Well while it’s still fresh, time to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) for my 4th marathon experience.
This would be my 2nd marathon attempt this year having had a bit of a nightmare in Rotterdam a few months ago in April. After joining Leevale I had a good summer of training and racing behind me with a recent half of 75:40 suggesting I could run in the low 2:40’s on a good day. The target was flexible but sub 2:45 would have been satisfactory.
Couldn’t really have done anything much different in terms of preparation. I had a good taper (if anything I might look at shortening this in the future), a flexible target in my mind and was much more prepared for all eventualities than last time. I arrived in Dublin the evening before, got the number and headed out for a bite to eat with a clubmate. I took on slightly more carbs than usual the day before but on the whole stuck to my typical diet all week which is not heavy on carbs and I planned on heading out on empty just like I had done in my long runs. I was pretty relaxed the night before, I looked over the training log and asserted myself I’d done the hard work. I got to bed by 12am and had a good sleep so no complaints about preparation.
I woke up at 7am and met up with clubmate Darragh for a light jog at 7:15am, a nice 20 mins stroll around Ballsbridge and it was pretty evident it was going to be a breezy day yet very mild out also. We got back to the hotel where I had an espresso and got changed into my gear. I threw a sachet of dioralyte salts into my pocket and that was all I planned on taking during the race. We walked down to the line as I ate a banana and the atmosphere was really building. I was nice and relaxed and we made our way to the start line early, getting there 15 minutes before the start. I threw my long sleeve top off a few minutes before the start and then bang! DCM is suddenly underway.
The first few miles felt nice and easy and we stuck well to our plan of taking it out conservatively. There was as always loads of runners around who should have been further back but congestion was very manageable. I saw a friend Anthony rounding the first corner and gave him a shout so he tucked in with myself and Darragh for the first few miles, we were nice and relaxed and able to have a chat. A lot of people flew out of the traps, must have been well over 200 places back but my coach had drilled it into me to start out nice and easy and that patience would be key. The first 3 miles were sheltered, flat and pretty comfortable and was feeling like I might have a good day. We headed by Heuston and into the Phoenix park just after 3 miles. While pace slowed, we kept the effort nice and consistent and I felt I managed this section quite well. It was important to back off a bit here being so early on in the race and knowing there were more drags to come. I first started to realise that the wind was going to play a significant role today with the crosswind almost sending my bib number flying a few times.
Anthony had dropped just behind myself and Darragh and another runner from Carrig-on-Shannon joined us as we pushed through the last couple of miles into Castleknock. We had a nice momentum and kicked on in the downhill and I felt really good here opening up the legs and taking a nice breather. Back into the park where we kept the pace going and out into Chapelizod where I got some great support from the Donore water stand. I made sure to take water at every station and this made a huge difference today. We crossed Chapelizod bridge but I noticed Darragh had dropped a little behind me. I fell back to see if he was ok but he was complaining of stomach issues and didn’t look the best. He backed off and sadly that was the beginning of the end of his race as he pulled out shortly after. I found myself alone on the drag up to Kilmainham hitting 10 miles and feeling very strong and in control. I was soaking up all the amazing support up until now, it was actually unreal at times (particularly Castleknock) and sent shivers through my spine, Dublin take a bow son. I had a couple of mates cycling around the course who made a few appearances throughout and it was again a huge confidence booster, it all adds up on the day.
I had good momentum coming into Kilmainham and keeping the effort and pace consistent. I kept a keen eye on my HR all day making sure it never drifted too far especially on drags and windy areas. I was pretty much solo with no group in sight to latch onto. I took my dioralyte sachet at a water station around 11 miles in and this time I actually got it into my mouth, not the ground. At this stage I had passed and was continuing to pass a few people and confidence was high, a lot of people seemed to already be paying for perhaps hitting the drag in the Phoenix park too hard. I turned onto the Crumlin road and while I knew it was going to be a difficult drag, I had no idea how bad the wind would be here. I hit half way in 1:22:3x, a minute or so off the target but I felt like I had ran that half sensibly and had plenty more to give, the hope was to kick on and put in a good negative split for the 2nd half. However, once I went through the halfway mark, I knew a few minutes were about to be lost. The wind was right in your face and combined with the drag, it didn’t make pretty reading for the splits. This is where I resigned myself to the fact a sub 2:45 probably wasn’t on the cards and a low 2:40 was out of the question. I had to realign my target to basically just run the best remainder of the race I could given the circumstances. I was so determined not to make the same mistakes I did in Rotterdam so I backed off the pace here slightly and kept hydrating at every station. A runner from Crusaders tagged along here for a mile or so, he is actually a friend of my sisters and we worked well together before he dropped off the pace around 15 miles.
