Nah, I'll spare you the poem this time.
I had done the Limerick marathon once before, in 2012, but as a pacer of the 3:15 group. I remembered it as a flat course that may well come in handy if I would ever be looking for a fast marathon in Ireland, though I never ended up signing up for that purpose even though I did consider it most years.
At the start of the year I wondered if I could use it as a second go for a sub-3 marathon after Manchester, but the legs had left me in no doubt last few weeks that this was a bad idea. I have bigger fish to fry for 2016 and will try and avoid running myself into the ground in supposed training runs.
As I walked through the city centre an hour before start to meet up with one of the pacers who had kindly picked up my number (thank you Ger!) I did wonder why I wasn't pacing this. At least it would have saved me a fair whack in registration fee. It would also have stopped me from running like an idiot. Ah well. The money was gone and the stopping would have to be done by sheer force of will.
In fact, once we got going I was hovering dangerously close to idiot territory. The rough plan was to run about 3:10, maybe 3:20 if the legs felt tired. Instead I started out pretty much at 7-minute pace. The 3-hour pacer wasn't too far ahead and for an instant I was tempted to go with him but thankfully that notion passed quickly. I was perfectly aware that I was running about 15 seconds per mile faster than planned but it felt really comfortable. However, since this was my 77th marathon I was equally aware that this comfortable feeling was not going to last and that there would be a price to pay later on and therefore took the foot off the accelerator.
Or so I thought. When I checked the watch again I was still doing 7-minute miles, and on a few of the downhill stretches I was going a good bit faster, so once more I tried to reign myself in.
5 miles into the race I recognised the surroundings from the Loch Derg marathon last year, until we took a right turn up a hill. Oh yes, a hill. I have already mentioned the fact that there were downhill stretches, and it won't come as a surprise to the reader that there were corresponding uphill stretches to go with them. The surprise was clearly on me; "where have all those hills come from, they weren't here last time" (expletives removed). I think the fact that I was pacing it last time and therefore running well below race effort meant I never really noticed all those ups and downs. I wasn't racing today either but I did notice the hills, alright.
Since it was raining a bit I wasn't wearing my glasses, and since I wasn't wearing my glasses it took me a while to take note of the big group maybe 20 seconds ahead of me. It took me even longer to work out that this must be the 3-hour group because it was simply too big for a randomly assembled group going at that pace. Since I was still on 7-minute pace they should have been about a minute ahead of me but they were much closer. However, at that point they seemed to accelerate and move away. Coincidentally it meant that there was nobody running ahead within sight.
That turned out to be a bit of a problem as we got into UL and there were seemingly a dozen twists and turns in the course. Without my glasses I found it hard to see the signs and the stewards weren't always aware that I needed a bit of guidance. I eventually made it through without getting lost but I found that stretch rather stressfull.
Maybe it was because of that that I soon felt the strain. I must have slowed down a little bit because I was caught by 2 or 3 runners over the next mile. At mile 8 or 9 I could not help but notice the difference to Manchester 3 weeks ago. At that point in Manchester there had been thousands of enthusiastic spectators in Brooklands shouting their support. The only shouts I got here were from Peter Mooney, on his way to an excellent second place finish, coming the other way of the out-and-back section, followed by another one from his brother Rory soon after.
Going back towards Limerick I couldn't help but notice a biting headwind that sapped my strength over the next 4 miles into town. There wasn't much you could do but keep your head down and keep going. It helped that we passed the entire field on that stretch, waving hello to plenty of runners coming the other way, especially the pace groups.
Just before halfway I caught one runner who seemed rather knackered already. I do hope he managed to finish but I daresay he didn't have much fun over the second half. I passed the halfway mark in 1:33, a bit quicker than 3:10 pace but not outrageously so. The next 4 miles brought us south of the city into the countryside, a rather quiet stretch for most of it. At least it wasn't straight into the wind any more. I kept the effort even and the pace went down by a small amount but not by much. Eventually 2 or 3 runners passed me and I became aware that I was gradually moving backwards in the field but didn't see the need to increase the effort for what was still a training run. Aidan Hogan passed me at 16 miles; he did his customary brutally fast second half after a much more relaxed first half. We chatted a bit before he moved away again. He put about 5 minutes into me over the final 10 miles, blimey!
Half a mile later another runner caught me, John Griffin. That almost made me laugh because he had caught me pretty much at the same point in Tralee back in March. Back then I just could not stay with him because my leg had started cramping pretty badly. This time they behaved themselves, possibly because of the slightly slower pace. Instead of leaving me in the dust he started chatting to me, and even though I was slightly tempted to send him ahead and take it easy I managed to increase the effort a bit and we cruised onwards together. In fact, we hardly ever stopped chatting from that point onward. It's unlikely to be the best way to race but it made the miles fly by and those last 10 miles suddenly felt a lot easier than the previous 10, even though I was actually running a tad faster again. A few stewards commented that we should stop talking and do more running but we just kept going. It worked, we passed a lot of runners over those miles, and if anyone felt demoralised by being overtaken by two chatterboxes cruising along seemingly effortlessly then I do apologise.
We did get quiet eventually, on the last 2 miles, but by then we could clearly smell the finish. We even had the legs for a reasonably fast last mile, 6:48, without killing ourselves and a passable finish sprint (6:13 pace for the last, uphill, quarter mile). The final time was 3:07:45, a couple of minutes faster than planned but that was okay. I felt pretty good and the legs could have gone for longer, so the fast early miles didn't do much damage.
I left rather quickly to get home and felt surprisingly good afterwards. Even my next-day recovery run went well, I ran a lot faster than expected and the legs don't really feel like they've just done a full marathon. Maybe I'm starting to get fit again. I have a big program ahead of me, so I guess I'll find out.
- 29 Apr
- am: 10 miles, 1:19:43, 7:58 pace, HR 140
- pm: 4 miles, 29:55, 7:28 pace, HR 147
- 30 Apr
- 8 miles, 1:03:12, 7:54 pace, HR 144
- 1 May
- Limerick Marathon
- 3:07:45, 7:09 pace, HR 158
- 44th overall, 6th M45
- 2 May
- 5 miles, 40:46, 8:09 pace, HR 141