Monday, June 19, 2017

NEWRY MARATHON 2017

The lead up to the marathon had been trouble-free but then a week before summer arrived early and the sun was out most days and the humidity was rising. This set alarm bells off...I had trained in the cold, damp, wind, snow and ice; yet marathon day could be a scorcher! OK I couldn't control the weather but I knew fitness wise I was in good shape and confident of a good run.
So, the day before was quiet and relaxed and the only important thing to do was collect my race number...thanks Patricia for being on hand at the registration desk.
RACE DAY
My wife and I had stayed overnight in Newry and I probably went overboard with breakfast; porridge, yoghurt and fruit but it was 2 hours before the start so I was hopeful I wouldn't have any stomach issues. The rain had stayed away, there was little wind and it was overcast BUT there was a muggy feeling to the air.
The marathon is only one element to the running festival and most people enter the HM or 10k; so on the start line there was probably around 200 of us; including Andrea, a running buddy from Dromore AC.
I had trained with 8:30 pace in mind and a 3:45 finish BUT on the start line I had no definitive plan; I just wanted to run by feel and see how the race panned out.
9am as the gun sounded and I latched onto the group following the 3:45 pacer but after a mile I felt confident enough to move ahead and run the way I wanted to. At the first water station, I got a huge cheer and I noticed that a friend of mine was helping pass out the water; that cheer gave me a real lift as we headed out onto the road. Oddly, the runners ahead of me had moved over to the far side when typically we would stay running into the traffic; of course I followed suit. Miles 6 - 12 were fairly uneventful except for the undulations which were quite testing in the warming conditions. High point was the herd of cows leaning over a wall and mooing as we passed...of course I mooed back!
Nearing halfway I was still ahead of the 3:45 pacer, although by this point Andrea had passed me...maybe I should have kept pace with her? Now at this point last year, my knee started to play up and my marathon started to fall apart but this year I was still running a sub 8:30 pace and feeling good. The only thing that was concerning me was my inability to take on my jelly beans and energy bar - I was trying to fuel every 4 miles but even my jelly beans weren't agreeing with me; to make up for this I made sure I took on plenty of water.
My first time check was at halfway - approx. 1:51 and this meant I was on target for a sub 3:45 time. The second half in theory is easier as it is along the flat towpath but there was now the added problem of the sun coming out and the rising temperature. I like the long stretches down by the canal as it allows you to relax, take in the scenery and get into a good rhythm . Whilst I was feeling confident, I didn't get ahead of myself and ran the next few miles at roughly the same pace BUT the heat and lack of solid fuel was beginning to take its toll; I was stopping at each water station so I could fill up my water bottle and throw cold water down the back of my neck.
More runners were passing me and Andrea was getting further ahead of me BUT no sign of the 3:45 pacer; physically I still felt good but mentally I was beginning to fall apart - loads of negative thoughts were going through my head - but at mile 20, my time of 2:50 showed I was still on target but my pace really started to slow at this point and whilst I accepted that I was unlikely to get a sub 3:45 time; I did start to doubt myself and whether all the effort of training for a marathon was worth it. The hammer blow was the 3:45 pacer passing me with ease...BUT then all the negativity seemed to fall away and I was filled with happiness and a desire to get to the finish was the only emotion I felt. The last 5 miles whilst not particularly quick were enjoyable as I didn't put any unnecessary pressure on myself. Of course, i was still smiling for the cameras...
My last time check was at mile 25 - 3:39, so a quick calculation meant a finish of aroud 3:50 was on the cards. The crowds were out in force over the last half mile and Mr Chicken got plenty of cheers and unlike last year, I was able to sprint to the finish...
I crossed the line with a huge smile on my face and my official finish time was 3:50:27 and this was my third quickest marathon. It was great to catch up with a few running friends at the end and share stories and grab a few more photos...
It's easy with hindsight to over-analyse a performance but some of my immediate questions were -
Should I have paced myself better and tried to run a negative split?
Should I have stayed with the 3:45 pacer?
Could I have kept with pace with Andrea from halfway?
Was I over-confident?
BUT in the clear light of day, I was really pleased with what I had achieved and I still believe a 3.45 time is achievable. It was the most mentally challenging race I have run and never before had I taken on so much water during a marathon.
Huge thank-you to all the organisers and the volunteers and I will see you in 2018.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A year of running: May 2016 - May 2017

