Sunday, January 25, 2015


Friday evening I got a sore throat which got worse rather quickly and by the time I went to bed I felt pretty rotten. I did not have a fever, so I decided to wait how I would feel in the morning and assess the situation, though I am perfectly aware that my mindset is "if in any doubt, go for a run". Not being able to sleep exacerbated the problem and by the time the alarm clock woke me I had gotten less than 3 hours of sleep. Not ideal. Was it a wise move to drive for 3.5 hours, run a marathon and drive back home when feeling tired already? Probably not. But my throat was fine and I went ahead anyway.

My enthusiasm for this marathon had taken a bit of a nosedive on Thursday evening when I realised how long a drive it would be; I can almost drive to Dublin in that time! The car's thermometer said 6 degrees when I left Kerry but dropped steadily until it said -1 going through Birr. The roads were still okay until about 6 miles from Lilliput when they were distinctly not fine but covered in a layer of pure ice and rather dangerous. I was very glad to get there without incident.

Lilliput centre in Jonathan Swift Park was smaller than I had expected (Lilliput being small, who would have thought) but it served perfectly well as the race HQ.

There was supposed to be an early start at 8 o'clock but they had delayed that by an hour due to the icy roads and they were still icy when the main field started at about 9:45, slightly delayed as well. The course consisted of a small 2 mile loop and then 4 larger loops of about 6 miles each. A few guys ran ahead and I settled in with Aidan, who I had run the entire Oylegate marathon with 2 weeks ago. After about a mile a group of 3 runners passed us and we more or less ended up running with them, maybe a bit faster than I had planned but at that point everyone feels good and the pace was easy enough.

As mentioned, the roads were still covered in ice and you had to be really careful. The last thing I would have wanted is to break a bone in a fall and put myself out of the championships. I definitely felt that this was not safe but I am not having a go at the organisers; every single runner could clearly see what it was like and all of them decided to go ahead anyway, entirely out of their own volition.

Photobombing and marathon running all at once
There was a turnaround point on the road where everyone's honesty was being put under a test but from what I could see everyone was meticulous in going around the marker correctly without cutting the course. Then the course turned right off the road onto what they called a trail but it was really a stony jeep road. It kept going and going and going for 1.5 miles when we turned around and went all the way back to the road where we had come from, finish the loop on the road and start the next one.

On the plus side, the trail was ice free and almost certainly safer than the road section.

After about 8 miles I felt the pace was a bit hotter than was wise to do in a training run and I deliberately fell back a bit. One other runner fell back with me and we let the other 3 guys go ahead. From that point on I ran my own race at my own pace which immediately felt more comfortable. I had the occasional chat with the other lad but for the most of it we just let the miles tick by in silence.

My right hip started hurting somewhere around mile 10. This was a new one. I have had the occasional twinge in that area but nothing for a couple of years. Maybe the icy roads or the uneven surface of the trail had something to do with it but that's just a guess.

After 2 laps the ice on the road had finally melted, apart from one ice plate I unexpectedly stepped on shortly after starting the third lap.

The gap between us and the three other runners seemed to grow and shrink at times and by mile 10 we were almost right behind them again but then they pulled away again and from the halfway mark they started to disappear. It was at that point that I started feeling my sore throat again and my energy levels weren't great. Obviously, this was not great news but I kept on running at whatever pace felt suitable. I was really thirsty and kept drinking an entire water bottle every three miles, much more than I would usually drink, yet I still felt dehydrated. I also took a gel at the halfway mark and at about 20 miles though neither seemed to make any difference to my flagging energy levels.

The third lap went by still reasonably well, and maybe the bottle of half coke/half water I managed to snag at mile 17 helped a bit but I really started to feel the effort and by the time I started the final loop I really began to wish this to be over.

The small people behind me might be the Lilliputians
At that point I was hurting quite a bit, the legs, especially the hamstring were really fatigued and heavy and every step was an effort. I kept telling myself that I would not have to pass any of the landmarks again but that did not really cheer me up. I really was not looking forward to the trail section, and as soon as I hit it it was just as bad as expected. I was running in very light shoes, as I always do, and I could feel every single stone on the surface and every uneven bit, and even the soles of my feet were hurting.

I tried to keep my form intact, and in fact a fair few runners told me afterwards that I made marathon running look easy, but that wasn't what it had felt to me during the last few miles. I was looking forward to more coke at the 23 mile mark but they were out of them and I had to be content with plain old water. When I finally stepped off the trail for the last time I had about 1.5 miles left, started to smell the finish and managed to increase the pace again. At that point running was almost fun again, though that probably only was because I knew I was about to stop running. I finished in seventh position (I think) in 3:15:14, which rather surprised me as it was a bit faster than in Oylegate and I had definitely thought I was running slower.

I need to reconfigure my Ambit. This is the second marathon in a row where I had run several minutes faster than planned without even realising. On my old Garmin I used to prominently display present and average pace and used this to pace myself. While I do have the same data fields on the Ambit they are displayed much smaller and a quick glance is not enough for me to read them, especially when running without glasses, and apparently this setup doesn't work for me. I'll think about that one.

So all in all not an ideal day at the races but far from a disaster. I managed to deal with the ice, the sore throat and the ridiculously long drive and still have a perfectly reasonable marathon number 64. Incidentally, this was my last race in the M40 age group.
24 Jan
Lilliput marathon, 3:15:14, 7:26 pace, HR 156
   seventh place
25 Jan
5 mile, 43:59, 8:47 pace, HR 139


  1. Well done Thomas, doing a marathon on the icy roads we've all had of late is impressive. HR and pacing so close to marathon you did two weeks ago so it would seem that the virus, drive and lack of sleep didn't hold you back.

    The effort level sounded higher though, fingers crossed it won't have taken too much out of you and you'll recovery as quickly as you did two weeks ago.

  2. I'm always impressed by your training marathons Thomas. You could have enjoyed worse conditions had you been running in the NE US ;-)

  3. Pretty course in Lilliput! Sleeping less than 3 hours before more than 3 hours of driving and then running sounds torturous, though...