Paris & London

Published in Reports on 18th April 2014

We had members taking part in marathons across the continent in recent weeks with Philp Magnier & George Livanos running the Paris Marathon and Tony Killarney, Jim Leahy, Frances Leahy, Maeve Noone & Kenneth O' Hara running the London Marathon.

George ran a decent 3.46.30 whilst Philip struggled with illness & finished with a 4.02.28.

In London Jim (3.44), Tony (3.44), Maeve (3.49) & Frances (4.41) took the opportunity to enjoy the day out at a relaxed pace whilst Kenneth took the opportunity of a new PB and ran a 3.26.27. All agreed that it's one of their racing highlights & will definitely be back. The crowds & athmosphere are second to none, with an estimated 750,000 people lining the route there isn't a quiet spot on the course.

For anyone interested, the ballot for the 2015 London marathon opens this Tuesday, 22nd April 2014 on their website.

For anyone with a spare twenty minutes, I have attached my report on the day. Warning: Get a cup of coffee, this is a long one!

The Thin Blue Line, My Smiley Place

For a race that you register for a year in advance this marathon still seemed to come around very quickly in the end. With recent heavy work commitments & illness I was turning up feeling fit but aware that I had a serious lack of mileage accumulated, so that in the weeks prior to the race I couldn’t get my mind around what I wanted to achieve. I felt in my heart that a 3.35, maybe even a 3.30 was achievable, but would the body follow suit on race day? The evening I was leaving for London I had a chance meeting with Philip Magnier & explained my dilemma. His advice, ‘Go For It! You’ve nothing to lose’. So fast forward two days later to the start line where Jim, Tony & I are discussing our race day strategies. The two lads have their fast times under their belts & were going to enjoy the day out at a relaxed pace, I made the call & decided to set out at 8.10’s & see what happens.

I was lucky enough to be starting from the red ‘Fast Good for Age’ pen where there were only about 3000 people, whereas there were over 25,000 in the blue ‘Mass Start’ pen. This meant that I was across the start line in less than a minute & the road was no more congested than any other road race that I’ve taken part in. I also had the added bonus that most of the runners around me were aiming for times of sub 3.15 & below so it wasn’t long before the crowd thinned out further.

Up to this point I hadn’t really had a chance to think about the race as it had been a hectic few days to get to the start line, but now the starting claxon had sounded and all of a sudden you realise you're part of something special. We start in Greenwich Park & work our way over through residential areas to Woolwich & around to the Cutty Sark but from the word go the streets are lined with crowds not normally seen until the finish line of most races.

Half a mile in & I pass my first pub. It’s only 10.05am in the morning & the party is in full swing. Barbecues, pints, music, you name it, the place is hopping. It’s a wall of noise & I can’t wipe the smile off my face. I think to myself that I must look like a right tool as I can’t stop smiling but talking to the others after the race, everybody experienced the same thing.

Mile 1 passes & I realise I’ve just ran a 7.34. I don’t get too worried about it as I have a habit of starting out fast for the first mile, plus the first three miles of this race are slightly downhill, but I mentally try to slow it back a bit. By 1.5miles I’ve passed more pubs, more parties & marching bands playing music by the road side. It’s just mad & I still can’t stop smiling. We pass a block of apartments where someone has set up speakers & DJ decks on his balcony & is giving it loads; it’s hard not to have a little giggle.

Mile 2 - 7.24. Oops, I try not to worry about it, it’s still downhill but I decide to ease up a bit now or it will come back to bite me later. At around 2.5 miles the runners from the Green start area emerge on our right hand side. They are separated from us by barriers so that it’s nearly like a race within a race as we all run down our own routes. I know that we will soon be merging with the runners from Blue start & expect it to get busy soon. We crest a small hill just before the 3 mile marker & the vista below is like something from a zombie film. We, the red & green runners are coming down the left hand side with the blue runners on the right. As far as the eye can see it’s a sea of bobbing heads & I’m reminded of the scenes from ‘World War Z’ or ‘I am Legend’ where the zombies are all trying to get at the only remaining humans & thousands of bodies are rushing to one central point. The whole scene is surreal & I can’t help but laugh. The crowds and noise here are amazing & the adrenaline kicks in again. Mile 3 - 7.25, how are you supposed to slow down on this course when the crowd support acts like a wave pushing you on?