It's hard to believe that I haven't posted anything since June 2016; to make up, I thought I'd give you a whistle-stop tour of the last 12 months.
So, despite getting injured during the 2016 Newry Marathon, I wasn't out of action for too long and was soon training for the Monaghan Phoenix Marathon. Along the way, I ran the Monaghan Town 10 miler and the Belfast City Half Marathon.

Monaghan 10:
Another brilliant summer afternoon in Monaghan and whilst I didn't record a sub-75 minute time; I was still very happy to come in at 1:15:24 (Pace 7:32)
Along the way, I got to 8 miles in under an hour; which is now my benchmark for running good 10 milers and half marathons. As ever, the event was impeccably run by Monaghan Town Runners and we were rewarded with a big feed afterwards.

Belfast City HM
I was in good form as I lined for this HM in late September; having got my really long runs under my belt, I was feeling confident of at least running a sub 1:40 time. Started off further back than I had planned but didn't panic and I soon caught the 1:45 pacer and went past him. Went through 8 miles in 58 mins and then 10 miles in 73 mins - ahead of schedule. With a nice flat half mile run in to the finish, a sprint finish was on the cards and I didn't disappoint and was over the moon when I saw the clock show 1:38 as I hit the chip mat. My official time was 1:37:34 (7:24 pace). A PB by 19 secs.

Monaghan Marathon

With no niggles and a brilliant HM only 2 weeks before; I was looking forward to my second Monaghan Marathon (road and forest park route). I was more prepared this year and my plan was not to go off too quick and try and run each of the 5 'laps' even paced. Unlike last year, I didn't feel I faded over the second half and even had enough left in my legs to sprint to the finish. I got a course PB of 3:55:10 (8:58 pace). I'll let these pictures do the talking...

Omagh HM

First race of 2017 and I was feeling quietely confident as I had run this the previous two years and my HM times had been getting quicker and quicker over recent races. The weather didn't disappoint with sun, wind and heavy rain and around halfway the headwind really made things difficult; but I got to mile 8 in an hour and knew the last mile was slightly downhill, so was really hopeful of a good time. I was passing more runners the closer I got to the finish and whilst I didn't get a HM PB, I did get a course PB by 2 mins - 1:39:03 (7:33 pace). Another good day at the office but not the most flattering finish photo...

This brings me to Newry Marathon 2017 and that will be a post in its own right.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

2016 - Newry Marathon via Omagh HM

The plan at the start of 2016 was to aim for Newry Marathon with maybe a couple of races in the build-up. As it turned out, I only managed to run in the Omagh HM but that was a huge success and the rest of my training went to plan, so no real complaints.
OMAGH HALF MARATHON
Saturday 26th March: Good to see the organisers had listened to feedback from last year with regards the start and set the walkers and 5k runners off after the HM; this made the start a lot less congested and easier to find the pacers.
Mt finish time was 1:41:19 and was 1 minute quicker than last year (not quite a PB) and nothing negative to say about the whole event (oh, it rained and it was windy). I love the route out into the Co Tyrone countryside, which made me feel like it was just one of my regular long runs back home. The run itself went so smoothly; no flat spots, a negative split and pure enjoyment from start to finish...and yes I wore the yellow tutu. Almost, caught a fellow Dromore runner (Andrea) on the line; although my chip-time was a few seconds quicker than her. so that was a win for me! Big thank-you to the organisers, marshalls and volunteers for running such a brilliant event and the food at the end was amazing. Disappointed that I didn't get a finish-line photo (finished at the same time as a runner from Lifford and he blocked me out completely!) but got a photo at the start with Patricia from NCR.

