Training had gone very well. I started in June and had been quite consistent over the 20 weeks. My mileage was usually between 35 - 44 miles a year with 3 big long runs of 21, 22 and 21 miles. I had also ran 3 half marathons - Tullamore (1.56), Charleville (1.44) and Blarney (1.46). None of these are old style fast times but I was happy enough to be making progress. I didn't do any speed work or S+C but the fitness was improving and the hunger was good. By the time I got to the start line in Dublin I had outlined 3 goals 1) Get the training completed and get to the start line 2) Get to the finish line and get my medal and 3) Aim for a realistic time -sub 4 hours.
I stayed in old friend Aidan's house in Portarlington and we headed up in the morning parking not far from the start line. We decamped into Aidan's office in T.C.D changed and headed out to the place of battle. I was very relaxed and confident I would achieve my last 2 goals. It was good to chat to some old faces and make friends with some new ones.
The start was very low key and I was a bit confused looking around for the sub 4 hour pacer but was now-where to be seen. Anyway I trotted off and as the first 10 k to Castleknock was a climber I simply decided to keep the pace to around 9 min pace. This I managed easy enough and began to enjoy the downhill drop from mile 8 to mile 11. The crowds as usual were brilliant and I was enjoying myself. By the time I hit the 13.1 marker in Walkinstown in 1.55.34 I was feeling relaxed and confident and without extending myself looked well set to get under 4 hours , maybe even sub 3hrs50mins.
Anyone familiar with the DCM course knows the sections from mile 14 to mile 18 is where you really have to dig in . Firstly it's a gradual uphill, secondly you are running into a headwind and of course your piling more pressure on the legs. For me this was always the make or break section. Get past this and you can face into mile 20 with confidence. 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2017 were marathons where I always managed to kick on after this point.
However by mile 18 I was beginning to struggle. The left hip was getting tight and the energy levels were dropping. I didn't pack any gels with me and I had a pretty basic breakfast (2 weetabix) Traditionally I used to take a gel every 5 miles or so as well as having my banana and sports drink at the start line. However for what ever reason I had no gels and dispensed with my usual pre race feeding ritual. Maybe this was a factor I don't know or maybe I was out of practice running marathons. Maybe my legs weren't conditioned enough . Maybe I didn't do any S+C or maybe I didn't diversify my long run training routes. Maybe I'm just a bit older. Maybe I was running a few seconds too quick. Maybe, maybe, maybe...
I stopped at mile 18 for a stretch and eased out the hip but by mile 20 I knew it was walking time. The legs had had it and I had no energy left. It was great to see Brendan, Denis, John and Paudie on the sidelines giving me encouragement and fellow runners were urging each other on. The hardest and most painful walking mile was from mile 20 to mile 22. I had nothing in the tank. Splits were 11 mins, that sort of thing. At this stage it was all about the finish and I had decided to walk run in 3 min spells and see how long that would take me. It worked well enough in so far that I reckoned might get in close to 4hr15mins.
Judging by the carnage on the roads I wasn't too bad. There seemed to be a really high number of people getting medical assistance, I presume dehydration or general fatigue. It looked bad at times.
By the time I got to mile 24 I was beginning to seize up again but I was determined I wasn't stopping to stretch or drink water or in the case of one of two guys indulge in some childish moaning or self pitying. (Some lads the younger ones were a bit childish)
I hit the 40k mark in 4 hours and I suppose the white level fever induced a better and prolonged spell of walk running. At this point I doing around 10 minute miles and I crossed the line in 4hr16mins04seconds. It was my slowest marathon but it still great getting it completed and getting my hands on the medal. I wasn't particularly downhearted or disappointed but I knew just like my first marathon in 2010 it was all about the finish. Aidan strolled around in 3hrs50mins. It was great to hang out.
Marathon number 16. This one is for my Mum - a real fighter.
Time to rest up . (photographs courtesy of John Holland and Joe Murphy)
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