Fitter, lighter, better prepared than ever before. This is where I make my mark on the marathoning world!
A normal early morning start for the marathon begins with a decent breakfast of porridge, bagel, coffee and oj. Bags packed the night before, numbers pinned on the shirt and gear ready to go. I make the decision to drive in, there’ll be no traffic & I should get a spot close to the start. I do, about 100yds away in fact. All going good so far.
8am, its beginning to rain & the wind is picking up. Rain I can handle, in fact I quite like running distance in the rain but the wind is a different matter. Wind changes the whole mechanics of a run, your effort is seriously affected when the wind blows and I begin to get nervous. But there is nothing I can do about it, man up and get on with things.
Into the corral I go. I’m lining up with a record Dublin Marathon field of over 15,000 runners. Wave 3, 9:20am start and beside the 4:20 pacing group. That should be well within my abilities. A 4hr20 marathon means a 6:09/KM pace; I’ve trained for at least a 6/km easy pace. Everything should be fine.
National Anthem, the first 2 waves go off and we start bang on time. The support at the start is muted compared to previous years, normally Fitzwilliam square is thronged but it seems strangely quiet, maybe the rain is keeping people away. But I shouldn’t have worried, turn on to Leeson St and the crowd appears, thousands of people and they’re banging, shouting, clapping and cheering. This is brilliant, Dublin Marathon is world famous for the super crowds and 2015 isn’t going to disappoint. I’m sticking with the pacers. Thats the one thing going through my mind.
The first few kilometres go well but I’ve pulled ahead of the pacers a little, maybe 30seconds or so but no worries, I feel good and they’re just behind me – stick to this pace but no faster – you don’t want to burn the energy too quickly. Theres a new start to the marathon this year and we weave through the city centre, a few hills but nothing to stress me too much. I’m feeling OK, but my legs are a little funny, not full of energy but its probably just nerves. Past St.Patricks Cathedral, past Christchurch Cathedral and down a huge hill. Its slippy with the rain and leaves, step carefully.
Over the river Liffey and up past Blackhall place, a long drag uphill here and I’m just not feeling right. Into the Phoenix park and my mind begins to wander. There is someone dressed as a Rhino outside Dublin Zoo, a lad in front of me sees family and stops for a kiss. I can’t stop, I know if I do it’ll be very difficult to get going again, I’m beginning to feel ill and all I want to do is quit. Chesterfield avenue in the Phoenix park is long, windy and boring. I’m right on pace, remaining in front of the 4:20 group. I’m losing concentration & trying to work out where the best place to hail a taxi might be. I stop but immediately I’m encouraged by someone who follows me on twitter, he looks strong. I start up again.
About 100m before we leave the park I stop again. This time I move to the side & up onto the grass. Hands on knees, my race seems over. Less than 10k into the 2015 marathon Ive given up. ‘Get back in there’ I say to myself, ‘You’ve only just started’ – the 4:20 group I was ahead of have just passed and I get back into the crowd. Tuck in and I’m pulled along by the hundreds of runners alongside me. I take my first energy gel of the day and I immediately feel better. We head into Castleknock and I remember that the crowd here last year was the best on the course. They stand really tight together and it feels like running some kind of gauntlet. Its the same, I spot another ‘twitterer’ who catches my eye, I don’t know if its on purpose but there was a nod of recognition and silent encouragement. I’m back, feeling good and right in the pack again.
The pace is fine and legs feel good as we wind along outside the Phoenix park and back in again. I know theres a water station up ahead, and after that, the first real test of a hill. Another familiar face at the water station, its Marc from Operation Transformation 2014 – he’s handing out Lucozade so I skip it, too sweet for me & I’m not used to it, take some water, keeping hydrated is really important.
The hill arrives and I think its a monster, most people dont mind because its early in the marathon but a hill is a hill and I don’t like them! The pacers plough on. Shorten the stride, bend the elbows, swing the arms. use the momentum to help me along. Up at the top, I’m tired but hugging the pacers shoulder like we’re on a date. I’m not moving for anyone and I think it is beginning to annoy a couple of others around me. Maybe its like drafting in cycling? Maybe I should take the front for a while and lead the group? Nope, if we hit the wind I’m tucking in tighter than a toddler thats had a nightmare. Let the pacers do the work.
I’m not familiar with the area but I have a general idea of where we are, Kilmainham I think. More hills, but gentle this time., Gentle still needs effort but I’m sticking with the group. I definitely feel tired but I’m not slacking now. ‘The mind gives up before the legs‘, keep that in the head, over and over ‘the mind gives up before the legs‘. We work our way through the crowds waving signs, clapping little plastic ‘Airtricity’ branded clappers, and shouting. Ive my name on my shirt, there is nothing better than someone calling your name, it makes a massive difference and every shout is like a family member carrying you along. I wonder if the crowd know how much their support helps, I try to thank them whenever I hear my name. I hope they heard me.