I got through what was in my opinion probably the most difficult section of the course somewhat unscathed and felt an immediate weight lift off my shoulders. The wind had died and the gradient levelled so I picked up the pace slightly on Cromells Fort/Kimmage rd. I was tipping along nicely, a few runners scattered ahead and I seemed to be making good ground on them, a lot of people fading along here. I got a nice shout from a couple of friends who live around here area and it was nice to see people you recognise along the course. I think it was around mile 17 where I started to feel fatigue myself, it was a low point for sure and doubts crossed my mind, was this the beginning of my end? I had to reassure myself it was just a low point, I know at this stage that the marathon is like a roller coaster in terms of how you feel. I just had to get through it and it eventually passed. I got to Templeogue road and maybe it was the unbelievable support there but I picked it up and got back into my Rhythm. I was still feeling the fatigue accumulating still but spirits were high and I was holding a decent pace. Miles 19 and 20 were pretty quick as I felt great coming through Orwell park and into Milltown. The crowds again here, what can I say, just unbelievable. So that was it, 20 miles. My plan was to get to this point in one piece and I was feeling ok, what did I have left for the last 10k? Well if you read on you’ll probably find out.
I came out of Milltown and knew I had one last drag to tackle, Clonskeagh road all the way up to Dublin’s tame counterpart of ‘Heartbreak Hill’. I first started noticing the heat on this drag here and pace was far from my target pace but I knew not to go chasing it. It was all about getting home not only in one piece but as efficiently as possible. Mile 22 was my slowest yet (6:37) and as I approached the top of Roebuck hill, thoughts of a catastrophe consumed me. The watch ticked onto 23 miles and my pace was slowing rapidly, 7+ min/mile. Thoughts of Rotterdam and the gradual disintegration flooded my mind but I had to fight them away. I slowed to almost a stop at the top of the hill before gathering myself and looking down the hill. 3 miles to go, felt like a big ask but I started working the legs again and I said I’m going to just hang in there. I just wanted to get to the line, I’d take 7 min miles from here in, I started feeling drained. Suddenly I found myself back in a bit of a groove, the legs were working again though my mind was still fighting them. I was back in the 6:30′s and that was more than satisfactory. I started catching and passing a few people but I was starting to ache badly too. Heading onto Nutley lane I got a great shout from some Leevale club members who were up supporting for the day, gave me a fantastic boost and the shout of “2 miles to go” really hit home, what’s 2 miles at this stage? I got into Ballsbridge, memory starting to fade here as I was really hanging on for dear life and really feeling the heat. Somehow the pace was still ok but my form was ridiculous, someone told me I looked like I was on drugs when they saw me over the last 2 miles. I saw my Dad here who gave me a great shout but I could barely muster a thumbs up. Mile 25 was my new slowest (6:39) but somehow I pulled a 6:30 out of the bag on mile 26. I wanted to stop more than anything in the world and I was yearning for that finish line to come into sight. I was out on my own and the crowd was almost deafening but it felt like a hand on my shoulder pushing me over the line. As I turned onto Mount street I saw a cruel, cruel sign indicating 800 meters to go. All I could think was 2 laps of the track, how am I going to do that? 800 suddenly became 400, the crowd blowing my mind and I was like a rag doll limping towards the line. Suddenly the finish line became a reality, I stepped over that mat a proud man and managed a small celebration to cross in 2:46:59 and 66th overall. Job done. Any water?
27. 2:42 (0.4 miles)
26.4 miles in 2:46:59 @ 6:20 min/mile
A friend of mine who works in media was at the finish line and gave me a shout. In my delirium I gave her the weirdest look as I staggered toward the medal and bag area gasping for water. I finally sat down around the corner with a guy who was just behind me, funnily enough had never met him but we follow each other on Strava. Was good to have company here and we had a good moan before heading over to the bag collection area where I scoffed on some jellies and got some coke into me. My dad and sister were just there also and was brilliant to meet up with them straight away as the life seeped back into my bones. They got me a coffee and a cereal bar and I just sat on the ground and soaked it all in, a little smirk on my face. Though I was off my target by a good few minutes, my brother texted to tell me I was 66th and it was just then it hit me what a decent run that actually was. From 30k to the finish, I went from 134th place down to 66th, pretty pleasing.
I met up with Anthony in the pub after and a few other friends for a few delicious pints. I didn’t meet one person that hit their target and the constant theme seemed to be ‘that bloody wind/heat/drag’. It was by far the toughest marathon course I’ve ran and I’m proud that I persevered and I battled and came through on the other side, severely battered but I made it. I firmly believe the methodology my coach employed in training paid off here. He had us running killer session on a Saturday followed by a long run the next day so I had that feeling of running long with tiredness in my legs and I think it made a big difference, the hills around Cork didn’t do any harm either.
I’m very happy with my strategy today, I learned a lot from my last experience and I’m glad to see myself making sensible decisions mid-race where previously I would have ignored conditions and chased my target. Fuel-wise I think I got it right. I took the dioralyte sachet shortly after an hour, a couple of sips of lucozade throughout and took water at each station though I perhaps should have taken on more water closer to the end as the heat intensified. This was an 8 minute PB so I’m in no way disappointed with that time all things considered. I’m back on track of progressing my marathon times and really looking forward to having a crack at a sub 2:40 in the future. When and where that will be I haven’t yet decided but this episode hasn’t at all put me off the distance, if anything I’m hungrier for more. Thanks to everyone who made this such a special day, from the strangers cheering to all my family and friends who travelled, texted and phoned afterwards.
Finally, this is the physical manifestation of pain