Before we get to 9 am on a wet Dublin Monday Bank Holiday, I'll take you back to the start of the year and a decision taken to simply enjoy my running this year, not worry about times etc., and hopefully get fit enough to run another marathon. It has been 4 years since I last completed 26 miles, and although I have been at the last 3 Dublin races, I have not lined up at the start.
OK, Confession time. My training has been great this year. Great that is if I had been running a 10 Mile Race. I have checked my running log and as an experienced marathon runner, 18 completed before yesterday, my training diary is definitely not one to be copied. On July 28th I ran 6 miles, which was my longest run of the year, up to that point. On August 20th I raced over 10 miles. At no other point this year have I run further than 5 miles. Can you see a disaster brewing?
Notiwthstanding this total disregard for long runs, or even medium runs, I had been averaging 20 miles per week, so not a total disregard for training, just no long runs. To complete my training, the last two weeks saw NO runs at all. I raced over 5 miles at Loughrea two weeks ago, and then had a few days when I was tied up work wise, with plans to run last weekend. Last Saturday, nine days before the marathon, I woke up to find the tendons on my right foot making it extremely sore to walk. I was limping for three days, icing my foot, and seemed to have only a 10% chance of starting on Monday. However, the icing and rest worked, and on Saturday I collected my number from the expo, managed a massage on my foot from Paul McNamara from my club, and knew that I would at least start.
Knowing how little I had done in marathon training, and knowing that I am due to run the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov 20th, it was my intention to run much slower than any previous race I have ever taken part in, and having been chatting on here with Kelly from Boston who was coming over to take part in her first marathon, I had offered my services to pace her and help her get around. All in all, I was hoping that I could manage an 11 minute pace and ensure Kelly could get under 5 hours.
On the Sunday, it was back to the expo, meeting Kelly and her family, Norman and his running partner Marina, the lads from Athenry, and briefly Derek from the Cool Running Forums, and then in the evening the Italian Restaurant with most of the above, home to bed by 10:30 and a good sleep to prepare for the day.
Monday morning was wet and wild, well wet anyway, and the 9 o'clock start, with an 8 o'clock meet with Kelly, saw me soaked by the time the start came, and eventually we squished off, and my first ever pacing run outside of my normal zone was off.
Now given my lack of anything, my pacing was spot on, even if I do say so myself. The first two miles were 11:20 and 11:21, which was to be expected weaving around the walkers etc., and the puddles!. After that we settled into an easy rhythm, chatting away, clicking off mile after mile , 11:13, 11:04, 10:50, 11:11, 10:37, 10:46, 10:46, 10:58, reaching 10 miles at 1 hour 50 mins and 6 seconds. Pretty good attempt so far,
The rain stopped somewhere around here, although we were soaked to the skin, so it didn't make a lot of difference for now. Kelly was feeling great, and looking superb. She had written her name on her shirt, after we had told her of the way the crowd will call out support, and was really enjoying the "Go Kelly" shouts from the small (not suprisingly given the weather), but enthusiastic crowd.
Our next five miles were chipped away with 10:37, 11:25 (the one hill), 10:53, 10:43 10:38, so we were still running on course for that 11 minute average. However it was around here that I was feeling that lack of training, and with Kelly and I taking a toilet break it was time for me to reasses my own capabilities, knowing that Philly is around the corner. My quads were tightening, my calfs hardening, and I knew that I would be slowing down over teh next few miles. It was time to set Kelly off on here own to achieve her goal. She was reluctant to leave me, but I knew that I would slow and maybe miss her sub 5 target, so after a 13:20 mile 16 (the toilet break), we ironically ran our fastest mile at 17, our last together, we ran 10:29, and I knew that if Kelly kept going and didn't tie up she would make it easily.
Me, I took a walk. Planning to write this up as a good 17 mile training run, and run/walk home to complete the marathon. However, my work as a pacer wasn't quite over for the day. As I was walking that 18th mile, I met Dean. An Irish Lad from Larne, taking part in his first marathon, and distraught. His legs and feet were killing him. He had hit the wall, and was struggling both physically and mentally. We walked that whole mile and talked, He would have dropped out if there was anywhere to do so, but as we were in no-mans land, so to speak, at this point in the race, our talking kept him walking. We tried a little run, but he could only last a few minutes before grinding to a halt, so now I had a decision to make.
It was an easy one to make. I had no thoughts of a time. It had alwasy been my intention to simply use this as a training run, so given Dean's obvious discomfort, we walked home. 16 minutes per mile, walking along in the now sunny Dublin, chatting away, Dean understanding that you have to repsect the Marathon, no doubt getting bored by my relentless chatter, but bored or otherwise we passed each mile marker, and at the 26 mile marker Dean summoned up the courage to jog home, so we ran across the line together, and my training run had resulted in my 19th marathon finish, Deans first, our times around the 5:33 mark - Who cared, we had done our jobs for the day.
I caught up with Kelly and her family in the massage tent. She had completed her first Marathon in 4:51, a fantastic achievement, and hopefully she will recount her views of her run when she completes her vacation in Ireland and returns home next week.
From the finish I changed and headed for my first drink in 10 months, refreshing, and after Dee had joined me, we had met up with Selina and the Womens Running Network from England, Dee and I headed for dinner, then joined Noel McInerney, an Irish runner who I work with, who had completed his 100th Marathon here in Dublin, and his 25th Dublin Race to boot! Norman, Marina and Steve joined us there, and hopefully they enjoyed their trip to Dublin.
Me, I am sore today. My quads are really tight, but they will loosen in a day or two, and I will ensure that in future I will do my proper training, the longer runs etc. I have broken my 4 year break from marathons, enjoyed my weekend, knowing my limitations, and look forward to a pleasant trip to Philadelphia, and to 2006 with renewed enthusiasm.