I start pondering the pace in my head. I really didn’t intend on keeping this pace going but I am feeling pretty good. One part of my head is telling me that it’s going to come crashing down later on in the race if I don’t slow down, the other part of my head says ‘ So what?’. I decide to just forget any plan & run by feel. If I fall apart later on so be it!

I try to focus on the race & phase out what’s going on around me but at every turn there’s something new. As we approach a small section of road under an overpass I can hear what sounds like thunder. Hardly, I think, as I look around for the source, it’s a beautiful sunny day without a cloud in the sky. No chance of thunder. We hit the overpass & our bodies are literally reverberating to the beat of the drummers situated in the cavern like space. More smiles, this is more of a party event than a race!

Mile 4 - 7.32

Mile 5 – 7.33

Very early on in the race I decided to just grab a bottle of water at the first aid station & carry it with me. Reason one for this is that I’m the type of person that sweats a lot while running so I need to be sipping on water constantly. Reason two is that with the number of runners now around me the aid stations can be a bit of a scramble as people cut across you with no regard to what’s behind them. Holding onto a bottle allows me to avoid any scramble & any possible falls plus it also allows me to follow the Thin Blue Line. The organisers of the marathon paint a blue line indicating the racing line around the whole route & I intended to follow this as best I could. (When you’re doing this you notice it’s amazing how many people actually step out of the racing line to go wide around corners etc when they have the perfect line already). Even though the course had become busier I found I rarely needed to deviate from the racing line due to crowds.

I was finally able to settle myself & start to concentrate on the race after a while & for a few miles knocked out some consistent miles with the highlight here being the Cutty Sark. I knew we were heading back towards Greenwich & would be hitting it around the 6.5mile mark, everyone had said it would be noisy & it didn’t disappoint. As we turned the corner to head towards the boat I spotted the BBC cameras swinging down from overhead. I tried to remain calm and composed but failed miserably and ended up waving like a madman. As soon as we rounded the bend the crowds just seemed to increase, more noise, more people. (On a side note: I now realise it’s hard to run a race whilst not looking where you’re going when everybody around you is also trying to run whilst not looking where they are going). I round the Cutty Sark thinking this is amazing and just when you think it can’t be topped we turn into an area that seems to be tiered seating with crowds that are over 10 – 15 deep & a wall of noise that gives you goosebumps. Did I mention that I couldn’t stop smiling?

Mile 6 – 7.42

Mile 7 – 7.40

Mile 8 – 7.40

Mile 9 – 7.40

Mile 10 – 7.42


I spot a Donadea 50k t-shirt & strike up a conversation. It turns out to be a Marathon Club Ireland runner, Dave Mahony, who knows Ruthann Sheahan & we chat away for a few miles. Dave’s on his 7th London marathon & turns into a bit of a tour guide for me, pointing out all of the sights. We pass under Tower Bridge together (amazing) followed by the Tower of London & take a right to head down towards Canary Wharf. This section of road is a dual carriageway with the opposite lanes part of the race route later on. It’s not long before we hear a murmur in the crowd that begins to grow & grow. The lead out cars zip past us in the opposite direction followed by the race leaders, they get a great reception from the crowd but we know the noise is for one person only. About 40 seconds down on the leaders, Mo Farah appears & the noise is deafening. This is who a lot of the crowd have come to see & they respond accordingly, the hairs on my body stand on end and I get a rush of adrenaline all over. For a split second I pretend it’s all for me & I can imagine what it must be like when he is sprinting down the home straight to Olympic gold with thousands of fans screaming him home.


Mile 11 – 7.39

Mile 12 – 7.47

Mile 13 – 7.52

Mile 14 – 7.39

Mile 15 – 7.33


We head down towards Canary Wharf & the welcoming shade of the skyscrapers. The day has turned into a scorcher & I can taste the salt on my lips. I down a sachet of electrolytes & begin to worry a little about cramps later on. I’ve sipped little & often throughout but I know from experience that I’m prone to cramping up on hot days.


