Marathon weekend kicked off when I stepped foot in the RDS on Sunday afternoon for the Expo. After a bite to eat and a toilet stop, Edel, Elaine and I received our race packs and took a look at the running gear etc on offer. We bumped into Siobhan Keane who was also running her first marathon; and so we swapped some notes. Meeting Siobhan was a trip down a short memory lane for me as she was the person who took me around Moonbaun for my very first 5 mile run (without walking) February 12 months ago. I felt a bit like a student meeting her teacher out of school.

The expo was a nice way to kick start the weekend apart from meeting Siobhan and browsing around stalls we got a glimpse of Gerry Duffy, whose book “Who Dares, Runs” we devoured during our marathon training, however, none of us were brave enough to approach him. We were side tracked anyway as a lady took to the forum stage telling her marathon story. Monday was her 211th marathon, not only that, but she has fostered 60 children and she runs for various charities including an orphanage abroad. Listening to her speak made me think about each of the 14000 participants, each with their own reasons and goals for making it to the start line.

After the Expo and having eaten all around us for the day it was time to chill in the evening, we are super exciting women… at 8pm on Sunday evening there we were in pjs watching the X- Factor. A phone call from Frances meant that in minutes both she and Liam had joined our little X-Factor/ DCM tactics party. None of us knew what lay ahead the following day but each hoped we would all be happy with whatever the outcome would be. Before it was time to say goodnight Liam left with some of the famous cow cream for his hamstring. God help the hotel staff as his room and my room stank of it, but I believe so too did Deirdre Quinn’s!

Monday morning at 7am on the dot we were in the restaurant for our pre race breakfast, basically getting as much carbs into us as we could to have us full and ready for the long day ahead. By 9.15 we were at the baggage area queuing for the port a loos, I don’t know what prompted us to think of Maria Long at that point but in fairness she was not far from our minds over the weekend as she had her own version of a marathon done the day before, she was now Mrs Lambe and so we felt it apt to send her an early morning text telling her we were thinking of her and wishing her well on her first day as a married woman. Maria had done all the marathon training with us just for the fun of it…and she’s the one that thinks we are mad half the time!

Liam was placed near the 4.15 pacers while Edel, Elaine, Frances and I were between the 4.30 and 5.0 pacers. It just so happened that a gentleman from Tuam was in front of us so we had a nice chat with him while waiting for our wave to cross the start line. He has promised that he will be at this years St Stephens Day race as he is every year and I have been reliably informed that the Tuam 8k race in January 2012 will now be one loop.

Just before 10.30 we were crossing the start line. Edel and Elaine set off ahead of myself and Frances. The first mile or so was a case of ducking and diving before finally settling at 10.4 minute miles and we simply enjoyed the scenery. There were so many costumes around us and T-shirts to read, not to mention the amount of supporters, the start was simply electric. The buzz was infectious.

The first three miles flew by, at about mile two we passed Gary Kirwan from Limerick, I cheered him on and Frances shook his hand. Gary’s story is being followed by Today Fm as he weighed 41 stone and is now down to 29 stone and he walked the entire marathon course finishing in just under 11 hours.

Over the next few miles we did some ear wigging and overheard a conversation where a guy informed another runner that this was his 10th marathon and it was his 3rd cancer free. We also enjoyed watching a guy ahead of us dressed as a “French Villain” or so his costume declared he was, he was dressed in a white sheet and had a fake knife in hand, taking pleasure in scaring fellow runners by holding the knife up to their faces, he also caught out one unsuspecting supporter, causing her to almost leap in the air.

By 10km we were running through the Phoenix Park and it was here that I saw my first victim of the day, a poor soul puking; unfortunately he wasn’t the last casualty I came across. A few people were stopping and stretching while others were starting to adopt a run walk technique. I was still managing to run at 10.4 minute miles and hoping I could keep this pace and survive without being taken captive to bad luck.

Frances met an acquaintance in the park and after a brief catch up he dropped back and we continued forward. The supporters were amazing, we came across so many brilliant signs, one of which kept popping up telling us “you are all Kenyans in my eyes” and one child had a class sign saying “your feet are hurting ‘cos you are kicking ass”. We tried to read as many signs as we could and give as many hi fives to children as we could also.

We passed an elderly gentleman with a walking stick but he was using it as a guitar and singing to us, another guy was in his front garden playing the saxophone and there were two girls with a radio in a car blaring and dancing to the music as we passed by, I just hope they didn’t run the battery down!

Frances and I were thrilled when we passed the 13.1 mile mark, we cleared it in 2 hours 25, and we had hoped to be passing halfway no quicker than 2 hours 20. We had paced ourselves well and felt we hadn’t gone out too fast.

By mile 14 things started to unravel, my legs turned to lead, yet again, as they had done in the Athlone ¾ marathon. I told Frances I would have to pull back the pace if I was going to finish and so our partnership ended as I watched her disappear and I was slowly engulfed by people. Although I was surrounded by people I felt a bit lonely as I was worried about just how slow I could possibly get but when I started to focus again on the various T-shirts and signs it was not long before I was clipping myself on the ear and reminding myself today was about finishing and enjoying the experience, so what if it was going to be a slow slog home.

Miles 14 to 18 were very slow, I went out to almost 14 minute miles, I had never seen this pace in any of my training runs but my legs had no speed in them whatsoever. I have since analysed this with Valerie and Ruthann and am pretty certain my issue is that I don’t take gels, I rely on an electrolyte dissolved tablet called Zym, water and some ginger nut biscuits. The Zym has very little carbs and the biscuits are not being digested quick enough to give me the fuel I need during those miles… its something I need to tweak for next year!