NEWRY MARATHON - Sunday 29th May - my 10th marathon
So my 20 weeks or so of training leading up to the marathon, went smoothly with a great run at Omagh HM and a mixed schedule of club sessions, LSR, tempo's and hills. With a couple of months of training to go, I bought a new pair of Brooks (Vapor as opposed to Ravenna) and started to build up the mileage in them; all was going fine until I ran my first 20 miler in them and ended up with a very bruised and purple left big toe nail. I took a few days off and reverted back to my Ravenna's and whilst the nail remained purple, there was no lasting damage and I completed my training without any further problems. I was feeling confident of a running a good time with a goal of sub 3:45; many of my runs had been at marathon pace (8:30) and such a pace didn't faze me.
Lovely, bright sunny morning as I parked up in Newry to prepare for the marathon but I'd only gone and forgotten my iPod which meant I would be running my first marathon without music. My iPod also acted as my stopwatch and as I don't own a Garmin (or similar), how was I going to know my splits? I had no choice really but run with 3:45 pacer group and see how that worked out. With around 200 runners it was easy enough to find a decent spot on the start line and catch the 3:45 pacer within the first mile. The route had slightly changed this year with a straight run out of Newry to Scarva without a detour along the tow-path and some steep hills; this was well received! There was a group of 10 us running with the pacer and I found the pace very comfortable, which filled me with confidence. The negative thing was the weather as it was getting warmer by the minute and the route didn't really have much cover. Thankfully, there were plenty of water stations and I carried my own bottle; so I made sure I sipped at regular intervals. I kept to my plan of fuelling every 4 miles (jelly beans mainly) and making regular checks of my form whilst at the same time taking in the scenes around me. The pacer kept us updated on projected finish time and around mile 8 he said that we were on for a 3:43 finish.
A couple of small inclines took us closer to halfway and then around mile 11, I started to feel a twinge in my right knee; nothing major but enough of a twinge to set alarm bells off. By now one or two runners had dropped off the pace and even the pacer stopped for a few moments to stretch. I got to halfway (1:51:23) at exactly 8:30 pace but was still ahead of the pacer. Thankfully, he soon caught me up but the group had dwindled to just myself and one other runner. The heat was really beginning to affect people and even though the last 13.1 miles were on flat tow-path, it was going to be tough. The knee was getting worse and although my pace hadn't dropped dramatically, I found myself about 30 paces behind the pacer at mile 17. My stride pattern had become more pitter-patter style and a couple of times the knee almost went from under me - this is what happened at Belfast Marathon in 2011 - I didn't want to do any lasting damage so when I got to mile 20, I put aside sub 3:45 finish and concentrated on looking after myself and finishing in one piece somewhere around the 4 hour mark.
I had plenty of opportunity along the tow-path to take in the wildlife - 2 swans and 9 cygnets, swallows overhead, mooing cows, chickens clucking and even at one point a pussy cat crossed my path!
The camaraderie over the last 6 miles was amazing, I caught up with a couple of running friends - Colm (& Team Kerr) and James whilst the support at the final 3 water stations was brilliant. Although, my pace dropped significantly, I never walked (aside from at the water stations) and by leaning forward slightly and not bending the right knee too much, the pain was easing. A fellow runner passed me a jelly baby which I ate (as a vegetarian, this was a sin as it probably contained gelatine) and there were marshalls on bikes coming towards us offering water and gels. The last few miles weren't as lonely this year and despite the knee, I didn't actually feel like I was sapped of all energy. The crowds had filled the streets of Newry and with less than a mile to go, I was determined to finish with a flourish, the crowds cheered as I headed towards the line and yes the clock had gone past 4 hours but I was pleased as anything to cross the line and receive my medal. OK, 4:01:58 was what I had hoped for but in light of my knee and the heat, I was very pleased and actually felt that this was one of my best executed marathons and on another day I would have got the sub 3:45 time I know I am capable of. Felt a little dizzy and the knee was pretty sore but I looked up and saw the smiling faces of Patricia and SJ from NCR who congratulated me on a job well done.
HUGE THANKS must go to the organisers, marshalls, volunteers at the water stations, the cyclists with water/gels and the crowds for a fantastic event.
Big shout-out to the 3:45 pacer who got me to mile 17 and made me realise that 8:30 pace is certainly achievable. Not sure if he finished though...
On the way to the finish line...

