Some runs just stay with you forever. They live on in your heart and head. For example, I can recall the precise moment during my first marathon (in Dublin three years ago) when I realised that I was actually going to finish. I can still recall the lift that feeling gave me about 23 miles around the marathon course as I made my way with such steely determination towards the finish line. Fast forward three years and I find myself rushing, hesitant and slightly fuddled to the start line my ninth marathon just minutes before kick off.
At the very back of Wave 1 - Approx 8:55am, Sunday 30th of October
I didn't want to run with Wave 1, I'd forgotten my pacing band, I'd missed my friends outside their hotel as the taxi dropped me at the opposite side of Merrion Square. I debated whether I'd hang back and start with Wave 2 but once the klaxon went off, I followed the crowd out and under the starting arch and over the mat.
I told myself to take it easy and run about 5:30/km (which I had been running all my long training runs at) so I found the first few kilometers actually flew by. I felt it was particularly warm/humid for early on a crisp Sunday morning but just brushed off the sweat gathering on my forehead as I made my way up through Phoenix Park. My pace was pretty consistent and I felt alright.
Snapped as I passed Stephens Green just after the start
I made my way through Inchacore (16km) and Dolphin's Barn (21km) hitting half way with 1:56 on the clock (I was aiming for a 4 hour) but something happened as soon as I went over the half way mat that changed the rest of the race... I started to pay attention to that nasty little negative back-chatter that was rolling around in my mind all race. As soon as I'd given it a scratch, it needed more - the next five miles dragged. I felt every step and couldn't lift whatever weight had come down on my mind/mood/mindset.
I started chastising myself over my lack of commitment to my training plan, began doubting my ability of go the distance, thought about every 'bad' food choice I'd made over the past week. It was like a spiral, with each unwrap I could feel my motivation trickling away. When I got to the 30km mark I broke... and started walking.
I told myself I'd walk 1, run 1 but I just didn't have it in me. I walked from 30-31, ran from 32 to 34 and then started walking again... I told myself I wasn't taking a medal once I crossed the finish line as I'd let myself down and I didn't deserve it (I was in a really bad place!). At this stage I was 3:25 into the marathon and all I could think about was how different this experience was to my previous marathon a few months ago when I powered home in Waterford in 3:46.
I have always said how amazing the crowd in Dublin are but bloody hell, they really pulled out the stops. Maybe they felt sorry for me, maybe they could see I was broken on the inside but honestly, I've never received such encouragement, applause and back pats from random strangers in my life. Despite the continual support and words of encouragement to persevere, I just didn't have it in me. Even at 40km, with just 2km to go I started to run but stopped almost immediately. I walked right up to 41.5km and ran the last few hundred meters up Mount Street and across the finish line with 4:37 on the clock.
2016 Race Bling
As I crossed the finish line I saw the shimmer of the medal and thought 'F*** it, I've just clocked up a marathon distance (even if I walked the last 8km)' and I graciously received my medal as a symbol, a physical reminder of whatever the hell just happened out on the course I didn't quit. Despite the ample opportunity to come off the course and head home, I kept going. I'm not proud of my effort and most definitely didn't finish anywhere near empty. I still haven't fully processed what happened out there but I've been doing a lot of soul searching since.
My official time is 4:37:23 making this my worst marathon performance to date. Ironic really considering earlier this year I clocked my person best. That being said, my phone did notify me that I'd just completed my longest ever workout.
Dublin, you were amazing. I was not. But in the words of the Terminator... I'll be back!