Rolling the Dice 

Like a wounded Duck after taking a cartridge, praying that I would not cramp up again with all those people looking on with a few hundred metres to go.  That was the hardest 17 minutes of my life. 

This was my third attempt to finish the darn DCM. Blew up in year one, walked off the course. Went into year two injured and blew up at half way. Hell or high water this year would be finished out no matter what. 

I know my coach, and he knows me . We discussed sub 3 after the Ironman last August. I was up for it and whatever it took. Marathon training is harder than any Ironman training. At least in Ironman you are on a bike for hours or pool three to four times a week. Marathon, is just dog stuff. Seventy to eighty kms a week of dog. 

That volume gives you niggles that Ironman never will, it finds the cracks of physical weakness . After nearly a season away from a masseuse, I was back on Dean’s table. With Dean locating the mapping the source of knots with the efficiency of Google maps. 

The closer it got the more my confidence waned. Eamonn at gave it too me straight. “Data says 3:17” hmmmm out load. But inside, fuck that. I’m not running 3:17. The inner footballer comes out talking about clinging to balloons. I can do it. “I know you can do it ” he says. But we agree on a plan B. 

Ignorance is bliss, remembering the pace of last year’s sub 3 pacers. I was ill in bed. I actually thought I had some sort of gastro problem brewing. Thought I was also developing a head cold. Literally and figuratively shitting it. Tossing and turning in our pod for the night I woke before any alarms. 

With added security due to Manchester bombings, it led to Q’s forming at the entry points on race morning. I’m staring at these high vis guys thinking. I need a dump now. Finally getting in, I was second guy heading for baggage. And of course, of course the only jobsworth would be there preventing me from reaching the port a loo’s. “ya have to drop your bags off first buddy” I was just about to leave when a rake of Dubs came up giving out shite, like they do. Seen my oportunity and got a ghosty poop in before the masses. For those that do not understand ,you never will. 

After that. All went to plan. One of my Strandbuddies Dessie came up beside me in the pen before kick off. A man of few words. But a gentleman. We were going to war together. Me and a sea blue. 

Ya could not hear shit from the loudspeaker. It was blah blah blah. Sin a Fianna fail. Then blah blah blah. Race start. There was 3:20 runners up with us which was frustrating. But I understand where they we’re coming from. It gets dodgy when over and undertaking heading out of town. 

Pace is fast as I knew, but I’m good. Me and Dessie are cruising. Sub 4. Just above 4. Sub 4. Ya I’m good. Chesterfield avenue through the park takes an age then Castleknock village where a live band carries you through in it’s shoulders. The atmosphere has the ability to pause pain, and speed time. Rolling like a wave high fiving kiddies I tell Dessie that we have just passed the highest gradient. Tis all down hill from here laddie. 

Back into the park, one of my favourite and most missed things about Dublin. I thought we would never get out of it. I love the deer, trees and squirrels. The only squirrel I saw was flattened earlier that day. Maybe because it was a grey squirrel. Who knows. 

Dessie reckons we have two hours left , I’m starting to feel a bit of a pinch. A bit of hey mister. Your flat to the mat here. The first bang was that underpass. The hill nailed me. Recovered. Maybe I’m alright. Into kilmainham were on point. Ballina AC and the Enniscrone Posse keep us pumped but the left turn onto the south circular road and I know plan A is out the window. Time for Batman, Robin, and plan B. 

Dessie turns around and says in our shared Gaa language. “Come on ta fuck” but I know it’s game over. I’m fucked. Dessie tears off like a March hare. I’m amazed and jealous at the same time. But bang on the crowds give you that push when you need it. I hit the half way point in 1:27. 

That freeking drag into crumlin goes on forever, it’s life sucking. You look for anything to build hope on. Then ivan Kelly passes me out. Fuck it. The wheels are coming off and ball bearings spilling out on the road. As a wise man called Paddy Clarke once said “all the engine management lights are coming on” but it’s not the last km. Or even last 10. I’m 24 in. 

I’d love to say as personal trainer and fitness instructor that at this point my mind is made up of the Baywatch music and Pamela Anderson running to save someone drowning. It is not. It’s not a dark place. It’s a fuck it place. 

I pee, get a bit of pace back 4:45 ish. Right, let’s get it together and run a sub 3:10. It’s like running in Indiana Jones the last crusade. You run forward but wait for that massive stone ball to come crushing. Hoping just hoping you are doing enough. 

Then the cramps start. I stop for the first of roughly four or five times. I wont be overly dramatic describing each one. The same description works with them all. Your muscles basically go your having a laugh son. But this negative brought me to the positive. What makes the DCM such a great race. It’s spectators. When your keeled over, random spectators become your mum, dad , brother, or sister. They just want to mind you. They mind you with sweets and offers of stretching you out. They offer wings and look you in the eye. Concerned. Worried. And absolutely and genuinely helpful. 

Just finish the fucking thing will ya. Each time I got going again. I saw Gerry Kiernan, I was going to say something smart about being a junior b star. But was glad I did not when I keeled over again soon after. 

I pass my wife,her face said it all. Passed my coach Eamonn he ran up heart break hill with jellies for me. Held it together until the top of the hill where I was so happy to see a squad car. For once. I stretched out. More kindness. A bottle of electrolytes. That kindness got me home. 

Mark Reynolds passes me like he did when we we’re 10, in Ballycastle Gaa pitch doing a cross country race in 1992. Flying. Past RTE. Nearly home nearly home. A fella from Mayo AC is with me. The crowds roar “Come on Mayo” with such clarity, and honesty like internally they wished not only for this guy to cross the line but also for the famine to end. 

Forty kms done in three hours. So close but so far. Six Ironmans including hell on Earth Lanzarote and I thought those two KMS would never end. 

Some one roared eight hundred metres , ok nearly there a minute or two passes then another eight hundred metres is roared. And I’m like for fuck sake. Will ye make up your minds 

I see a sign. For hundred left. Praying I don’t cramp. I don’t want to be a funny cramp video. The crowds carry like a wave of euphoria. The pain subsides. I hear come on Barry’s in the distance. The mind wants but the body has given up telling you where to go. 

Like a wounded Duck I get over the line. And slowly waltz towards Jonathan swift. 

Eamonn was right 3:17. 

Third time lucky that medal feels good. Feels like an achievement. Meeting friends and family it is already in the past. Time rolls on and times are recounted, 8 pints and tales of ballyragget makes for an unforgettable day. 

It’s kind, it’s awesome, I did not respect sub 3. I respect all who have done it and all that will. I will do it some day. Just not yesterday. 

And if anyone asks you, the wounded duck said marathons are harder than Ironmans.