So, I finished with a sore knee and some sunburn but I am very proud to have finished my 10th marathon and will be back in Newry in 2017 as I feel I have some unfinished business.

ONE WEEK LATER...
My recovery went really well; I had a few aches and pains on the Monday but with plenty of walking and work with the band (crab-walks), felt good enough to run 2 recovery miles. The knee? Well, it's as if nothing actually happened. Here's to my next marathon down in Monaghan in 17 weeks.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Review of 2015 - Cookstown to Monaghan

Just realised I never reported on my remaining races of 2015; so here's a quick snapshot of what I got up to after the Newry Marathon; with most reports having been taken from my Daily Mile entries.
COOKSTOWN HALF
All my fears were unfounded and only went and got another HM PB by nearly 30 secs - 1:41:49. The rain stayed away BUT the course was undulating after mile 1 until mile 11. The wind was strongish but not as bad as Omagh in March, so felt confident that I would run a decent race. Got into a good pace and took the hills steady and made up time on the flat. First time check was mile 8 - 1:03 slightly outside 1:40 pace BUT this gave me confidence that a PB was on the cards especially as the last 2 miles were flat and downhill. I really picked up the pace after mile 10 and I hit mile 12 at 1:33. I was flying at the finish and got the PB that to be honest I thought was out of my grasp today.
At the finish line...

MONAGHAN 10 MILER
FAN-BLOODY-TASTIC just smashed my previous best 10 mile time by about 5 mins - 1:13:41 - not only that but recorded a second PB during the race - under 60 mins for 8 miles!!
Brilliantly run event by Monaghan Town Runners (thanks JAMES CAMPBELL and others), yes there were a few undulations but the course was fantastic and support was amazing. Big shout out to Patricia Brown from Newry City Runners who acted indirectly as my pacemaker today; wouldn't have got that PB if it wasn't for you.
Early on in the race (with Cathal and Patricia from NCR)

BELFAST HALF
This race came shortly after we had lost Gizmo and I really think he was with me in some way over the 13.1 miles...
As for the race - Adrenaline, emotion, fear, loss...all joined me on the start line today at Belfast HM. Personalised my number, tied some of Gizmo's 'play' red material to my belt and pinned one of his collar tags too. I knew physically I was in good shape but if I was to falter today, it would be emotions that would get the better of me. Yes, tears welled up on many occasions but I held it together; thinking Giz would want me to do the best I could do. This was a different way of running for me, setting off fast and hoping I could maintain to the finish. Things were going great as I got another sub 1 hour 8 mile, miles 10 & 11 were the hardest and I did feel my pace was dropping slightly but at mile 12 i was around 1:29 mark; so unless I did something stupid, my first sub 1:40 HM was on the cards. And there it was a 1:37:53 finish time and if it hadn't been for a couple of running buddies congratulating me as I collected my medal, I think I would have just burst into tears. Gizmo, miss you buddy. Even got a photo in the NI edition of the Daily Mirror!