I know Pam & her crew are around this area so I keep an eye out for their banners ‘Go Daddy, Go Athenry – Run like your Ray Somers!!’ (those in the know will get the joke). I hear a solitary ‘Go Athenry’ but can’t see where it came from but I know it wasn’t Pam. I notice my watch has gone haywire due to the bad reception in this area but I wasn’t bothered, I was running by feel for the whole race & still felt fairly comfortable.


With everything going on around you it’s easy to forget about finish times but as I was getting to the latter stages now I started doing the math in my head. At this pace I was heading for around a 3.20 so even if disaster struck I had a 10min cushion built up for a sub 3.30. But who’d settle for that when things are going so well. I spot Pam hanging over the barrier screaming & get another little boost. I notice the last mile registered as slow but I’m putting it down to the bad reception, either way I kick on a little just in case & I’m delighted that the legs are still responding when asked. Thoughts of a big late crash are starting to recede & confidence is growing for a big finish time.


Mile 16 – 8.02

Mile 17 – 7.55

Mile 18 – 7.50

Mile 19 – 8.23

Mile 20 – 7.28


We hit the spot where I saw Mo earlier & it’s a chance for me to see some of the charity runners in fancy dress. The 4.45 pacers are heading in the opposite direction with a man carrying a fridge in tow (I kid you not, he had a real 3ft tall fridge strapped to his back). I know I’m hitting the business end of things and whilst the pace has dropped slightly I’m still feeling comfortable. Thoughts of a 3.30 are gone, now I’m thinking how low can I go. I soon hear more familiar high pitched screaming & see Frank Burke there with a camera so I put on a bit of show for the lens (Maybe the screaming was from Dee Quinn alongside him though).


Mile 21 – 7.54

Mile 22 – 7.57

Mile 23 – 8.00


AArgh, I knew it would happen. I could feel the tell-tale spasms in my hamstring that usually means a full scale cramp isn’t far off. I’ve never been without a bottle of water for the entire race & have sipped constantly plus taken on electrolytes but the hot day looked like it was going to get the better of me. I start to shake out the legs with each stride & down whatever is left in my bottle of water. Slowly but surely the spasms increase until my right hamstring seizes. I stop and stretch it out & take a look at my watch. 23.5miles, if I have to race walk the rest of it I should get 3.30. I gingerly get moving again but the going is tough. The engine feels great & I can get the pace up fairly quickly again but this is agony. By now I’m getting spasms in both hamstrings & calf’s. I look ahead for any sign of a water station but no joy. I start weaving side to side across the road, scanning the crowd for people holding drinks but no joy. I have to stop multiple times to stretch out the legs now & the pain is unbearable, when I stretch one leg the other cramps. I keep going & thankfully get to an aid station. I grab a bottle of Lucozade Sport & down half of it in one go. I have images of it coming back up again but I don’t care, I know I’m now on the Embankment & there couldn’t be long to go. Dave, my tour guide from earlier, passes & gives some encouragement & I’m able to get the pace back up again & keep going, shaking out the legs again with every step.


Mile 24 – 9.22

Mile 25 – 7.34


I’ve since come across some photos of me passing Big Ben around this time but I have no recollection of it, I’m just concentrating on my legs. They begin to free out a bit again & I can get the pace up, I know barring disaster I have smashed the 3.30. We hit Birdcage Walk & the shade of the trees, it gives some respite & everyone around me is thinking the same thing; Just around the next corner! Some more spasms but I try to ignore them, just get to the finish line! (more photos of me & Buckingham Palace – never spotted it). We hit the corner & the 26mile marker (or 352 yards to go marker) & everyone puts in one final push to the finish. There are multiple finish gates strewn across the road & I briefly wonder which one I’m supposed to head for. I pick the nearest one & head straight for it. As I get closer I know I’ve smashed the 3.30 & I start smiling – and can’t stop smiling. The finish line photos have me grinning like a fool.


Mile 26 – 8.04

0.44 miles – 3.17 (My Garmin finished up as 26.44miles)


Finish Time: - 3.26.27 & a 20min PB


We cross the line & have to go up a small platform to get our chips taken off our runners & collect our medals. The thrill and exhilaration of the finish is soon forgotten about in two small downward steps off the platform as my legs decide ‘No more!’ 10mins of me flat on my back with a medic working on my legs & I can eventually make my way to baggage claim, still smiling.


3 days later & I’m only now getting confident navigating stairs again. But I’m still smiling!