To be honest, if someone had told me I’d run my entire post-collegiate career without a win in any professional race, I’d have probably been totally content. It would have been totally reasonable to think I could have had a long, fulfilling, and successful career without ever breaking the tape in a competitive field.
That’s why I’m so ecstatic about my win in Letterkenny, my first international track race, and my debut on the international pro circuit. While only a one second PR, for 8:36 in the steeplechase, I felt as good as I’ve felt going those seven-and-a-half laps over the barriers, and I closed probably better than I had in any steeplechase at that pace. Coming off the last waterjump, I had a feeling the race was mine: I remember thinking, if anyone else felt as good as I did, they’d have gone by now. Fortunately, they didn’t, and I was able to bring home the W. Of course, as I remarked earlier, I may never get another one, so I celebrated accordingly, to the point where the local paper remarked not only that I’d won the race, but also that I’d celebrated in style. You can catch glimpses of it at the end of the race video, linked here.
I was also happy to see my good friends Aaron Nelson (my mane [flow] brother) and Brandon Doughty (my main brother) come in second and third, respectively, with 8:37 PRs of their own. We’re undoubtedly a group with a lot more in the tank to show out next year, as well, so keep an eye on the #Zaplads as well as your favorite Ocean State Boys!
The rest of the next few days have been nothing short of epic as well. After a wild night in the bars of Letterkenny with fellow anime aficionado Elliot Slade— thanks for having friends who have friends mate it almost worked out great for the both of us— and some awesome Hillbilly Fried Chicken with the Zap Lads, Slade, Will Gray, and Brian Schrader (shouts out), I ended up with somewhere between 2-4 hours of mediocre sleep before heading out for my morning run.
Unfortunately, due to some combination of the hours of dancing and a few awkward water pits the day before, I twisted my ankle a bit in the morning run, and limped mostly through the rest of the day. Of course, instead of resting it like a rational person, I hopped in a car with the Mayo man himself, Hugh Armstrong, who’d driven over from Knockmore to watch Julian and I run, and we headed to Ennis to watch the Mayo GAA match against Clare, where county Mayo came out victorious in the single-elimination match for their Gaelic Football livelihood.
The match exceeded all expectations: Mayo fans travel so well and bring the same unbridled passion for the sport I’d previously only seen from Hugh that while the match was held in Ennis, on Clare’s home field, it felt like watching a Mayo home game, as chants of “Mayo! Mayo!” drowned dissonant Clare county voices during the Red and Green’s furious second-half comeback. Beyond that, even to uninitiated observers such as Julian and myself (though thanks to Hugh and his family’s Mayo kits we looked the part as much as anyone else… well, as much as I can look the part of an Irishman anyway) GAA football is incredibly intense, a sport with no stoppages played at breakneck speed whose excitement is only amplified by the fact that all of its players have day jobs— you might watch a man play in front of 20,000 on Saturday and buy shoes from him the next week.
After the match, we went back to Hugh’s. I skipped my afternoon run that day on account of my ankle, but after some ibuprofen and ice (read: bag of frozen peas) and loads of sleep, I’m rested and back to normal.
Our next competition is July 15 at Le Cheile International, where Julian and I will run the 3k, and we will follow that with Cork City Sports on the 18th. A full summer racing schedule can be found here. Talk to you soon!