MONAGHAN PHOENIX MARATHON
HUGE THANKS TO LESLIE CRAWFORD for organising this event.
I am thrilled to have finished my first trail marathon in under 4 hours...well 75% was trail. The whole experience was amazing, on the Sunday, there was a HM, the marathon and Back2Back marathon runners. Yes it was low-key BUT organised by a local club in a brilliant way. I knew I was stepping into unknown territory having never run trails before but I wanted to give it my best shot. The day began chilly with fog but this soon cleared and the sun came out; no wind either meant it was perfect conditions. First 5 miles or so we're ran through the town on the roads, so I found a good pace early on and was probably sub 8:30 pace by the time I headed into the forest park for the first time. The final 21 miles consisted of 4 loops of the park (with small section of road). I soon realised that running trails is so different to running on the road...but I felt I mastered the technique quite quickly. The sights through the park were amazing; the sunlight through the canopy of the trees, the leaves gently falling from above, the haze above the lakes, the little brooks with shimmering water, the birdsong, butterflies and dragonflies. Even after 1 park loop and was beginning to realise that this wasn't going to be a PB marathon, so quickly set my goal to be enjoyment and possibly a sub 4 hour time. I was still fairly even paced by mile 15 but started to struggle halfway through the penultimate loop, my right knee was jarring a little and my left hip was aching...the small climbs in the park now seemed like hills but I was still passing more people than were passing me. Final 5 miles or so and my pace was nearer 10:00 min mile pace but I vowed to enjoy every step and as I came out of the park for the final time I had a huge smile on my face and cheers of Mr Chicken from the crowd pushed me over the finish and yes I got under 4 hours - 3:55:59 - and pretty damned pleased about that. The organisers had laid on sandwiches, soup, tea/coffee and 2 full tables of cake! I may have done the big marathons in London and Dublin but this probably rates as one of my best ever experiences...the volunteers were brill, the course tough but fair, medal was amazing...I have not one bad word to say about the event and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone looking to run a marathon in Ireland in 2016. I am one very happy Mr Chicken...
Pics from the day...


Oh and then in November, I was in NY to celebrate my wife's birthday and managed a short run in Central Park and here's the proof -

Monday, August 31, 2015

Titanic 10k & Newry Marathon

TITANIC 10k
In April, I ran the Titanic 10k for the first time and was hopeful of a sub-45 minute time. The course was relatively flat but because of the proximity to the sea, there was a quite a breeze blowing. My goal was to run even-paced and hit every km in four and a half minutes and as it turned out that is what I achieved.
The Titanic Quarter was closed to traffic for the duration of the race which meant there was plenty of space on the roads from start to finish; even the start wasn't too congested. For a change I got myself close to the front which meant I avoided the usual weaving around slower runners and got into a good rhythm early on. The first few km's took you past the Titanic visitor centre, film studios and office blocks, you then looped back on yourself and headed out to halfway. I was on target hitting 5km in around 23 minutes; I just needed to stay focussed and pick up the pace slightly. There was very slight uphill to contend with before another loop back took you towards the finish. I had a little left in my legs and sprinted over the last 200m or so and for only the second time ever got a sub-45min 10k time.
Dashing to the finish line...
My official finish time came in at 44:46, not quite a PB but very pleased with how the race had gone and it was nice to see the Park Runs (current 5k PB 21:11) and speed sessions had paid off.
One big grumble though; the organisation left a lot to be desired after you crossed the line. Water bottles were hidden around the corner and you had to help yourself whilst medals had to be collected a few minutes walk away from a shop-front. I was lucky enough to get my medal before huge queues appeared but there were plenty of runners having to wait around who were not that happy. Hopefully, this will get sorted out for next year as it certainly took the shine off what had been a well organised event.

NEWRY MARATHON
On Sunday 24th May, I lined up for my first Newry Marathon and it was a bit of culture shock to line up at the start with only 162 other runners around me. The low key nature though made me feel more relaxed and hopeful of running a good race. I was familiar with some of the route as it also doubled up as part of the HM route, which I had run many times in the past. The weather was kind in that it stayed dry and it wasn't too warm. As is my norm these days, I wore the chicken hat and the yellow tutu.
At the start...

The first few miles out of Newry took you along the tow-path and then onto a main road towards Jerrettspass and Poyntzpass and it was here somewhere around the 5 mile mark that I came upon a runner from Monaghan Town Runners who was so taken with my outfit that he took a couple of photos (including a selfie) of me as I headed into the distance.

