The light on Sunday morning was a spectacle, framed within red brick Georgian houses backdropped to a cloudless blue sky with only chem trailed lines breaking the uniformed nature of this view.
Autumnal running is special, crisp cold running is even better again. Coming up with my peers from the west with the sky on the ground for most of September and October – being there in that microclimate for the weekend was befitting a seasons training.
I found it, quite quiet, even though it was billed as twenty two and a half thousand there, I have since seen numbers that suggest closer to seventeen running. There is always a natural drop off anyway so it made sense. Still a lot of runners, but to me a quiet morning. With my hoodie up i was happy to remain introverted and stay within the confines of my own space physically and mentally preparing for that morning and early afternoon pain.
This was the most nervous I have ever been for any race, nerves from many moons ago on grassy fields in front of hulking stands. I was dreaming about hills and aspects of the race on the lead up for weeks. Finally wondering could I string the last few years drop pinned location physical mishaps and knit this entire course together. Finally.
Nothing at this stage has been left to chance, no stone unturned , no wonders if’s. Just do it or not , or be patient. Further patience for something that comes with time. Alveoli performance – allowing those buds to expand. But still maybe, still hoping for a Hail Mary pass.
This running comes across as solitary, but there is a team. A coach, a family, an internal helping dialogue. Wife and children there with you, and under the tutelage of an experienced coach. Coaches head said sub 3:10 but both our hearts are on 2:59. That is the juice, the wife and kid and fam bam are the car. And this all moves at a pace, and its the pace that kills. Those dreams are warranted, those hills and kicks can be felt. They each take a match- and it is a cat and mouse game trying ones best to not start burning matches.
”Stay 4:15 for 10k, maybe until 21k then see what happens”
Instructions sound easy, staying calm is hard. Watching pacer balloons bobbing up and down in the distance like bouys at sea wishing a current to push or pull me at least in between them on Chesterfield avenue but the drag of this simple gradient at 4:15 pace could be felt slightly. Deciding then to cool the jets that early , left an unusual feeling of conservatism.
Hitting an underpass with cave like echoes and the amplified sounds of rubber and now carbon hitting the tarmac, I was not gassing out on this first drop pin. But there was now a sensation starting to build in my quad. What the fuck is that. Maybe it will pass. I decided to hold this 4:15 until the half way point.
I am starting to develop a pathological hatred of that hill from Dolphins barn to the walkinstown turn off. It is ok to hate and not suffer though. Bar the developing quad issue this second drop pin to a previous pull out and taxi home was overcome. Another stitch made. Another maybe. With the honeymoon period now well and truly over any marathon peers chatty had dropped off or stopped being chatty. What was for me quiet, became quieter.
We were welcomed into walkinstown town village like an all conquering Roman legion. This was Fitting for me with thoughts on reading more Aurelius over the last few weeks. He was one of the five good emperors in period of peace and stability, quite apt. I was peaceful and now able to open the choke out a bit. With the gradient easing towards Terenure 4:15 became 4:05 pace. The current was finally starting to pull me a bit and like a river I was in full flow starting to pass one after another and feeling good in the process.
Another drop pin at Kimmage road west, and a feeling just shy of belief began to now bob up and down now on the horizon. The quad was on full I’m an arsehole mode. Sore but not impeding me. It was worse on descents.
A river descends into Terenure, moves are being made, cramps are starting to happen. Drop offs every now and again become a trickle. I see ”Snout” An aptly named Sligo Man. ”Shhhhhnout” I roar. Well he says with a big smile. Gas man.
Hitting twenty eight kilometers and two hours on the Garmin. Rather than tipping a hat to a previous dropped pin. A new pin was dropped. The realization of running fourteen kilometers in fifty nine minutes was sobering. Not through a lack of zeal or want. I just knew it was an Arnhem.
It was here that new pins were being dropped left right and center, I was now lording as many gels and isotonic as possible as the wheels were starting to begin to wobble.
It was time for the kids to come out and support their dad. Like flicking through Spotify for the right track. I was searching for the right child. I settled on Naoise. Naoise get Daddy to UCD. As he is now fucked. High five’ ing my old coach Eamonn at heart break hill gave me a boost but cresting that wobble was developing into wheels starting to come off.
Time for another Child. Danny you’re up. Get Daddy to Merrion rd.
I was gone, some of those folks that I had previously passed out in walkinstown were now passing me. Three kilometers to go. Yet again may as well be thirty. 4:05 became 4:50. Deals were being made, notions of finish times being discarded. Then what passes me but the remnants of the 3:10 pacer balloon and his merry bunch.
Where the fuck did they come from.
Baby Dara, you’re up. Get Daddy Home.
The realization of that final wobble to wheels off slip showed its gnarly teeth. Bollox. Pace was upped and on Q, those early indications of an oncoming cramp start to arrive. It’s starts off as a feeling. An air. A touch. Then praying. Please fuck off cramp, please not now. I promise i will do whatever you ask but I am begging. Just go away.
Bam. Hamstring. ”Don’t stop Waaaaaaaaalk” screams a fellow competitor. I do so and get going again. Bam. I can actually see the KBC hoarding and the finish line.
And it is here I got the spirit and sensation of the marathon, the extrovert and sport. The goosebumps and reasoning. They whys and the why nots and the difference between a last minute goal and a wide. In ear shot and without looking the screams of a few people deep mount street surrounded by gaping red bricks that create a sound like the old landsdowne rd. South terrace somehow defy all physiological demands and get me going again.
I do not need an eye test for sure as i could see that clock count up from 3:07:00 a few hundred meters out and reckoned a sub 3:10 finish at least. And i did 3:09:28.
It was what I was told would happen. It is not what either of us wanted. But it is what it is and those magical digits will most certainly be on that hoarding in 2021. Will i be happy. 100% No. But If i was, I’d have nothing to write about.
I am taking next year off and going slower and longer, Marathon Des Sables next April in the Sahara, two hundred and fifty kilometers over six days. And then in September I will do the Kerry way Ultra. A one or two day , two hundred kilometer race off road around the ring of Kerry.
I will probably win the both of them.