Second marathon of the year. Did it the low-cost way: 6 good

weeks of 25-30M with 6 long runs thrown in: 16, 16, 18, 20, 19

and 18 two weeks out. Ran cross-country the Sunday before and

then two short runs the week of the race. Got three bouts of

physio in too and was told I was in good shape. The hamstrings

gave me no real problems in the run-up either. The long runs

themselves were all fairly positive, especially the 20M I did

over in Tuam four weeks out with locals, Brendan Monaghan and Jim

Daly. I'd been fooled by good training runs before so wasn't

putting too much stock in them.

This was my first Dublin and my fourth in total, to add to two

Connemarathons and one Longford. Went up with Mick Rice and Alan

Burke on Sunday morning. There was little else talked about

other than race the whole way. What's new! Would Mick dip under

2:45 for the first time? He was looking very sharp and his

training, after a long injury lay off earlier in the year, had

been faultless as usual. Alan was hoping to dip under 3:00 for

the first time. This was as much a stretch for him as it was for

Mick to dip under his hoped-for time.

The main question I had: What was I going to go out at and could

I hold for 26 miles whatever I was gunning for? I decided after

consultation with my "elders" to aim for two modest-enough

targets: get to 10M in 82:30 and 20M in 2:45 and see what would

happen from there.

Made a quick trip out to the book fair in the Tara Towers before

coming back into the DCM Expo to pick up my number and do a

little bit of schmoozing. Met up with John Walshe, Lindie

Naughton and a goodly number of the other Athenry AC crew,

including Peadar Nugent who was hammering some last minute

instructions into my thick skull.

Eventually - after one phone call - found a place to stay, out in

Jury's Montrose, but first off a trip to Da Pino's in Parliament

Street for the now customary 'Last Supper'.

Back in the hotel by 9:30 PM and in bed by 11:00 PM. Up early on

race morning and the weather was as it had been for most of the

last 8 weeks: dry and clear, if a little breezy, with the sun

coming out later in the morning.

Got down to reception and the first of a few speed bumps that

morning. A taxi would be nearly an hour - seemingly all were

busy right then and there. I hadn't booked the night before.

7:20 AM. What would I do? I was only focused on getting to the

start in good time so started walking thinking it was *only* two

miles. It was 15 minutes down the road and outside the gates of

RTE when I twigged to give Mick a call to come out and collect me

on what were now deserted roads. Too late, he was already gone

into town and had left the phone in the car. I stumbled onwards,

getting to the start with no obvious effort after 8:10 AM.

Stopped off for a pint of milk on the way in, thinking of nothing

else except getting to the race in time. Had no breakfast nor

would I get another chance before the race started, nor did I

think of it, if truth be told. Oops!

After one hour walking, I got to the luggage area, met fellow

traveller Eddie Murphy and proceeded to stop for another 20

minutes to lighten my load once more before sauntering over to

the start at 8:50 AM. Stood around for another 20 minutes before

the race started. Bumped into John King of Headford there.

That was a total of over 1:40 on my feet before the race had

begun, not that I was thinking like that at the time. Still

focusing on getting a good even start, nothing more, nothing

less. Certainly wasn't hungry, at that stage, or thirsty.

Passed the start line about 23 seconds after the flag was waved,

or the gun went off just after 9:10 AM. Got the nice clean start

wanted and was running very freely after less than half a mile.

Was passed by Frank Burke and Philip Magnier before the O'Connell

Bridge and then by Brendan and Jim at the top of O'Connell

Street. I was hoping to see them again before the finish, on my

terms not theirs :). Sigh...

Established a fairly decent pace, always remembering Peadar's

word in the back of my head. Pace Kills...Pace Kills. Even at

8:00+s I never felt comfortable and couldn't figure out why and

still can't, walking/standing/not eating aside.

Got to The Park and knew it was going to be a fairly long day.

Kept thinking positive thoughts.

Positive thoughts. Positive.

Got to the downhill before the 8M marker and was relatively

struggling, even though I pulled out a halting 7:37 there.

Passed my unknown neighbour from Turloughmore Hurling Club on the

hill outside 9M, not to see him again afterwards, I think. He

was already in trouble and we weren't even at 9M yet! I wasn't

feeling very much better than he was looking.

Not sure whether I ever realised that I'd no breakfast at any

stage in the race but the realisation that I'd been on my feet

for nearly two hours before the start did start sinking in and I

was thoroughly disgusted with myself for letting this situation

occur. I had failed to prepare properly and this was the result.

