Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dublin City Marathon 2010

The Dublin City Marathon has been my main goal for 2010 and despite derailing my training plans by partaking in some adventure races I still held it as my main target.

For the first time I started a 18 week marathon training programme with some miles under my belt, having run the Edinburgh Marathon in May.
This was my 4th marathon but only the second with a specific target time. Last year in Dublin I had failed miserably in my attempt to make the Boston Marathon qualifying time of 3.30 when I hit the wall at about 20 miles and struggled across the finish line in 3.38.xx.
This year my target was to be the same as 09 at sub 3.30.

Soon after I started the training I realised that I was running faster than last year, some race results confirmed this so I started to revise my target time downwards.
Could I take 5 minutes off, could I take 10 minutes off ? All sorts of numbers would be flying through my head while I was on training runs.
Early in the training phase I briefly flirted with the idea of trying for a 3.13, a strange number you may think, but that time would leave me requiring just 30 seconds faster per mile to head for the milestone time of sub 3.00. A target way beyond my reach for a long time into the future, if ever, but psychologically 30 seconds is not such a huge hurdle, is it?
Those thoughts soon disappeared as the quality of my training suffered, especially in the second half of the programme. With only a few weeks to go to the start of the race I was doubting if I would be able to manage the 3.30. With a week to go I decided to go with the 3.15 pacers and hold on for as long as possible.
This saw me standing in a packed pen in Merrion Square, on a freezing cold morning, surrounded by 13,000 other souls and trying to get as close as possible to 2 guys holding helium filled balloons with 3.15 printed on them.

Bedlam ensued. Thousands of people setting off together created total gridlock at times. I did my utmost to stay close to the balloons, this required plenty of zigging and zagging, I hoped that the crowds would thin out allowing for more even running. A glance at my watch during the first mile confirmed that we were way below target time.
At the 2 mile mark one of the pacers "Krusty Clown" - a Boards.ie user name - called out that we were 40 seconds slow. I think that if I was running on my own I would have panicked and tried to get the time back at a sprint but Krusty assured me we would take it back slowly.

The next few miles were reasonably easy running but I was kept busy trying to hold my place behind the pacers. It was a time for stock taking, how am I feeling, how's the breathing, are the legs ok? A really weird thing is that my right foot was completely numb, I was worried about it because at this early stage everything should be working well.

The beautiful thing about running with pacers is that I didn't have to bother looking at my watch, all I had to do was keep close to the wonderful people carrying the balloons. Heading down the North Circular Road was fantastic, there is a section where you can see the whole road ahead filled with runners, add to that the sunshine and the cheering supporters and you realised running rarely gets better than this. We seemed to pick up the pace on the way into the park but I still felt fine. As we hit the 5 mile mark a shout from Krusty confirmed that we were now only 4 seconds off (can't remember if it was ahead or behind, doesn't matter)

I knew that my friend Sean was going to be at the 6 mile mark in the Phoenix Park so I tried to position myself to give him a wave. This rather tall, wide lad was in front of me blocking me from view so I pushed up ahead of him, soon I realised he had moved ahead of me again, much to my amusement we swapped place several time within a mile. I copped Sean as I passed him and shouted and waved. He commented afterwards that I looked comfortable and I suppose except for the mental doubts I was feeling grand.

While running through the Park I had brief conversations with runners around me and a chat with Krusty helped pass the time. The fact that I was chatting with other runners may seem irrelevant but when I had been training at the pace we were now running at I was breathing heavily and thought I would not be able to converse with people, it was something of a relief to realise I was not panting too much at this stage.

We left the Park, headed through Chapelizod and into Kilmainham. At times when the roads narrowed and there was no space to pass people I got a bit twitchy as the pacers moved ahead, on reflection, another learning experience, as I actually found it fairly easy to close the gap once the field spread out again. I knew that my parents were going to be at Dolphins Barn, so positioning myself to see them meant I had to take some corners very wide but it was well worth it, I'll worry about the racing line when I trying for a sub 3 !!

Most people that do the Dublin marathon hate the Crumlin Road, it's slightly uphill and usually has a head wind, but to be honest, it actually doesn't bother me, I guess because I grew up around there I spend the time looking out for familiar faces (like my sister, who live about 2 minutes from the course but has never given me a shout, thanks Dee)
Next comes Walkinstown Road, the half way point. We hit this bang on target. I was happy to be still with the pacers at this point and feeling reasonably well.

