After two aborted attempts to run the Dublin marathon in 2005 and 2006 I decided to head south and run in the Real Capital.
Pre – Marathon
I had run two marathons prior to this – 20 years ago (3:14) and 3 years ago (3:33) both resulting in slowing drastically at the end. I vowed after three years ago not to walk for a duration as this resulted in one 11 minute mile in 2004. Training had gone well beforehand with no niggles or worries to report. I targeted 3:30 hoped to beat 3:25 and others told me I could beat 3:20 – easy for them to predict I thought but still dreamed. We made a family weekend of it and we got down to Cork on Saturday and booked into Silver Springs hotel. On Sunday morning saw two guys who had left Coleraine at 4:00am to get to the hotel – there’s lack of planning for you I thought.
Monday was a lovely sunny morning. Got up for breakfast in the hotel to meet the same two guys – Peter Ferris and Dominickus Wolking. I discovered that this was to be Peters 284th marathon in his lifetime and Dominickus 4th since January – He only arrived in Ireland in January to study in Coleraine and met Peter there. Peter I later discovered had an MBE for raising money for charity. We gave them both a lift to the City Hall for baggage drop off start wished them luck. I deposited my gear bag and made my way to the start. Met a Corkonian and borrowed her mobile as I had forgotten mine- she was disgusted that Women’s Mini-Marathon was big news on RTE but no mention of Cork Marathon – but she was delighted that weather in Dublin was wet. It was beautiful and waiting at the start in a vest was pleasant. Another victory for the Real Capital!
My plan was to head off at about 7:50 – 8:00 per mile pace or at a pace that felt very comfortable. I was conscious of a quote in a recent marathon report from Val Fogarty saying "The marathon has been said to be a long run of 20 miles and a marathon of 6 miles" and hoped not to fit into that category again!
The start was very calm start and I was running freely from the first 100 metres. I set off at a sensible pace I thought but still covered first mile in 7:34 – "SLOW DOWN". Tried that. Saw an Athenry vest ahead – it was Dave Dunne who was doing a relay, I had a quick chat and went on and covered the second mile in 7:21 – "SLOW Down". Tried to slow but third and fourth miles in 7:34, 7:25. "Slow down". Saw a topless runner ahead (male) who turned out to be Peter Ferris MBE said hello and moved on past him.
Averaging 7:27 per mile for this section
This was just past one of the relay points – got great support from relay runners, and my family was there at 5.5 miles this point cheering me on also. Now the voice in my head said "Maybe you are capable of this speed for the duration". Miles 5-10 went easy – through the Jack Lynch tunnel between 7 – 8 miles. At mile 10 somebody said I was 166th – I hoped to maintain that.
Averaging 7:37 per mile for this section
Picked up with two other runners "Maurice" and some other guy at mile 10 and ran with them until mile 14. They were chatting away- I saved my breath and eavesdropped. I discovered that Maurice was 57 and obviously a Cork running legend 'cos people on the road side seemed to know him and were cheering him on. At this stage I still felt OK and was averaging 7:40pm. Mile 15 was the Sports drink point Lucozade stop and I took it and decided to walk to ensure I drank it all – reckoned I might need it later. I let Maurice and his running/talking partner go ahead.
Averaging 7-36 per mile for this section
The course got a bit hilly here – nothing compared to Connemara however. I slowed down a bit but mental maths told me I was still on for a very good time if I could average 8:00 minutes miles home. I was passed by a walker – yes a walker(!) at about mile 18 – I knew I wasn't gong too well as my ego refused to get bothered by this. I got to mile 20 and was starting to struggle. Mental maths stopped working and I just decided to take each mile at a time from here on.
Averaged 7:53 per mile for this section
The last climb was before the 21 mile mark and then downhill to Carrigrohane straight – over 2 miles dead straight. I was really feeling the pain now even on the down hill piece I was struggling to keep a rhytm going. Memories of Dublin 3 years ago told me not to walk but to shuffle so did that except for the water locations(mile 22, 24 and 25) where I 'allowed' myself drink and walk. I was passed by a fair few runners and tried to stay with one or two of them with no success – most I let fade into the distance without any attempt to stay with them. I kept my mantra "Don't walk- shuffle" going to help me along. I also said this to fellow strugglers when I had the energy to. One of whom was obviously inspired as he stopped walking and shuffled off into the distance and I never saw him again. (Maybe my vocation is as a coach?)
Averaged 8:55 per mile for this section
Just after the last watering post at mile 25 my body said stop and I stepped into the side and got quite sick. I felt surprisingly OK afterwards and continued – knowing the finish was – metaphorically at least – just around the corner. I actually managed to pick up the pace and saw a topless person in the distance (male again) and closed slowly. I reckoned it might be Peter Ferris. Saw my son with 200 metres to go and he paced me from behind the crowd until I saw the rest of my family with 100 metres to go and sprinted (I thought!) to the line in a time of 3:28:00 by my watch. I must have looked as bad as I felt as two Order of Malta people immediately came to me and got me sitting down and stayed with me for a minute or so while I got my breath back.Average per mile for this section 8:47 per mile for this section (quite pleased with this considering my stop)
I met Peter – it was him who was just ahead of me. He hadn't remembered passing me. I mentioned my stop at 25 miles to get sick and he had seen that person and said wisely "Too much water too quickly caused that". I guess that’s what the experience of 284 marathons brings you My experience of marathon number 3 – Another great buzz, pleased with my performance and not walking. In summary I did a very good long run of 20 miles and a poor marathon of 6 miles. Would I go for number 4? Yes but must get pacing better next time….
To celebrate like all the top athletes I looked for an ice bath but the best I could manage in the hotel was a tepid bath followed by a Jacuzzi to die for.
Addendum: Maurice (see mile 10-15 above) finished 2nd in the mens 55-60 category in a time of 3:22:35. The winner of this age group did it in 2:51:57!!