Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Another notch on my belt!

After last year’s marathon, I swore I’d never put myself through that torture again. But there I was on March 16th, at the starting line with 26.2 miles ahead of me, ready to run another one - just for the fun of it. 
So now, I’ve added a second marathon medal to my collection. It’s hard to believe.
Is it easier second time around? Absolutely not.
Will I do it again? Maybe. 
I have to say I actually enjoyed this year’s marathon more than last year, even though I was far more nervous.
It’s really hard to explain just how it feels at the starting line waiting for the signal to go, but I think the overwhelming feeling is that you are part of something special, and that your day has finally come. 
I’ve read loads of marathon books in recent weeks to get myself psyched up, but the one thing we have here in Tralee that all those runners don’t is the Born to Run and Marcus Howlett. We’re all in it together, which means you are never running alone.
That’s actually the key to getting through the 26.2 miles. Completing a marathon is about positivity - if you let negative thoughts in, you won’t do it. But boy did I have a job battling those negative thoughts this time around! 
I felt like I couldn’t do it all again, but with members of Born to Run around me I kind of forgot this was a race - and thought of it instead as another training run. 
Passing the half-marathoners in the first mile is a huge buzz and I felt like a celebrity as I passed up Caherslee with everyone shouting my name. By the way - thanks a million to all those people who shouted out to me: you have no idea how much of a boost it gives. I felt like I knew half the town. 
Marathon runners really need supporters it’s what makes the event special - so fair play to everyone who came out.
The six miles to Ardfert flew by as everyone chatted together and next thing I knew, after more cheers and support, I was heading for Barrow. The half marathoners were flying past us all to way to Ardfert, which can be a bit disconcerting as they are going so fast and you feel like you are going so slow in comparison. I was actually glad to get on to ‘my’ route and head for Barrow. 
I ended up walking a bit of it as my knees didn’t feel great. I felt a pull on my right knee as I got into Ardfert, which gradually got worse and by Barrow and I thought for a while the whole run was going to be agony. 
Even at Barrow I thought I was never going to finish and had to keep telling myself I just had to get Fenit, but after about mile 12 or 13 I kind of settled in and when I hit Fenit the music gave me a huge buzz. 
I can’t remember the song that was playing but it really lifted me and I took off down the pier and back up again, flying. 
On the way out, I met the 5 hour pacer and when I realised I was ahead of him I was over the moon. I literally got a burst of energy.    
I definitely didn’t hit the wall as hard this year and I found the Kerries okay, although it was tough turning up Caherslee for the second time and the Fenit Railway line, aka the Skinny Mile, is the longest mile in history.
Actually from the top of Denny Street to the bottom is also much longer than you think. 
They say that a marathon doesn’t begin until mile 20 and that is so so true. I was in flying from until about mile 23. I felt great, but the last few miles the are toughest you will ever do in your life. 
You really have to dig deep to make spur yourself - and this is what separates us marathon runners from the rest. 

Everyone has their own goals doing a marathon, which is what makes it special. I wanted desperately to beat my 5.04 time from last year.
And - hooray! - I did it! I crossed the finish line in Denny Street in 4.54!
And this year, I managed to do it without tears -  I had a face of determination instead. 
I was so excited when I crossed the finish line in 4.54 you’d think I’d won the marathon. 
It may not be a fantastic time - but it was for me. I’d hoped to maybe do a bit better, but my knees gave up the ghost in mile 24. Going around the Mounthawk roundabout, I thought they were broken so I tried walking, which seized them up more. 
I literally was in agony until the finish line. I thought I’d never cross the mat in Denny Street. 
I have to say thanks to Joanne Allman who came back after doing the half marathon and ran up Caherslee and down the Skinny Mile making sure that I didn’t give up with the finishing line in sight.
So whether Sunday was your first or your second or third doesn’t matter. What matters is you made it and you have a Kerry’s Eye Tralee International Marathon medal to prove it. I think I may sleep with mine, it’s so special! 
I want to say a special thinks to all the Born to Run members. There are way too many to name, but without them I would not be a marathon runner at all. And to Marcus and Jim for making me sign up in the first place. I do have to say thanks to Mags O’Connor who ran most of the way with me on Sunday and helped me keep focused.
And now of course having completed my second marathon I now need a new challenge. A triathlon and Dublin City Marathon could be on the cards. Don’t stop me now!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

It's nearly time

I’ve run the marathon on a daily basis since the start of March in my dreams - now the real thing is only days away and I can hardly sleep. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m petrified. I’m happy. Mostly, I’m looking forward to getting started - and getting it finished.
It’s actually really hard to describe the sense of anticipation ahead of the big day but I can definitely say I’m more nervous the second time around. 
Last year, all I had to do was cross the line. I did that in spectacular fashion, breaking down in tears after finishing my first ever marathon in five hours and four minutes. I’d like someone to follow in my shoes this year: I want to see tears. 
Actually I will probably cry myself anyway: crossing that finishing line is overwhelming. It’s a fantastic achievement to train for and finish a marathon, and I know we all have doubts at this point - but we will do it.  
This time around I’m aiming to come in under the five hours and improve on last year’s performance. The only pressure is coming from myself and will probably make me a nervous wreck by the time Sunday comes. 
I know the route now as well as anyone can, having run over and over it again in training. And in fairness, it’s not that bad - it’s got some beautiful views and there’s  a good mixture of inclines and flats - although there’s more than enough hills too: you’ll remember Barrow for the rest of your life!
Training has flown this year and I feel like I haven’t enough done at all.  And now to add to my woes I have an inflamed tendon which I’ve been resting for the past week in the hope it gets me through the day. 
Six months of training and I get hit by an injury in my last week! I know they say this can be part of the taper, but it’s not fair! 
I keep going over and over the route in my head, and poring over the map. It’s actually hard to believe that we are going to run the entire red line on the map. It’s absolutely unreal! 
I know all the advice is to calm down take it bit by bit and all that - but it’s panic, panic, and more panic for me. 
What keeps me going? I know that in a few days time, I’ll be able to say I’ve  completed my second marathon!
Can I call myself a real athlete now? I think I can anyway. I may not be a professional but I’ve been training five days a week for this. Does Usain Bolt do that? Mo Farrah? Sonia O’Sullivan? I’m in good company! I have to say thanks to Marcus Howeltt and Jim McNeice for making me join the Born to Run club last year. 
I laughed at them when they said it would change my life - but running has transformed it, and I love it. 
So despite the panic and the fear I am looking forward to March 16th and crossing the finish line. We’re born to run - let’s go and do it!