The scenery is becoming more familiar now and we’re heading towards Walkinstown. From there its a long long drag up to Crumlin Childrens Hospital. If someone could hate a road, then I hate this one. It is long, windy and you’re sharing the road with traffic. In my first marathon this was where I first started walking, that was half way in 2012, but now were about 15 miles I think. I try to remember the distances but I give up. Getting closer to my family & friends.
Up to Fortified Rd and looking out for people who I know should be around here. Sticking on the pacers shoulder. He’s gliding along like its a training run, it probably is a training run for him. I wonder if I could be a pacer next year? Maybe for the 5hr group, I’ll look that up afterwards. Turn at Terenure College and run alongside Bushy Park. Lots of shouts, cheers and support. Lots of name calling and you run in your own little bubble. Every shout & cheer brings me a step or two closer to the finish. There is a family with a sign stuck on a board. I think it read ‘Terenure Jellies’ or something similar. They had gone to the trouble of packing a handful of jellies into small bags and are handing them to nearly every runner that passes. Its brilliant, they didn’t have to do it but they did & I remember them from last year too. Thats why Dublin is the friendly marathon.
Through Terenure and more familiar faces, whether you know the people or not they all want you to succeed each one willing you to keep going. Legs still feeling good, I’m bang on pace with the 4:20 group, tired but still surprisingly strong. Id worked hard in the gym this summer and its beginning to pay off. Another water station, another gel and I know that Maureen and the kids are only a mile away. Over the ramps on Orwell Rd and over the 3ok timing mat. Bang on time. Maureen will be checking the tracking app and I know she’s just around the corner. Will the app update before I see her? I don’t know. Move to the other side of the road to make sure they see me. There they are…
Do I stop & hug or wave & keep going? I’m getting very tired now and if I stop I really do fear that I won’t keep going. The kids look drowned, I can see the signs they made, Maureen looks like she’s about to cry and Id say I probably look the same way. I decide to keep plugging away and go for a high five with the kids. Keep saying it, the mind gives up before the legs.
Under the aquaduct in Milltown & the crowd narrows. If you’re looking up & catch the eye of someone on the sidelines you will nearly always get a shout out. When it happens, you want to look strong & tall but I’m feeling my head dropping and the legs were getting very heavy. We were just at 20miles and this is where the real race starts.
Turn on to Clonskeagh Rd and the 4:20 group pass me by, I try to pick up the pace but there is nothing there. My pace has slowed considerably and my head drops. No, this can’t be happening, I’m not giving up. What can I do. The 4:20 group heads into the distance. I’m not giving up. Run/walk. You’re going to finish this race – Goal A of a 4:20 finish has gone. Goal B to break 4:30 (and still a PB) may still be on.
I try to work out the pace / times / distance and I can’t. I’m tired. Goal C is to finish, Ive never not finished a race I’ve started. Stop being negative, head up, chest out and keep going. One foot in front of the other. Run/walk – wait till the pace drops to a certain point and then pick it back up again. When I run I’m actually not doing that bad. The head gives up before the legs. One more hill at Roebuck and its practically downhill from there. Plan C, just finish; that’ll be 4 marathons, not many people have finished 4 marathons.
Up to UCD and there is about 3Miles to go. I’m looking for Danny, my coach. He said he’d be at UCD but I can’t see him. Run/walk. Keep the legs moving, keep the pace up wherever possible. Over the flyover and there is Danny, damn, Ive been caught walking. Lift the legs and he shouts something about being strong. Only about 2 miles to go and you know what? I think I can still make the 4:30 target. 2miles to go and I’ve only been out for just over 4hrs. Surely I can make that.
Turn for home at the Merrion shopping centre and its a straight run to the finish – keep going, you can do this. My mind is working overtime now to try to figure things out, I don’t know how far I’ve left to run, I don’t know what time I’ve got but the main aim is to keep running. Past the RDS and I think theres about 1mile left. I hear someone remark about how everyone looks in such pain, she’s not wrong! I’m tired but I’m passing people who are walking on either side of me. Sorry folks, but thats the best motivation ever. I look to try to pick people off and I feel like I’m sprinting. Theres the finish – 800meters to go.
Barriers, bunting, flags, signs. Crowds 3 and 4 deep on either side and they’re as loud as I’ve ever heard in a race. I move to the side of the road to try to feed off their energy, look them in the eyes, hope they call my name. I nearly trip on a barrier leg but I’m still running, 300m to go.
The road narrows and I can see the clock, 4:29 and change is showing. Can I make it? I don’t know, but I’ll be damned if I finish this marathon with any regrets. The legs feel like they’re going to buckle and I can feel myself welling up with tears. Leave nothing out there, no regrets. 100m to go.
I’m on the carpet, the clock has moved to 4:30 but I started a few seconds after the gun so its still on. One last push. Remember to smile, look up, too many finish photos are of people looking at their watch as they cross the finish. Someone calls my name, its the announcer. Ive done it, I’ve finished.
The clock says 4:29.33.
Garmin data HERE