On through Jerrettspass and then it was tow-path all the way to Poyntzpass with a slight detour of some hilly country roads before heading back to the tow-path and the half-way point. The hills had taken me by surprise but I knew with flat tow-path ahead of me, I could get a bit of a recovery in before starting to push on towards the finish. It was a bit surreal running in a such a quiet marathon; no huge crowds around every corner and no hustle and bustle of having loads of other runners around you meant it became as much a mental challenge as a physical one. I found myself a little detached and ran alone for about 8 miles and although I was still running well, with nobody around me to either catch or keep pace with, I did find it difficult to stay focussed. The cheers at the water stations though spurred me over the last few miles and with Newry centre in sight, I was confident of at least a PB.
Still smiling...not far to go
Off the tow-path and heading into town the streets were full of supporters and cheers were ringing out for Mr Chicken and this galvanised me over the last stretch and here I am in full flight just before the turn into the finishing straight.
As I turned the corner, the clock was ticking towards 3:47 and a huge smile came across my face as after a couple of years of trying, I was going to get a new marathon PB. I'd knocked over 3 minutes off my previous best with a time of 3:46:25. As much as I love running big marathons, I have to say that the experience of a small low-key marathon was just as rewarding and I will certainly have Newry down as my 2016 Spring marathon (assuming I don't get into London). I believe the only thing that stopped me getting under 3:45 was the stretch on the tow-path where I didn't have anyone to run with but I'll learn from this and hopefully 2016 will be different.

Monday, April 6, 2015

From Seeley Cup 2014 to Omagh Half Marathon 2015

With Dublin Marathon behind me and a few weeks rest, I prepared myself for the last race of 2014 - Seeley Cup 10k. I felt I was in good shape and hopeful of a sub-45' time but on the day itself as I lined up I felt quite lethargic and not that focussed. I never got into a good rhythm and struggled over the first half of the race. I did pick up the pace slightly over the last 5k and finished in a respectable time of 46:57. I suppose the marathon would have still been in my legs but I always feel a little disappointed when a race doesn't go to plan.

In early 2015, I made the decision that over the next 12 months I would enter races I had never run before whilst revisiting a few favourites. I wanted some new challenges rather than stick to familiar races that I knew like the back of my hand. 2015 would be the year of races like Omagh Half Marathon, Newry Marathon, Titanic 10k and maybe the odd race in the South of Ireland. The plan was to train smarter and avoid over-training and running just for the sake of running. The Newry Marathon takes place at the end of May so my marathon training didn't start until mid-January and I aimed to follow the same schedule that got me to start line in Dublin. I have ensured that my training included a variety of sessions - long Sunday runs, tempo runs, hills and regular attendance at a local Park Run. Although, I have only been running the 5k Park Run every 3 weeks, I have seen my times get quicker and have brought my time down from 22:26 to 22:00.

OMAGH HALF MARATHON 28th March 2015
My training from January to early March had gone really well and with a trial 13.1 mile run under my belt (1:48:00), I felt confident of running a good race at my first Omagh HM. Come the day though, there was pouring rain and howling winds; hardly ideal particularly on a course that had a few hills. Thankfully, as start time approached, the rain had cleared away but the wind was still blowing a gale. I should mention at this point, that as a matter of course, I always wear a yellow tutu during my HM's.
The start line was packed not only with HM runners but also fun runners and walkers; this made the start quite tricky as you had to navigate past people who were taking things very steady and some with pushchairs too. Why oh why can't organisers get the fun runners and walkers to start 10 minutes after the main runners have set off?
As this was my first Omagh HM, I didn't really know what to expect from the course, so I didn't really have a goal in mind other than to get close to 1:45:00. I got myself fairly close to the front and as the gun sounded realised I wasn't that far behind the 1:45:00 pacers. Without really pushing myself too hard, I was on the heels of these pacers within 2 miles and this filled me with confidence. I kept pace for 5 minutes or so but soon realised that I was going quicker than the group of runners, so rather than just stick with them, I pushed on and found myself amongst a group of 20 or so runners whose pace was more to my liking. The next couple of miles flew by and the sun even made a brief appearance but it was the wind that was the problem; I tried hard to position myself behind some taller runners in the hope they would act as some sort of windbreak.
Around mile 5, I dropped my gloves and then through mile 6, I took on some energy in the form of jelly beans BUT one decided to get stuck in my throat and for a moment I found myself choking but a mouthful of water cleared the blockage and I was able to continue without any lasting damage.