Soldiered on up past Kilmainham and the struggles continued. Got

to 10M in a little (too much under?) under my target time. For

every mile marker after that, I was looking for it after only 5

minutes running. Each mile reached after that was like another

base camp on the way up to Everest. I was wasting valuable

physical and mental cycles and was quickly running out of

"credits", if I was to get to halfways i.e. 20M with a bit left

in the tank.

The carnage had started by 13.1M, with bodies littered - like the

water bottles, plastic glasses and gel wrappers - all over the

sides of the road. It was like a switch had been turned on with

lads - almost always male! - holding up all sorts of pillars,

posts and walls already. This only made me feel slightly better.

All the time, people were slipping past me, right from the start

of the race. This is something I am learning to take in my

stride. Never go with anyone. Never! Right through the whole

race, I felt like I was standing in the middle of a fast-running

stream with water (people) slipping by (passing) me on both

sides, constantly. It became a torrent later...

Got to halfways (distance-wise!) in 1:47. Slightly faster than I

probably needed to but not deadly I felt, perhaps I should have

been more cautious given the relative difficulty I'd felt from so

early - but how slow would I have had to go to be "comfortable"

again? Again a lack of experience on my part, something I also

realised later in the race. Stay positive! Positive! I was

finding it difficult given the wrong turnings I'd already taken

that morning.

The course from 13M to 20M was totally unknown to me so every

turn brought something new, good and bad. No really serious

climbs that I can remember. There were still a lot of runners

all around me but nothing to impede me greatly other than some

woman who cut right in on top of me at some stage after 15M when

she had the whole road to herself to pass me without incident. I

should have told her to "Watch Where You're Going, Missus!" but

was trying to stay upbeat and let the moment drift off into

nothingness, where it deserved to go.

My pace had slackened off as I knew I was now low on credits; not

sure how quite low though. I was just hoping to hit some

long-run mini-jackpot after 18M where I would "win" some

imaginary points that might bootstrap me all the way home. What

a forlorn hope! Or was I already in some sort of twilight zone

simply by imagining this mini-jackpot :)?

Things started getting sticky once I passed 18M and came up

towards Milltown. I was getting and feeling noticeably slower.

I would check every mile split and then, again, five minutes into

the next mile to see how far I had to go to get to the next mile

split. Never a good idea, and one I don't like to practice in

shorter races, but I was getting desperate.

The big yellow mile markers were like oases in the desert. Once

I passed them, they disappeared and all I saw in front of myself

again was sand and more sand.

Got to 19M and was very frayed. Had come across two fellas I

knew just before the viaduct-type bridge and put on the glad-rags

face and high-5 hand slaps, but it was only for show.

I knew I had to get to 20M running as I had stopped at 19M in

Connemara last year and would have felt that I had completely

"failed" if I didn't get that far at a minimum. It also would

have meant that I'd be very close to going over four at my

estimated pace if I *didn't* get to 20M running!

It was imperative to get to 20M without walking and take each

mile by itself from there.

This I did but at an agonisingly slow 9:22. How could I do 20M

in Tuam at 8:00-8:10s and be still rearing to go at the end of it

and get to 20M in the race itself and be ready to be placed in a

coffin? I was furious with myself. Livid. All this effort and

another failed attempt at a half-decent time.

I walked!

I'd gotten to 20M in a little over 2:47. Not exactly outside my

initial target but my race was run - the scramble had begun.

It was during this first stroll in the increasingly bright sun

that Ray ambled up alongside me, touched me sparingly on the

shoulder, muttered something inaudible in my general direction

and moved off. I would paid dearly to be able to amble off with

him up the road towards 21M and the finish :).

I was able to jog much of the next two miles and probably clocked

10:30s. I didn't really bother with the watch once I stopped

running properly.

In my four marathons to date, I don't think I've ever really hit

the wall properly as I've always been walking once I get to

22-22.5M. Continued taking on water. I always kept moving

forward too. Very gratefully raided some of the sweets offered

by various kind people along the road. The support was

heartening, however I kept my head down the whole way when going

through crowds who were close to the runners themselves.

Each of the last four miles consisted of more walking than

running, with the part of the race from RTE into the finish like

going into an All-Ireland Hurling Final, such were the crowds

around me. I'd literally moved to the side of the road as I was

likely to get into a pile-up if I continued hogging the middle


Tony Fitzpatrick passed me around the RDS, having previously

passed him on the way out soon after Ballyfermot. He was to take

five minutes out of me and 400 places over the last 3M, such was

the scrum getting to the finish at this stage.

