Dublin City Marathon

Posted: October 30, 2012 in October, Races 2012
Tags: , , , , ,

Despite my abysmal preparation for the marathon I was still in a positive frame of mind heading up this morning. I wasn’t racing, I didn’t really have a target time in mind, all I had to do was go out there and enjoy it. I knew I could run the distance, and injury notwithstanding I would finish the race, so there was nothing to worry about. On the subject of target times, the question I had been asked most in the week leading up to the race was “what time do you want to do it in?” In training leading up to London to Brighton I was pretty confident that I’d go under four hours, maybe down around 3:50 if everything went well on the day. With how the last few weeks have gone I long ago resigned myself to the fact that there would be no 3:anything in my time but I was perfectly happy with that. You only get out what you put in and all I’d put in lately tequila and fried chilli pizza. Once I was quicker than my 4:15:54 from Belfast I’d be happy.

Looking As Excited As Ever

Despite everything I just said there when I lined up at the start I did so right beside the four hour pacers and was soon visualising a heroic final sprint to the line to sneak in at 3:59:59

Lining up at the start I suddenly realised I was part of something quite special, and far bigger than I’d thought. I’d approached all aspects of the marathon with quite a blasé attitude, despite not having run the Dublin Marathon before, and only having run two previous marathons (three if you count London to Brighton). I hadn’t looked at the route, I hadn’t read any race reports or looked up anything about the race at all. I was really surprised then when I arrived at the expo yesterday evening to find that there were almost 15,000 entries in the race. Belfast only had about 3,500 and a large number of them were doing various relays. Half of Dublin seemed to be packed into the streets around Merrion Square and half of those seemed to be wearing runners and race numbers. Standing in my pen there seemed to be an endless throng of runners ahead of me and almost the same again behind me.

The race announcer talked about how there were runners taking part from every county in Ireland, from 64 countries around the world, people of all shapes and sizes, people from every sort of background and every walk of life and we were getting a city, my, our capital city shut down for a few hours so we could run around it. When the national anthem was sung I could hardly believe that I was standing there, about to take part in a national sporting event, the biggest sporting even in the country today (despite what RTE might think). I was reminded of something Gerry Duffy* posted on Facebook recently: “I don’t have to run a marathon, I get to run a marathon”. To be fit and healthy enough to do something like this, and then to get the opportunity to do it is a privilege. It’s something I thought of quite a few times while out on the course, particularly coming into Chapelizod and Milltown, where crowds of people thronged the streets, four or five deep on each side of the road, cheering like crazy for us, the ordinary Joe, just as much as they were cheering for the elite guys going round in half the time. I’d heard before that the crowds at the Dublin Marathon were fantastic, and it’s something that always gets mentioned in relation to Dublin, but it still amazed time after time. You’d kind of get used to it after a bit, but then you’d turn a corner only to be hit by a wall of noise and be blown away by it yet again.

I haven’t really talked much about the race itself, or at least the running part of it, because to tell you the truth I can’t really remember too much of the first three hours. The running itself was going really well, after about 10k or so I was loosening up from muscular hibernation of the last month and pushed on ahead of the 4:00 group. I knew full well that I was probably going to pay for it later but I convinced myself that it was time in the bank, and anyway, I had got on to the Slayer portion of my playlist and Slayer don’t allow you to slow down. My overriding memory of the race, for the first three hours at least, was the crowds (especially the kids who cheered and high 5’d every runner they could going past).

Running In Formation

That all changed at the three hour mark though. I’d hit 32km at that point, which meant that if I could do the last ten (and a bit) kilometres in under an hour I’d go sub four. The problem though was this was also the point where my lack of (recent) training was starting to kick in and I was starting to slow down. Still, 10k in an hour, that was definitely doable. Or so I thought. I tried and tried to make my legs go a bit faster but at this point they were really grumbling. To be fair they had a point, they’d practically been in a coma for a month and now I was asking them to actually run. With about 8km to go I slowed to take my last gel when I was consumed by a wave of runners from behind me. Instantly I knew that was the 4:00 group and they were going past me like I was standing still. My heart dropped at that point as I saw my hopes of a sub four finish disappear up the road, a little purple flag of disappointment bobbing away from me.

I spent the next two or three kilometres arguing and bitching with myself, convinced I couldn’t make it, convincing myself I could make it. Unlike previous marathons though I didn’t stop, or even pay any serious consideration to stopping. One thing I learned from London to Brighton is that carrying on, even if it’s just shuffling along, is far preferrable to stopping. With about 5k to go I’d had enough of the whining. Five kilometres is a paltry distance, nothing really in the greater scheme of things, half an hour of hurting and it would be over. If I could manage to do the 5k in 28 minutes I might just about squeak under the four hours, but there and then I just wanted to finish in the best time I could do. I gritted my teeth at that point, literally and figuratively, and tried to focus on just catching one person in front of me, then the next, then the next. I couldn’t tell you how many people were out supporting at that point, what streets I ran through or where I was. All I saw were the heels of the people in front of me.

With about a mile to go I spotted an older chap a distance in front of me. I had passed this same gentleman quite a while back (while I was still running reasonably well) and I’d thought to myself I’d love to be like him some day. He was probably in his early sixties, short and not particularly athletic looking, but he was proudly wearing his Donore Harriers singlet which identified him as a founding member of the group, so he’d definitely put in his miles over the years. When I passed him he was definitely working hard but moving well, checking his Garmin, and probably bang on target. He’d obviously stayed rolling along right on pace, and my erratic pace and an (almost disastrously delayed) toilet stop had seen him roll right past me. As much as I admired him however  he was now my target.

I figured we must be closing on the finish line and as I saw my target about to round a corner I visualised myself running quicker and quicker, firing off the bend, passing my target and sprinting triumphantly up to and over the finishing line. The first part of my vision actually came to pass, I made myself speed up, taking an outside line around the ever more congested road, came around the corner, passed my target and looked up to see once more only a horde of runners as far as the eye could see. Where was the finish line? I could see straight ahead for what looked like miles but no finish line. I tried to maintain speed as much as I could but I was really, really hurting at this point. I couldn’t slow down now as (a) finally the finish line had appeared and (b) I’d just noticed again quite how packed the street was. There was thousands of people crammed along Nassau Street and I was essentially running down a tunnel with all of them looking at me. This is Ireland, there’s bound to be someone watching who knows me or would recognise me. Can’t. Slow. Down.

I hate to not be able muster some sort of sprint finish to a race but I was done. I’d given everything I had and it was all I could do to stay running to the line. The second I stopped my left hip stopped working properly, my IT band on the same side curled into a ball and my right calf felt right on the verge of popping. I staggered around for a bit in a complete daze, just shuffling where I was pointed by the race staff. I was completely and utterly spent. I checked my Garmin to see a time of 4:01**, which a little bit later when I started to come to, I was absolutely delighted with. Yes it would have been great to sneak in under the four hour mark but I’d given everything I had and come up a little bit short. One thing I promised myself starting the race was that I’d leave everything out there. I had no definite target in mind but I was still going to run as hard as I could, and I did. I can’t do anything more than that (apart from prepare properly obviously).

* Gerry Duffy – 32 marathons in 32 counties in 32 days, Decaman champion, author of Who Dares, Runs and all round inspirational character.

** Official time 4:01:26

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