I find that there is nothing better than a good long road trip at this time of year to clear the head; and to find some time, too, for a little bit of quiet reflection at year's end.
Last weekend's trip to the Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon was just the tonic I needed to help recharge the batteries.
The marathon has earned a reputation for its wonderful hospitality and the welcome I experienced will stay with me for a long time.
I would be quick to give the Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon another title: 'The event with the Warm Embrace.' The splendidly organised race has three events wrapped together -- a 10k, half-marathon and full marathon -- each along scenic race routes.
Race director Bob Hilliard is a man who seems to be in perpetual motion -- a human dynamo who you feel generates enough energy to light up the whole town. He has a very good ally in his wife, Maria, a native of Sweden.
Along with a brilliant organising committee and an army of volunteers, Bob and Maria have managed to deliver something that I feel is pretty unique in Irish road running. The traditional and famous Clonakilty black and white pudding for all finishers adds to the event's charm.
I now understand why Shane McCarville from Newbliss in Co Monaghan says that coming to run in Clonakilty feels like 'coming home'.
Shane was completing his 69th marathon in this calendar year and he will attempt one more before hanging up his running shoes for 2013.
The 33-year-old has dedicated all his marathons this year to the memory of his father, Pat McCarville, who died 10 years ago, and in Clonakilty he was cheered home by his biggest supporter, his mother Rosemary. After a rest, Shane wants to focus on breaking three hours for a marathon in 2014 -- something he is well capable of achieving.
"It's the special atmosphere and the extraordinary welcome that I receive here in Clonakilty that keeps me coming back," Shane told me. His sentiments were echoed by many participants I met over the weekend.
Late on Saturday, race winner Gary O'Hanlon endorsed everything he feels is great about the event while holding court in the local hotel.
The marathon is an event that brings unique characters like O'Hanlon, McCarville and a host of other kindred spirits together; people with great stories to tell -- ordinary folk achieving extraordinary things through their running.
O'Hanlon was an international-class athlete in the making until his life was shattered by a near-fatal road accident while out for a training run back in 1992. An athletics career that had seen O'Hanlon break middle-distance schools records looked finished.
Instead of taking up the expected offer of an athletic scholarship at Iona College in the US, the 17-year-old from Kilkerley, near Dundalk, faced years of reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation.
His 20s passed in a blur but, in 2004, O'Hanlon took his first tentative strides back to the sport he loved and in 2011, aged 36, he ran 2:26.30 in the Dublin Marathon, before finishing third the following year in the National Senior Cross-Country Championships.
Since then, O'Hanlon's star has continued to rise and it seems this year as if he is fast making up for time he lost. His victory in Clonakilty was his sixth marathon win of 2013.
On Saturday night, O'Hanlon sat talking in the Emmet Hotel to another former Clonakilty marathon winner, Keith Whyte from Ennis, who is just coming back to running after being injured in a car crash earlier in the year.
In between them sat race director Hilliard, a man who knows better than most how to appreciate runners of such a calibre. It was a night of great banter and a few songs were sung too. I can well understand why McCarville and O'Hanlon look on Clonakilty as a home away from home.