Friday, March 22, 2013

From 4:36 to 2:55

A history lesson.

2004 was a very long time ago. I was "only" 34 but might have been heading towards an early midlife crisis. You'd think that the father of barely 3-year old twins and a newborn baby should not have been bored, but for some reason I was looking for a new challenge. I may have muttered the word "marathon" to Niamh before, and one day early summer 2004 she basically told me to get out and train for the DCM later that year, so I did.

Unlike today there was very little information available on the internet and I basically had to make up my own training schedule despite not having a clue. I thought I was doing a lot but actually nowadays I am amazed that I was able to go round at all, 4 months after getting off the couch for the first time, and after a maximum weekly mileage of 15. In light of that a time of 4:06 was actually quite good, certainly better than I thought at the time.

I wasn't happy though and determined to break 4 hours at my next attempt. I increased the training load to almost 20 miles per week, whoop-de-do. The result was sobering, after cramping at mile 12 and somehow, stubbornly toughing it out to the end despite passing the finishing area at mile 15 I had achieved a still-standing personal worst of 4:36. After the initial disgust at myself had worn off I decided that running marathons is a serious challenge and if you're doing it you might as well do it properly. I bought Advanced Marathoning (I was absolutely shocked by the fact that even the easiest plan went up to 55 miles per week and thought those guys were completely mental) and I also started writing a blog - this very one, hence the title which seemed more than apt at the time (it's all relative of course).

It took another year to start progressing properly, but then it went very quickly for a while. 3:55 in 2005, 3:28 in 2006, 3:12 in 2007 and 3:05 in 2008. Right then I became obsessed with the sub-3 marathon but that's also when progress started stalling for 2 years. It needed divine intervention, or at least a coach, to get me back on track, and I still cannot believe I was fortunate enough to acquire the use of a fantastic coach for half a year completely for free. Despite being generally utterly opposed to any form of authority (teachers, doctors, police, managers, ...) I surprised myself by doing exactly as I was told and never ever questioned his approach, trying to soak up as much knowledge and understanding as I could, being rewarded with a 2:59 in 2011.

However, preparation for that goal had taken its toll, mentally especially, and it took 2 years to get me excited about the marathon again. I used the time to do some serious Ultra racing, culminating in the 24 hours race in Bangor, but eventually regained the appetite for some faster running which led me to the start line in Tralee and the subsequent 2:55 and the M40 winner's trophy.

As for going forward, I'm back to my true love, the long ultra (it's ok, Niamh's not jealous), and my next goal race is the Connemara 100 in August, as some people have already guessed/heard. I'll do a few marathons as training - I'm already signed up for 14 before the end of July. As for the comments that I would be completely mad not to go for a 2:50 in Dublin, I thought that the question of me being mad was put to bed for good when I signed up for Bangor last year. That's not to say that I don't want to have a go at breaking 2:50, I just haven't decided quite when yet. Right now, I am focusing on Connemara and nothing else.


  1. Good luck in your 100. I am sure you mean miles don't you? Yes....mad ! :-)

  2. 'I'm already signed up for 14 before the end of July.'


    Good luck Thomas.


  3. I figured you would go for the 100 miler alright Thomas. Outstanding feat and I am delighted you have going to give it a shot. It will be the biggest challenge you have undertaken yet but considering you started off in 2004 lucky to be able to finish a marathon and are now at your peak it is a apt one nevertheless. In your post you write very well about how and why you started off. I think we can all relate to's a just a feeling inside that takes us over. Some man...

  4. Nice piece Thomas. Your planned mileage for the year ahead resembles the mileage I used to do ...........on a bike! best of luck.

  5. you've been supporting city all these years. that is a pretty good indicator of devotion and madness rolled into one. looking forward to following your 100mi journey

  6. Certainly is a impressive progression Thomas, not unlike mine! ;) Do you ever do any work on the track?

    1. The nearest track is 40 minutes' drive away and charges for usage, so no. What little speedwork I do I do on the road.

  7. It's the blog that just keeps on giving ... recording the preps for a 100miler. Exciting! Did you actually say 14 marathons before July? Curious now, will you list them in your next post?