Monday, October 29, 2018

The Road To Redemption

I went into Dublin knowing full well that I was still far off peak shape. In fact, it had been only in the last few weeks that I finally started to feel better again; that 24 hours race in June had taken a lot out of me, much more so than any previous long ultra, and it took me a long time to finally notice an upturn. However, when it came I sure did notice it, and with that I knew that the worst was behind me.

The Berlin marathon six weeks earlier had been a less than pleasurable experience but I knew I was feeling better now and I was confident a repeat of that horror show was not on the cards.

I had tested running 8-minute miles, basically 3:30 marathon pace, on a couple of occasions and each time it had felt a bit too hard, so I expected a finishing time of about 3:40 instead, still one of my slower marathons but what can you do.

Public transport in Ireland is still a shite as ever, they really did shut down the Dart train service on marathon day for engineering works; that kind of idiocy would be staggering were we not so used to it, and with the total lack of accountability it will not change any time soon. The first bus out of Bray left at 7:30 and got into town an hour later, which was touch-and-go for getting there in time for the start of wave 1 at 9 o'clock, though I was reasonably relaxed about it. If I missed it I would start with a later wave instead. As it happened I got into town, deposited my bag, joined to queue for the toilets and emerged ready to go with 4 minutes to spare. Great timing - it meant I didn't have to wait in the freezing cold any longer than strictly necessary.

I started towards the back of wave 1, so as not to be in anyone's way. As a result, the first mile was a bit slow due to all the congestion but that was fine. I wasn't there to break any records today and a slower first mile in the marathon usually means a few faster miles at the end. I gradually started to pick up the pace as spaces started to open up and eventually settled into a cruising pace that felt comfortable enough. I took it noticeably easy on any uphills but always seemed to make up ground on the downhills, though the first 7 miles are net uphill. In fact, that's the highest point of the course already, not that you feel it in the legs at that early stage. The 2 downhill miles back the other side of Phoenix Park passed by very quickly, and when we crossed the Liffey again I was actually bang on time for 3:30, which I had not expected.

I did worry a little bit because that pace had felt definitely faster than marathon effort beforehand, and I sure didn't want to blow up. However, I have plenty of marathons in my legs already to know what a marathon effort feels like, and today felt perfectly adequate, so I kept going. Oh, and I was actually wearing proof of my marathon history today, sort of, having finally picked up my "100" singlet from the Marathon Club Ireland stand at the Expo the day before and I gave it an outing today, finally having gone full Irish native.

Funnily enough I actually started to feel better as the miles ticked by, not getting tired at all. The course drags on a bit at that stretch, especially up Crumlin Road, for many runners the worst part of the course with its gradual uphill, sparsity of support and almost always a bad headwind in your face. Having said that, this year seemed to be the first time I remember not running into a headwind at that stage. I was still glad to leave it behind me, there is only so much of an uphill drag I can take.

From time to time I ran into some friends, usually the ones with a recent injury history, otherwise they would have been a bit further forward in the field, but it was nice to have the odd chat along the way, and I did get a fair few shouts from the sidelines, at least every couple of miles.

By now we were on the second half of the course and I was still feeling surprisingly good, very much in contrast to Berlin where I had felt thoroughly cooked already at that point. I was gradually making my way through the field, again very much in contrast to Berlin where the masses had kept passing me almost the entire way. According to the watch I was actually running faster here than for the first few miles and I was gradually picking up a tiny bit of time, but most importantly the miles kept ticking by with surprising ease.

This being a marathon, and me still being a long way off my usual shape, this was never going to last forever, but it sure lasted for a lot longer than I had expected before the start. I was well past the 20 mile mark when the legs finally grew weary, and then I started to get the odd spasm shooting through my calves, which I really could have done without. I have a long history of cramping in marathons and I have learned fairly well how to deal with it and how to nurse the legs along. The key really is to run as relaxed as possible. You have to slow down a little bit because you cannot relax if you're right at your limit, but if you do it right you can still make decent progress. I still got the occasional spasm shooting through my calf muscles like they had been electrocuted but I never went into a full cramp.

I eased myself up the wrongly named (because we're not in Boston, that's why) heartbreak hill and then enjoyed the downhill stretches, at least the stretches where my calves didn't threaten to quit on me. I couldn't quite match last year's great finish because my legs wouldn't allow it, even if the energy levels were still intact. However, just like last year I passed Mike from Listowel with a couple of miles to spare (though I think he paced a friend today rather than race it) as I made my way towards the finish.

Because of the cramping issues I had lost a bit of time and was slipping behind 3:30 pace, but what can you do. It would have been a tight finish otherwise but as it was I came home about 2 minutes late, though still a lot sooner than I had predicted or expected, and I was happy enough.

The finish layout required a fairly long walk past the bag drops and towards the exit, but actually that's a good thing as a relaxing walk is good for your legs after a marathon, not that a lot of runners would agree at the time. I kept on walking, and just as I got to Leeson Street Lower saw a 145 go past, and I actually managed a sprint to the next bus stop to catch it - I never had to sprint straight after a marathon before, and I never thought I'd be able to, until the day when I didn't want to wait 30 minutes for the next bus - or maybe I just didn't run the marathon hard enough.

2018 Dublin Marathon - 3:31:57
22 Oct
5+ miles, 46:20, 8:58 pace, HR 134
23 Oct
5+ miles, 43:11, 8:25 pace, HR 143
24 Oct
5+ miles, 45:26, 8:48 pace, HR 138
25 Oct
4+ miles, 36:04, 8:53 pace, HR 134
27 Oct
3 miles, 26:24, 8:47 pace, HR 139
28 Oct
DCM 2018, 3:31:57, 8:05 pace, HR 154
29 Oct
4+ miles, 37:10, 9:09 pace, HR 134


  1. Awesome, Thomas! Well done... delighted with your sprint to catch the bus at the end... miss you... much love

  2. Great post! Loved the descriptive play-by-play! Glad you did better than you were thinking you would! One question tho, what does the "100" singlet mean in regards to proving your Marathon history? Have you run 100 Marathons? Just curious!

    Keep up the training and wonderful posts!

    1. Yes, if you have run at least one marathon you can join the Marathon Club of Ireland and get one of their tops, and everyone who has run at least 100 will get the "100" singlet as well.

  3. Excellent run!

  4. Not bad after going in expecting 3:40. Looked cold with the winner in a T-shirt. Didn't spot you near any balloon pacers. Good run from the 44-year-old.