T'was Christmas morning at 7:45am and all through the house not a creature was stirring, except for a runner. I crept down the stairs, and nearly twisted my ankle when I missed the last step – not a good start! I bypassed the Christmas tree, and the presents, and headed for the kitchen to make a festive bowl of porridge. I hadn't been up so early on Christmas day for years!

So why was I eating porridge at 8am on Christmas morning? Well, I was getting ready to run a marathon. My last marathon was Dublin 2008, when I ran 3:14:16. I then trained for the cork marathon in June 2009, only to get the worst flu I've ever had for the two weeks leading up to the race, so I couldn't run (sad panda!). After that I decided that marathons were not worth the effort and I wasn't interested in running another one. Until now that is.

The thought stuck me at the start of November that I would be cool to try and run a marathon on Christmas day. And obviously, if you're gonna run a marathon, then you need a target time and for me, that was easy – the same time I had planned to run in Cork – 2:59:XX. A sub 3 hour marathon! I wasn't sure if it would be possible and initially I decided that perhaps it wasn't a great idea.

I was in good shape though, after a fantastic 5 months of good training, and towards the end of November I decided that I was going to run my marathon! I continued normal winter base training, running 50-60 miles per week. My long runs were as follows, 10, 13, 14, 16 & 20 (the 20 was on the 11th – two weeks to Christmas day and now I knew a sub-3 time was possible!)

So Christmas day had finally arrived but I wasn't an entirely happy camper. I was more than a little worried because of the wind that was blowing outside. I had been counting on calm weather, but at least it was really mild – ice would have been a disaster. So I organised my gear and waited anxiously until just before 10am.

Obviously, I didn't have an official marathon route to follow so I was using my Garmin 610 (the most awesome running watch of all). I know that gps watches are not 100% accurate, but I've seen research showing the 610 to be more than 99% accurate and this matches my experience of the watch when I've used it in races. The one rule was that I couldn't stop the timer for any reason – same as in a race. I was in claremorris so the route was laps of the town and surrounding countryside. I started with an 8 mile loop, followed by a 12 mile loop and finished with a 6 (and a bit) mile out and back section.

To keep this report from getting too long, I'll just give a brief summary of the run. The wind, which didn't ease all day, wasn't my only problem. The route was going to be hilly. I Could have run 2 mile laps near the house and avoided hills altogether, but I would have been cheating (and it would have been boring!) So off I go and the first 8 mile loop went fine although the 2 miles back towards the house were pretty windy! I grabbed two Gels and a little bottle of water from the little aid station I'd organised outside the house.

The Second loop was longer and included a trip down the main street and around onto the main Galway – Sligo road. At around 15 or 16 miles, the muscles at the front of my hips(that pull your legs forward) started feeling tired and sore. My HR seemed higher than I would have liked and in general, it was all feeling harder than it should have been at this stage of the run. Now I was worried. Would the wind and the hills take too much of a toll on my legs? Was I going to be able to hold my pace. By mile 15, I was about a minute and a half ahead of my planned pace so I did have a buffer at least.

By mile 17 however, my hips felt much better and I was headed for the end of the second loop. Another Gel at 18 and then two tough miles into the wind, although I felt comfortable again. Grabbed more gels and a water (I very glad to get a drink – as not having water for the previous 8 miles had been a mistake). Off again with the wind behind me thank bob. I was feeling pretty comfortable really and feeling much more confident now. My mile splits was still well above average – in fact between mile 11 and 26, I averaged 6:40 pace! (the slowest mile being a 6:50 for mile 21). Note – the fastest mile was mile 1 in 6:28 and the overall average in the end was 6:42.

Another two Gels in the last 6 miles just to be sure and before long I was into the last mile – into the wind again but by then it didn't matter at all – and I ran a 6:37 for mile 26, before cruising home over the last 0.3 miles. No sprint finish needed thank bob, and no cheering crowds (no-one at all in fact, because I didn't actually tell anyone at all about my marathon plan.

And the Time? 2:56:30. Which meant a PB by 17minutes and 46 seconds! Fantastic and even better than I had hoped for. I then marched into the house and announced to my family that I'd just run a marathon! - my brother enquired about my sanity!? And then agreed to come out and take a few photos of me running up and down outside in the rain – did I mention that it rained the whole time I was running? mostly light rain/drizzle though so it wasn't so bad.

Then it was time for Christmas dinner and presents! Hurrah! This is one Christmas morning that I will never forget!

I'm sorry this report is a bit long but if you stuck with it, I hope you found it interesting at least.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to mention that the end of 2011 marks the end of my time as a member of Athenry AC. I would like to thank those members who have helped me to improve as a runner, those who have offered me advice or encouragement, and those who I've enjoyed running with over the last four and a half years.

Best of luck to you all in 2012!

Conor Dolan.

Marie O'Connor

12 years 6 months ago

Thanks for sharing your xmas morning with us, it was a brilliant read and congrats on your sub 3 marathon!! Sorry to hear you are leaving us, wishing you all the best.


12 years 6 months ago

really enjoyed the read. that was a fantastic idea and run for xmas morning. sub 3 !! wow you must be tempted to do a dublin? or other where you will have a bit more company for help.
fantastic. well done.


12 years 6 months ago

Strong will power to get out there on the morning that was in it, Conor. Should be some 10 minutes plus to come off that with some crowd encouragement.


12 years 6 months ago

Conor...can't believe you're leaving us.
Well done on a great run, I'm envious.
A sub 3 hour marathon Christmas morning all by yourself.
I reckon Cork will see you smash that PB too.
Well done& best of luck.