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Saturday, November 03, 2007


Yay, go me! The above is my "chip time" (sadly nothing to do with deep fried potato products) for the Dublin marathon which I ran in last Monday. I led up to the race feeling deeply under prepared due to a bad cold which had forced me to skip three weeks of training (including my 20 mile run and my 10 mile rehearsal run) right at the end of my training schedule which basically meant that I hadn't run more than 6 miles at a time for over 5 weeks before the race.

It wasn't even until I turned up at the registration Expo in Ballsbridge on the Saturday before the race to pick up my number and kit bag that I faced the reality that I would be attempting to run 26 miles on Monday. As at London the "Impossible is nothing" whiteboard on which runners and supporters scrawl their messages of good luck proved very inspiring.

Impossible is nothing

Only 26 miles to go!

I hope Ciaran made it!

Also inspiring (as it turned out) was the lovely new kit that I bought for myself - a reflective Dubin 2007 jacket, my very first pair of running tights (which should help reduce the effect of my runner's tan this winter), and a lovely Hilly water bottle holder with zip pockets (finally, hands-free running). One of the things that kept me going in the tough miles between 20 amd 24 was the thought that I would feel a complete fraud wearing my gorgeous jacket if I didn't finish the race.

The race day itself was gorgeous, freezing on the start line - luckily we were packed in like sardines - but with bright sunshine which never got too warm thankfully. The worst thing was the stiff breeze which was troublesome on the higher portions of the course, especially between 12 and 13 miles where we seemed to be running straight into it for almost the whole mile, but mostly conditions were fine.

I was a little more worried in the early part of the race (1 - 6 miles) than I would be normally due to the lack of training but once I'd realised that I wasn't going to break down in a heap at three miles I really got to enjoying it. Miles 5 through to 8 in Phoenix Park were really nice (pretty trees, fresh air, nice views).

Although the crowds were nothing like London (which was overwhelming in both positive and negative ways) there were little knots of people here and there and larger groups in places and they gave out very warm and encouraging support. There were lots of little kids holding out their hands for low fives as the runners went past which I was much more inclined to do than in London where I was so hot and exhausted for so much of the time that my main reaction was "are you kidding? do you know how much energy that'll take out of me?". Lots of people held out sweets (btw jelly babies and wine gums: good; boiled sweets, especially ones which you have to unwrap: v v bad) and orange quarters. The water stands were really well organised and well supplied and they even still had enough of the energy drinks remaining when I went by although I only tried that once as it tasted worryingly like Sunny Delight and made Lucozade seem low-sugar.

The general trend of the course was uphill until 15 miles and downhill thereafter which was a good thing as I faded pretty quickly after 18 miles. 18 miles is a magic distances for me in marathon running. It's the point at which I can be fairly certain that I'm going to get home, no matter what. After all, it's only 2 miles after that until 20, and then only 3 until 23, and then anyone can run, or, worst case scenario, walk 3 miles. When you break it down like that it sounds like you're almost there at 18 miles. In reality there's still 8 miles to go (that's almost a third of the race) and it was a long hard slog. From 20 to 24 miles I really took it just one step at a time. When you start running people will tell you that it's just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and it's true. The tricky thing is to keep making yourself do it, even when you're too tired to think about getting to the next mile marker. The great thing is that if you can keep doing it, and keep doing it at a reasonable rate, you know that in a certain number of hours or minutes it will be over and you can stop it.

All this doesn't sound like too much fun but I really did run round with a smile on my face for most of the time and the finish makes it all worth while. As soon as you pass the 24 mile marker you can see people all around you lift up their heads and pick up their feet. It's partly to do with the larger crowds near the finish line, cheering you all on, but mostly to do with the knowledge that you're so close. One last effort and you're done. By the time you get to 25 miles people who were struggling to step onto the curb 2 miles back are running like they were at the start of the race and runners who looked dead on their feet are going for the sprint finish, arms outstretched. My primary school headmaster used to say that if you could sprint at the finish then you weren't giving enough earlier on. He has a point but I feel that the effort that I give at the finish comes from a different place than the effort I put in during the race. It comes from knowing that I can give everything for the last mile, that I can run on empty because there's no more distance to run.

After the race I got a lovely shiny (heavy) medal on a red ribbon which physically hurt everytime it banged into me as it swung around my neck (I had to hold it away from me as I was just too sore already after the race!) and a goody bag which - if light on the edible stuff (luckily I had brought my own Kit-Kat and banana) did have a lovely long-sleeved t-shirt in the right size (London organisers take note, most of us are not XXL).

Copy of dublin_marathon_2

I don't think I will run Dublin again (too hilly) but I did enjoy the experience on the whole and I'm still chasing that sub 4 hour time. I'm in the ballot for London next year so fingers crossed for that and for a cool April 2008.


Felix said...

I loved reading this post and could relate to some of it - though not the sheer, mind-blowing-distance of a marathon.

I'm really impressed at your time also, especially given that you ended up missing some of the training because of being ill.

I looked at the London Marathon but the only places left to run in appear to be charity places and I'm just not sure that I want to run for a charity as a means to get a place on the run...

...But I'll come and cheer for you! You're amazing!

Be proud.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Liz - that is a tremendous effort. You are very inspiring.
Lucie x