I had arranged to see my wife and son on Cromwellsfort Road, it turned out that nearly everyone was running on the right side of the road, I knew they would be on the left side so I was able to drift left and wave at them from a distance. I was delighted to see my other sister and her family there also. I collected 2 gels from my son and enjoyed the shouts of encouragement from the rest of my family (especially my favourite sister Linda...lol) Again they commented afterwards that I looked very comfortable. I still actually felt fine.

The next miles drifted by. This is probably where the real doubts started to fill my mind. I was holding onto the pacers but it wasn't as easy as it should have been. Last year I had started to fall off the 3.3o group somewhere around Terenure, this year I was delighted to be still there at the same point but I was conscious that there was still along way to go.

15,16,17 went by and I was still hanging on. I was telling myself hang on until 18 at least.
Made 18, hang on 'till 19.
At this point I was really starting to live in my head. I was trying to work out how slow I could do the remaining miles and still get a personal best time.
OK Chris, just hang on until 20 miles and you'll be ok, that's not too much to ask.
The fantastic thing is that about now Krusty starts shouting out all sorts of encouragement. I thought to myself he is never going to keep this up until the finish but, fair play, he never stopped, what a legend !!
20 miles done. This is where previously the wheels have fallen off. I knew what to expect, I could just come to a grinding halt at any point soon.
At 21, much to my surprise, I'm still there. 21 done, can I make 22?
I got to 22 miles but this is where I'm really hurting.

Jaysus Chris, stay with it, get to the next mile.
We're running along Merrion Road, Krusty is flying "come on, we're nearly there" I'm hanging on. Nearly there, me arse, it's still a long way but I'm still with him. We're weaving through people, they're slowing down but it feels like we are speeding up.
Again Krusty shouts "you wouldn't get out of bed for what we have left" It brought home to me how close to the finish we were.

I can't do it, I can't hang on, oh fuck, how far to go ??? 3 miles, is it 3 miles, that's over 22 minutes, I can't run for another 22 minutes. Give it up now Chris, you'll still have a personal best time, give it up.... Ahh, you soft bollix, you've trained for the whole year, you knew it wouldn't be easy, keep with that balloon. If it was easy everyone would be doing it... Keep going..

Miles 22 - 25 hurt. I probably can't adequately describe what I was feeling then.

I'm now counting down from the garmin, 2.5 miles to go, 2 miles to go. The amount of times that I wanted to let the pacers go in those few miles was unbelievable, I didn't think that I could get to the finish. Push, ya big puff, push.

With a mile and a half to go I genuinely thought that I was going to stop at any moment. I really was just trying to hang on.
As I got close to the last mile I had a sudden burst of energy, well actually, it probably wasn't a burst of energy so much as a realisation that I was so close to the finish.
A mile, one mile, it's easy, I can run a mile, yes , yes I can, run ya little fucker, run.

I pushed ahead of the pacers, I really tried to stretch my legs. After about about a quarter of a mile I was knackered and I got caught behind a group of lads strung out across the road. I didn't have the energy or interest to push through them but then a small gap opened and I went for it. I drove on, looking back and seeing the 3.15 balloons too close behind inspired me to push harder.
I kept looking at the Garmin 0.6 of a mile to go, 0.5 of a mile to go, Jaysus half a mile I can't keep this up for another 1/2 mile....shut up, shut up, keep going, you're nearly there.

Then I saw it, the finish line, it was so close. I could see the clock, it said 3.1xx, Jaysus I couldn't see the figures on the right. Check the Garmin, 3.12.xx.
Oh my god, I was going to make 3.15 but, but could I get in under 3.14. Push, push.

I crossed the line in 3.13.49. Result.. Happy days.. I beat my personal best marathon time by a whopping 24 minutes.
I know I did the training and I put a lot of time and effort into my programme but, hand on heart, I would not have made that time without the Boardis.ie pacers and Krusty Clown in particular driving the train.
I've since seen video of me finishing the marathon, it's not a pretty sight and as I went to collect my T-shirt a very Dublin auld one suggested that it might be a good idea to hold onto the barrier for a few minutes.

I'm happy with the result, actually, I'm bleedin' delighted, a good day, better than expected. Finished with a few (loads) pints with my friend Sean and a gang of Boardsies.

Roll on 2011... already thinking about the possibilities.....................

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Medbh said...

Great report Chris. Well done again fantastic run.

Roy said...

Great report Chris; a huge effort and you got your just reward. Boston next?

Ed said...

Well done Chris. Great run! And a great write-up too. Really enjoyed reading it.