That headline should improve the google search ratings of the Athenry site for Alan... but luckly for me it's true. More on that later. I had penciled Longford into my marathon schedule as usual late last year but what was unusual about this years race was that I had decidecd to use it as a long run in prep for yet another 3.30 attempt in September. My training started on July 2nd on hols in Portugal and went well with weeks of 47, 43 and 44 then dropping down (because of silly season in Galway) to 30, 28, 30 and 8 in the week before race day. The experienced runners out there would think of this a regular weekly mileage but for me this was a steady 7 week training programme.

I foolishly decided to do some painting in the house on Saturday and didn't finish until after 8pm tired and sore. My left hamstring was very tender and my Achilles were limping sore. What had I done to myself? Anyway I picked Bridget Anne up at 8am and we headed for Longford on schedule. There was a slight moment of panic in the car when BA said the race started at 10. I thought 10.30, but funnily enough I think we both knew that if the race had started by the time we got there it would have added nicely to the laugh a minute we were having.

The race did start at 10.30 and everyone was in sparkling form. All the usual suspects were there, the usual sub 4 hour bunch that finish in around my time, the 100 marathon club were out in force, and even some of the elites were saying hello. The sun was rising nicely and it looked like a hot day (perfect conditions for me). My common response to the most common question was 'ahhh I don't know, around the 3.50 mark I suppose'. I had loosely talked earlier in the week about maybe being in PB territory but the way I was feeling, I put that thought out of my head. My real intention was to run the first half in 1.50 and see what happens.

I ran the first half mile with Bridget Anne, we slagged a few people off, pulled the p*ss out of a few more and then it was time for me to head off. I try to avoid conversations as much as possible these days, but I became engaged with two pals from Newry who were asking about marathon organisation. I was really nervous leaving them behind as they are experienced marathoners with 40 and 60 behind them. I just knew I'd look stupid again at mile 20 when they pass, as they always do, but a joke about it gave me an out. I found myself chatting to all sorts and completely missed the first two mile markers. At mile 3 my watch read 25.37 which was bang on target really. And then I settled into my own quiet race in my own quiet world, and relaxed enjoying the isolation of knowing that I could be on my own for another 3 hours or so. While the miles were steady, 8.22, 8.17, 8.43, a 9.28 7th mile sent me into complete panic mode. I felt stiff, tired, sore, and everything that could be wrong with me was. The half marathoners had turned back and I wished I was with them. The only consolation was it was hot, but I was in real trouble.

I got my self together and struggled through 8.34, 8.21, 8.33, 8.20 and another 8.20 at mile 12 gave me a bit of hope that things had settled down again. onto half way with 8.49 and a split of 1.52 which I was very pleased to see - bang on target more or less.

I really like the 14 mile mark in Longford, which brings us through a really scenic village, a bit of atmosphere to pick us up. The sun was coming and going but I was starting to enjoy the race. 8.23 and 8.31 saw me through 15 when I noticed with the sweat the plasters had come off my nipples... and (sorry girls) they were starting to hurt. I had no option but to take my top off (sorry again girls). It was like getting an injection of adrenaline. I have no idea what happened but my stride completely changed instantly and I stretched out to mile 16 in 8.17 and then decided to go for it. 8.03 and 8.06 to mile 18. I passed lots of people and decided to keep it going until mile 20 and test my strength. I couldn't believe my watch... 7.41 and 7.24. I was cruising, but still cautions. I made a pact with myself to keep the pace going until I hit the wall and then relax, but there wasn't a wall to be seen. 7.58, 8.20 over a hill, 7.37, 7.49 and one last effort to mile 26, 7.59.

The finish line in sight and I sprinted through the chute. My watch said 3.37.01 but the official time will be a tiny bit slower than that. A PB by 3 minutes. I didn't stop, went straight back, changed and was back at the finish line before the 4 hour finishers. I met a good few of the people I had passed in the closing miles, and they all remarked about how fast I was running and how fresh I was. I ran out about half a mile and finished Bridget Anne's race too. She was out there in the sun having a laugh as usual.

I have no idea what happened at mile 15 and I don't want to question it too much, but here's looking forward to shattering that elusive 3.30 in Berlin next month.


34 down, 66 to go.