Just before mile17 I spotted Ken Doherty the snooker player in the crowd and I started to wonder who else was out there that I had missed, this kept my mind switched off until I heard someone shout “here comes the 5.0 pacers”, yip, I was about to be passed out by the 5.0 pacers. The pacer came up behind me and started shouting “go on Athenry”, my response was “I am fu***d” and I heard another shout saying “your work colleague is coming up behind you also”, all I could do was laugh, there was nothing else to do when the legs wouldn’t move and there were some interesting people on my tail.

I chatted with the pacer for a few minutes, he asked me if I knew a certain Valerie Glavin, I told him to expect to hear her screaming abuse at me in the next half a mile when she saw were I was in the field. My work colleague Orla pulled up beside me for a bit of a chat and I was joking saying that I was willing to stay plodding along for 10 hours if that was what it took for me to finish. My Tuam friend also reappeared here with some much needed banter, he mentioned a certain wall saying he was still trying to find it, I told him I was currently climbing it!

Of course I had to say goodbye to this lovely company as my legs decided they were back peddling instead of moving forward but all I could do was let them off and struggle on.

Just after mile18 I did meet Valerie, in fairness I got little abuse, she asked if I needed anything or if I wanted to dump any of my gear with her, I told her no thanks but that my legs were lead, she got the last word by shouting after me “now run faster!”. I had run ahead of her when she passed this comment and so would have wasted much needed energy to double back and either attempt a reply or thump her.

When I hit mile 20 my legs started to pick up again, they were nowhere near the 10.4 pace I needed to be but they were at least well away from the 14 minute mile pace. It wasn’t such an effort anymore to pick up my legs, it was great. Around this point I was trying to picture myself out for a small run with Assumpta, Anne, Kellie and Martina, it was just 10k to the finish and so I was trying to picture myself on the 10k loop around Athenry.

I soon caught a glimpse of Frances ahead of me and thought if I could just keep running I might just be able to rekindle our partnership.

Unlike the humid day we had started with it was now raining heavily. It didn’t take long for me to have puddles in my shoes and I was thinking of a book I had read “Ultramarathon Man”, where the author mentions running in wet socks and a little thing called blisters, I wasn’t prepared to run around puddles as that would use unnecessary energy so I had no option but to plough through them and hope I wouldn’t get one of these friendly blisters on my feet. Luckily I escaped.

During the next few miles I came across a lot of people being stretchered off the course and saw a lot of people struggling around me. I kept running along, passing out a few people and being passed out by those on their second wind. I came across a guy from Venezuela who was running fast and then walking, so I would pass him out and then he would pass me out, this game continued for about half a mile. In one of his walking breaks I tried to use the universal language of gesturing at him to run with me, but he either didn’t understand or didn’t like my company and so I went in front of him yet again.

I met one of the army guys running in full uniform, backpack the works. He had his head hanging and a guy beside him was trying to get the crowd going to spur him on, I did my bit by screaming at him as I passed. I did a lot of screaming along the route, everyone who shouted at me, got a shout back. I was warned about having tired sore legs etc after a marathon but I was not warned about the sore throat. My throat was aching by the time I finished; maybe if id kept my mouth shut I wouldn’t have had such a bad patch from miles 14 to 18.

Somewhere along this home stretch I was offered some jellies by a young man at one of the water stops, I may have been hallucinating but as I declined some of the sweets my brain heard “can I have your phone number”. I have no idea if this is what was actually said, but it’s what I heard and made me laugh for the next few minutes.

Around mile 22 Philip Magnier appeared with his camera; although I wasn’t overly excited at having my picture taken I was grateful for the friendly face and the cheer.

Once I hit mile 23 I knew I was home and dry, my legs picked up yet again and there were very few people between myself and Frances. I finally caught up to her just after the 24 mile mark and told her we would finish together as we had started our training together. I had to apologise to her after the race as she told me she was finding it tough and so I decided to try switching her mind off, by singing to her, sorry again Frances!

I savoured the last mile home, I looked at every supporter I could, I whooped and cheered like an idiot and enjoyed every second of the run to the finish. Both Frances and I ended our journey together in 5.09.09. The feeling of elation was indescribable; I have learnt I have to enjoy the good moments because a bad one could be just around the corner and enjoy it I did! I know to some people a 5.09 marathon would be a disaster but when you struggle to get it and see others being stretchered off or limping to the finish I just could not help but be elated, believe it or not I worked my ass off to get this finish!!

The race was a rollercoaster but one that I was lucky enough to enjoy. I hope I can have as good an experience next year but if not I have this years race to savour.

Thanks to Mr and Mrs Lambe, Frances, Liam, Edel and Elaine enjoyed a glass of champagne and I enjoyed an entire bottle of sparkling water (Maria catered to my non alcoholic needs), toasting each other and the newly weds before heading out for our celebratory dinner.

Siobhan Keane

12 years 8 months ago

Great report Marie - you described race perfectly!Well done to you and to others from Athenry - ye did mighty!!was lovely bumping into yourself and others at expo and ahem to Maeve and Deirdre on the day :-) ya can meet anyone anywhere - what happens in Dublin stays in Dublin hahaha!!
Ah Marie you can blame me for taking you that morning and introducing you to the drug of running.At least its a good drug :) have to say thanks as well to Maeve (could never understand how anyone could run and chat a million miles an hour :)) and Deirdre for getting me hooked and to others in the fit for life 2 yrs ago.It is thanks to the club that I ran the marathon.athenry is such a huge and friendly club.No other club like it here in Meath.
Def signing up for fields of athenry so will def pop over to ye for few strolls when back home for Xmas.