Spotted early on, running through Omagh town centre...

Once out of the town centre, the route took you down quiet country roads and these reminded me of the long runs I did back in Donaghcloney. I kept tabs with a number of runners from Milford AC and Newry City and even when they forged ahead, I didn't panic and slowly got back on their heels. I wanted to run my own race and not worry if people overtook me or if gaps started appearing. Despite the wind, I felt I was running very even paced and confident of getting under 1:45:00 and even the hills didn't seem that steep. The tutu was getting a few admiring glances and I received a lovely compliment from Patricia (Newry City) as she passed me around mile 9. At this point in the race, the rain started falling quite heavily and the last 4 miles were into a headwind. Thankfully, the last half mile was downhill and the final 0.1 mile was run on the gravel running track at the leisure centre. Round the last bend, I could see the clock in the distance and I was on course for a sub 1:43:00 finish. I was overjoyed, I had executed an almost perfect HM and had enjoyed every moment of it. My chip time was confirmed as 1:42:14 a PB and I think if conditions had been kinder, I could have got close to 1:40:00. I will definitely be running Omagh HM in 2016 and now I know the course, would be hopeful of running a quicker time. Now to focus on the Titanic 10k on Sunday 12th April.

The T-shirt to show I was there...

Sunday, November 2, 2014

DUBLIN MARATHON 2014

So, 6 months ago I couldn't see myself running 1 mile let alone 26.2 miles, yet here I was at the end of October registering at the expo and picking up my number for the 2014 Dublin Marathon.


I felt I got to the start line, by training smarter, regular rest, more strength work/stretching, realising my limitations and listening to my body. Come the morning of the race, I felt I was in the best shape, I could possibly wish for. The one big problem I still had to face was the mental side of running and having confidence in myself.
On race day, I was up at 6am and with the nerves jangling all I could face for breakfast was porridge and a herbal tea. Left the hotel at 7.45am, which gave me a good hour, to drop my bag off, get some strides in and get to the start line.


The weather forecast was for strong winds, sunshine and no rain - hardly ideal marathon running conditions but you have to go with the cards that you are dealt. As I mingled with other runners, I couldn't help but notice how many seemed to have 7 or 8 gels strapped to belts; this seemed to me quite extreme but that's maybe because I can't stomach gels. I planned to fuel every 4 miles (liquorice torpedo's and energy bar) and take water at most energy stations. The plan was to be more positive from the start rather than take the first 3-4 miles very gentle and then hope I ran even paced.

I crossed the start three and half minutes after the gun sounded and I as went on my way, I was given a huge cheer from Janette, a running buddy from Dromore AC. The first half of the course was slightly different this year and the first 4 miles took you through the city centre and along the Liffey. It was immediately clear that the wind was going to have a big impact as it was certainly very windy alongside the Liffey.
Into Phoenix Park, there was a stretch of nearly 3 straight miles ahead and the crowds along here really gave you a lift. I couldn't help smiling at the sign that read "Smile if you've pee'd yourself a little". I was spotted by two fellow Dromore AC runners (Michael and Diane) and they gave me a huge cheer from the sidelines.
Out of the park and the first time-check came up at 10k and I went through in approx. 54 minutes. My plan was not to check my iPod for splits and just run by feel but if a clock appeared at any of the key points, I could guess at my time by taking three and half minutes off.
Ran through Castleknock for a mile or so and the crowds were even bigger here and the cheering for Mr Chicken became very evident. Then it was back into Phoenix Park where it was a little more scenic and the route had a few more twists and turns. A straight stretch of nearly 3 miles took you up to halfway and my pace was good and I felt comfortable despite the wind. As I crossed the chip-mat at 13.1 miles, I guessed that I was through in around 1:54, which filled me with confidence as at even pace, I could get close to 3:45 BUT the wind and heat would do for me over the second half.
Last year, I found miles 13-15 tough due to the strong headwind and this year was no different. Cheering crowds along this section certainly helped as I found this section quite hard but I was still passing more people than were passing me. The sun was making an appearance too and this made it quite warm but I was able to collect 250ml water bottles every 3 miles or so and certainly taking on water regularly was helping.
The route from now to the end was the same as last year, so I knew there would be sections where I would be able to pick up the pace a little and around mile 17, I did exactly that.
Conditions were beginning to have an impact on some of the runners, many were walking whilst others were being attended to by St John Ambulance. At one point, I had to put on the brakes to allow an ambulance to cross from one side of the road to the other.
There was no chip-mat at mile 20 but I was still running with purpose, if a little slower but after nearly 3 hours of running with the heat, it was getting hard and I knew my mental strength would have to come into play

