2023

Ballycastle AC host the final Céide Coast Half Marathon and 10k races on Saturday September 23rd, ending one of the most scenic annual events in the Irish Athletics calendar.

Speaking to Michael of the Ballycastle AC in North Mayo, there was immense pride and emotion in his voice as he encouraged everyone to make the trip to the village of Ballycastle for the final race of its kind.

The race itself is taking place in September for the first time, having traditionally been held at the beginning of October, with the half marathon beginning at 12 o’clock from the stunning Céide Fields and the 10k race starting 20 minutes later from the same point.

On the morning of the races, everybody meets in the community hall in Ballycastle village, where a bus then picks up the participants and drops them out to the starting line.

The half marathon begins with a downhill run which “fools a lot of people”, Michael remarks, before the coastal route takes you past the beautiful Downpatrick headland where “the views are phenomenal!”

When the runners turn past Downpatrick Head, they are nine miles in, and they begin to turn back on themselves. They then encounter this “sponge effect” where, for 50 metres or so, it is a grassy, gravelly surface where you must watch your step, but the “bright green colours” make it all the easier and more attractive.

The route then descends down around the famous ‘Pul Na Sean Tinne’ blowhole, before exiting and heading for Ballycastle village.

The surface is described as “quite level” until approximately one mile out from the village itself where there’s a slow incline, before then levelling out somewhat and finishing in the village of Ballycastle.

This year the 10k route has been altered as the organisers have decided that the runners will avoid the so-called ‘Dreaded Hill’ and will instead take a left turn and head downhill for 600-800 metres before taking a right.

There is then a sharp incline over 200 metres and then it levels off until your last 1k where you meet the Half-Marathoners.

Both races then finish together as there has been a change to the end of the race. In the past there had been a famously steep hill in Ballycastle Village for the finish, whereas now it’s a different, not as steep, hill finish. Michael jokingly remarks, “Over the years people have suffered long enough, so it’s time to reduce it!”

When chatting about the two races finishing together, Michael comments that “it gives a lot of people encouragement” and that last push to get over the line, before playfully mentioning that “if you're fortunate, you might meet one of your comrades who had thought that they were better than you by doing the half, but you get the last smile!”

The record for the Céide Coast Half Marathon stands at 1 hour 20 minutes, and the 10k record is set at 37 minutes.

Despite the Dublin Half Marathon being on the same day, Michael tells Run Republic that there is roughly 50 people from Dublin making the trip across the country for the Ceide Coast races.

As well as that, runners from clubs a close as Sligo, Westport, and Ballina to as far away as East Cork often make the journey for the race and with this being the final one for the foreseeable future, hopefully many of those make that journey once more.

Approximately 350 people have already signed up and Michael mentions that “it's actually probably 48% to 52% in favour of the 10k”.

There was a bittersweet backdrop to our conversation as Michael’s love for this race over the years and his disappointment at this being the last instalment of the Céide Coast Half Marathon and 10k races was evident. “I am sad to see it go you know, I really am because I think it was up there with the best of them, even though we weren't getting the numbers. Whatever we did, we did right. We presented a good model, and it was exemplary”.

With this being “the last of its type”, Michael urged runners of all skills and none to sign up and travel to North Mayo to experience “the finest place you will find anywhere in Ireland”.

There will be special medals and t-shirts designed for all who take part as well as prizes for the winners, but the scenery alone is a trophy in itself. “Come down and realize what actually is in North Mayo, the scenery would blow people’s minds!”

You can enter the Ceide Coast Half Marathon and 10K by clicking HERE

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