It is a long way to Athlone, not as long as the way to Tipperary, but still devilishly long. I experienced just how long it is this weekend when I travelled down to this midland town on Friday. Saturday's reverse trip seemed even longer! The causa causans of this vehicular marathon was the All Ireland Masters Indoors Athletics Championships.
This is the second year that this meet has been held in the new indoor facility at the Athlone Institute of Technology, but this was my first visitation. Until two years ago the event was held in Nenagh at what was laughingly called the Irish National Indoor Athletics Arena. It was in reality and still is, (no one has knocked it down yet), nothing more than a glorified cattle shed with concrete walls topped with corrugated metal sheeting and with a corrugated metal sheeting roof. If it was forty degrees farenheight outside it was five degrees colder inside. The only insulation in that structure, (I won't honour it with the title of building), was provided by the clothing of those individuals who ventured into its cold room interior. As for heating well that was and I suspect still is provided by a few wall mounted heaters which were totally inadequate to the task.
Athlone's indoor track is a huge improvement. Modern, well lit, spacious, warm, and with proper changing facilities and an indoor warm up area on what could be described as a mezzanine floor or balcony. The layout is very similar to that at Lee Valley.
It was very pleasant to run indoors yesterday and avoid the cold, the wind and the rain. A couple of laps around the Athlone track might persuade some of those who slip and slide their way through cross country races that a few targeted indoor races might be a preferable way to achieve some competitive racing over the winter months!