Sunday, November 2, 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

The long and winding road from London to Dublin

I was on a real high after my experience of running the 2014 London Marathon and although my cold lingered for a few days, my body was in remarkably good shape. I had a few aches and I was a little stiff but was able to get up and down stairs without any pain. I made sure I went out and did some walking just to keep the legs moving but running was certainly off the agenda.
Back home in Northern Ireland, I was keen to focus on my next race, which I hoped would be the Newry Half Marathon at the end of May. So, about a week after the marathon, I was out on the roads running some gentle miles. This turned out to be a big mistake, particularly as I continued running with a slight niggle in my left knee. The upshot of this was nearly 3 months out of action, nursing my left knee back to full working order. Hindsight is a wonderful thing; yes, I should have rested for longer after the marathon and I certainly shouldn't have continued running with a niggle.
These 3 months were frustrating but it also gave me a chance to take stock of how I approached my running. Firstly, I had my knee checked out and no major problems were detected and my injury had probably come about because I had run the marathon with a cold, not enough rest after the marathon and not listening to my body.
So, between the end of April and the start of July, I started to regularly do some strength training and dynamic stretching with focus on my glutes and hips. May and June was when I started some gentle walking and by mid-June I was able to go out for over an hour. With my knee getting stronger, I started to walk/run where I went out for 90 minutes, walking for 10 minutes and running for 5. The final week of June saw me run non-stop for a couple of miles without any ill-effects.
In early July, I picked up a copy of Irish Runner magazine which included a 22 week training schedule for Dublin Marathon and this is when I decided my focus for the rest of 2014 would be to get to the start line of the Dublin Marathon. My training started at week 8 and I was determined to follow it as best as I could BUT I wasn't going to lose sleep if I had to miss the odd day or take extra rest days. I would continue daily stretching, run on grass at least twice a week and try to mid-foot strike as much as I could without compromising my natural style.
I didn't enter any races in July and August but I was keen to get a couple of races under my belt before Dublin Marathon, just to see how my training was progressing. There was my first ever Park Run (5k) which I completed in 21:50 and then on August 7th, I ran the Laganside 10k which went really well (other than I started too far back) and completed this in 45:44. Although, not a PB, this was my third fastest 10k time, so was very pleased. The following week, I was lining up at the Belfast Half Marathon and was hopeful of a sub-1:45 time. The start got delayed by an hour after a PSNI officer got knocked down helping to set the course out. Rather than stand around getting cold, I took myself off to do some gentle strides and get some stretching done. The only drawback was by the time the organisers called us to the start line, I had no way of getting through the crowds to the 1:45 pacers. I didn't lose too much time by starting at the back and by the first mile, I was already hitting a good pace. I ran even paced and although there was difficult section between miles 10 and 11, I found the course quite straightforward and not too challenging. Really pleased to cross the line with a time of 1:44:26 (my third fastest half marathon).

Here I am at mile 9...I was trialling the yellow tutu as I had agreed to wear said item at the Dublin Marathon (don't ask!)

September and October flew by and my confidence was growing, particularly as I completed two 20 milers with some miles at marathon pace and for the first time, I ran a 22 miler as part of my training and this went really well. Now, all that was left was to taper and prepare for Monday 27th October and the 2014 Dublin Marathon.