I was almost taken out of my misery by a poorly-marked speed bump

outside the main entrance of RTE just before. I smiled. What

else could I do? Cry?

And on I soldiered, alone.

Every small hill reduced me to a walk, once we got past

Ballsbridge. I could hear the finish in the distance but dared

not look at the watch at any stage as it ticked closer to four.

The last two miles was spent shuffling along. I got a great

piece of advice from someone in the crowd around then as I was

probably breathing very shallowly at the time. Deep breaths!

Deep breaths! I should have been doing the opposite and did get

some relief when I changed my breathing pattern. It didn't do

much for my ailing legs though.

Eventually reached Trinity and its environs and noted a fella in

front of me who was probably the only familiar singlet I'd seen

over the previous few miles. He was running for some charity

that was promoting clean water - WaterAid. I was able to get

ahead of him running but when I'd stop - one minute walk, one

minute run - he'd get ahead of me again. Crawled up the mountain

between the main entrance to Trinity and the bottom of Grafton

Street and could see the 26M marker up ahead. I was willing to

give it one last push to the summit there. The mind was willing

but the body wasn't.

I walked most of the way up Nassau Street and was only able to

get running again at the 26M marker itself. I managed to keep it

going to the end from there, with my left thigh seizing up

completely right on the line. Perhaps I'd paced the race

perfectly after all?

3:53 and some change. Not bad, but not good enough, for myself!

I limped off the finishing area and almost immediately saw Mick

waiting for me. I was in fairly rag shape at this stage. I

asked him if it was OK for me to have a little cry. He said no.

I didn't :}.

Got the DCM finisher's medal and singlet, declining to have my

photo taken by ASI for posterity. They got remarkably little of

me around the course, thankfully. I probably didn't look great

and certainly have felt better in the past. (Subsequent evidence

would indicate that I did indeed look poorly coming up around

Trinity and to the finishing line itself though there is no

actual pictorial evidence of me crossing the line.)

After about another 15 minutes walking, we reached the Mespil

Hotel, down along the canal to compare notes with some of the

others in the club, Brian O'Connor, Peter Delmer and the man

himself, Ray O'Connor. Mick had done 2:46, beating Brian home by

about 20 seconds. Alan had broken 3 alright, narrowly beaten by

Peter. Ray had skated home in 3:45.

Even at that stage, I had already resolved to give the distance

another day out, or ten, promising to repair the errors of the

day and other previous attempts.

I just know I've a date with a 3:30 at some future time, all

going well. A-l-l...

I'm only now fully realising just how much has to go right for

that day to come but I'm willing and able to take those lessons

on board and run with them.

The distance is humbling and the more I run it, the more humbled

I become by those who do it, those who beat me, those who finish

behind me.

I live to run another day...

P.S. Jim did a fabulous 3:23. Both Frank and Philip clocked

3:30s. Brendan did 3:31. John King did 3:37.

P.P.S. Yes, I beat WaterAid man home, burning him off with my

last .2M spurt. Step forward Gerry McEntagart! Top chap. He

even came up to me afterwards and shook my hand, something I had

wanted to do to him but just didn't see him in the milieu of the

finish area.
































16 years 8 months ago

Great read guy. Sorry it ddn't go as expected, but I have no doubt you'll crack that 3:30. God help us when you do.... :)


16 years 8 months ago

Glad to see that you can laugh about it all, James, that is a very funny and painstakingly real account.

tony nevin

16 years 8 months ago

Fair play James ,great report, I could feel your pain but I love your never say die atitude.I was delighted to hear wateraid man got his comupance at last.


16 years 8 months ago

A great read James. You went through it all there alright but your spirit shines through this report.

Brendan Monaghan

16 years 8 months ago

Well done James, I am positive you will break 3.30 and I now know just how hard that is!!!!!!!!!!! I think we peaked in Tuam 2 weeks before the big day. We will have to wait until April in Connemara??????
You are still THE man



16 years 8 months ago

Wish I was there James. Being able to do 4 marathons is better than breaking 3:30 in 1 marathon! Pity your pre-race preparations went wrong - must have been a factor.

Tony Fitzpatrick.

16 years 8 months ago

Great race report. "Come on Athenry" was all I could say as I passed. It was a hard race and the wind did not help.The woolly hat was a great advertisement for the Fields of Athenry race. How did you keep it on throughout the race???