Mid-race and still going strong...


From now to the finish, the crowds really came into their own and on occasions the cheers were so loud that they drowned out my iPod!! My chicken hat and tutu were certainly making people smile and at one point a young lad ran up behind me and patted me on the back and shouted "Go Mr Chicken". Other runners couldn't help passing comment as I went by and I joined a runner from Enniskillen AC for a while, who I thought I must be crazy to run in a tutu!
This was beginning to be the toughest last 6 miles of any marathon I had run, so I just focussed on maintaining my (slowing) pace and getting to the end. There were more and more walkers as you approached the incline to mile 21 but I got up and over it despite the buffeting from the wind. There was a bit of a breather after mile 23 and then it was fairly flat to the finish. I was ever more determined to get close to last years time of 3:51 but I felt I was getting slower and even started to worry that I wouldn't get a sub-4 hour time BUT with 800m to go, there was a lead athletes clock up ahead and this showed 3:53, my confidence was lifted as I knew I was going to get close to 3:51. With 100m to go, a female runner collapsed but two male runners came to her rescue and lifted her up and carried her across the line.

There was no mad sprint to the line, just a gradual increase in pace and arms aloft, I crossed the finish.


I checked my iPod and had a time recorded of 3:52:48 and I was pretty damn pleased with that and this showed that despite feeling like I was going backwards over the last few miles, I was actually a lot stronger than I had realised. I didn't fall into a heap, I had no niggles, yes I was knackered but I was elated and walked proudly through the crowds to get my goody bag and medal. I was stopped by an official who interviewed me for a couple of minutes and if this appears anywhere I will post that at a later date. I managed to bump into the Enniskillen AC runner from earlier and it seems I beat her across the line by 3 minutes. My chip time was confirmed as 3:52:34 and that was my third fastest marathon.

I got the obligatory photo with medal...


The final part of any marathon is meeting up with loved ones after and this was a marathon in itself but eventually after 15 minutes or so, I finally met Louise and we slowly made our way back through the crowds, stopped for lunch before resting in the hotel for a couple of hours.

With time to reflect, I have no regrets about the 2014 Dublin Marathon, I ran the best I could on the day and so what if I ran a positive spilt and the last half took 2 hours, I still got within ninety seconds of last year's time. The course was harder and the wind played it's part too. I now plan to rest and there will be no running until after my birthday (5th November), I will continue to stretch and do some walking and the aim is for a 10k race at the end of November. Looking further ahead, I'm sure there will be a Spring Marathon and if conditions are in my favour, I could get a 3:45 marathon under my belt.

I must give a shout out to Vikki, who plagued with an injury in the lead up to the marathon and suffering from mile 9, still recorded a sub-5 hour time and then it was great to bump into her and her family at Stephen's Green on the Tuesday.

There will be no Dublin Marathon for me in 2015 but I intend to line up in 2016, so for now I have my medal and running top to remind of the wonderful experience that was the 2014 Dublin Marathon.


My splits and final position -

Position: 3957
M45 Category Position: 440
10k - 54:29
13.1 miles - 1:52:41
30k - 2:41:29
Chip - 3:52:34
Finish - 3:55:56