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Sunday 17 February 2019

Dublin Marathon: Elephant Man Running, Portaloo Peril & Runners Renew

So what kind of bloody idiot agrees to do a marathon 2 weeks after a 100 miler.

Just slap me.

Really. Slap me. It might knock the credit card out of my hand and stop me entering any more races.

So it turned out I was running Dublin Marathon precisely 2 weeks after Autumn 100 ended so well. *Cough* On the plus side I would be in Dublin with the ASICS FrontRunners, having fun, having Guinness and having a grand old time. If I was going to have sore legs anywhere, it may as well be somewhere good, right?

Got my number ...

I started my race preparation with a pub quiz and a whisky. And then a whisky and then another one and then another one and then another one. And maybe one more. ASICS were treating us to an evening of whiskey tasting at the Irish Whiskey Museum and who am I to let a little thing like a bit of a run stand in the way of trying some of the best Water of Life? I mean, I’ve run marathons before, right? I just have to keep going. 

Yep. This is DEFINITELY what Mo Farah does before his races too ... 

Waking up the next morning involved a plate of beans, chips, mushrooms, massive whiskey breath and rather a large dose of regret. It may not have been the breakfast of champions, but then the previous night hadn’t been the evening of an elite athlete either. I don’t remember any anecdotes from Mo talking about the joys of chugging whisky while prancing around Dublin looking for clubs. But hey, I’m not going for any time records. I’m just out for a run to see the sights and enjoy all of the atmosphere of a big city marathon. No pressure, no hassle and absolutely no more whiskey.

My race photos weren’t going to be in any brochures any time soon though having suffered an allergic reaction to something I’d touched, eaten or touched the previous night. I wasn’t quite full John Merrick but I certainly wasn’t going to be asked to kiss any babies, either. Meh. 

Walked up to the start of the race with Pete, Holly, Jonathan, Becca and Lotta. Holly and Jonathan were running together and Becca and Lotta also. I decided to set out on my own in case my legs decided that they weren’t going to run after the indignity of having to walk to Reading 2 weeks previously and I didn’t want to have to hold any one up. 

Pete, Lotta, Sarah-Swelled-Head, Becca, Holly, Jonathan 

It was the most CHILLED OUT marathon start ever. No massive pens of people all squished in, no heaving masses of lycra. There was literally a start gantry and I walked over it and started running. I may have been a TAD late but it was totally worth it to pretend I was the first to cross the line. Rather than the last.

It was bliss. Wide, clear roads, no stress, no shoulder barging … and then I turned the corner and there they were. The backs of the 4:30 runners. They were a solid mass, shoulder to shoulder, legs in unison. No room to dodge or weave or move past them to go any other pace. Well it was a decision that I didn’t have to make. I trotted at the back of the pack until around 5km when the road started widening and there was space to go around and make my way through the crowds a little more. EVERYONE hates the runner that dodges and weaves around people. They’re dangerous, they tend to trip people up and they’re a race wanker. I tried not to be a race wanker. However I wasn’t in any danger of tripping people or shoulder barging. I looked like John Merrick and smelled of whiskey fumes. People were moving out of my way of their own accord.

One thing that I both enjoyed and found a little strange was not recognising any of the run club colours. Usually I’ll go to the races and recognise the clubs from their strips, the red and gold of Serpentine, the red and white stripes of Massey Fergusons, the green and red of Spa Striders and of course the green and gold sunburst of Northbrook. But I didn’t recognise any. No words to exchange with a familiar face or familiar club colours. It was strange and a little disconcerting. But all that energy I saved not talking … I’d probably be able to run sub-5 minute miles for the last 3 miles. Because that’s how marathons are always finished, right?

The first few miles of Dublin marathon are pretty flat. IT’S A TRAP.

I actually enjoyed the first hill as it was a change of muscles and a nice change of pace. The other 17 hills not so much. I’m not even joking. There are SEVENTEEN hills. And some of them are nasty. There are pubs on them and you’re not even allowed to stop. Because “It’s a road marathon.” Stupid running. Stupid marathons. 

I was quite surprised though, my legs felt great for first 10k. You know that feeling when you fell all light and bouncy and reckon you could run forever? That. My legs had that.

And then they didn’t.

There wasn’t any gentle “Ooh I’m feeling a bit tired now”, I literally went from bouncy and happy to ‘punctured bouncy castle’ within about half a mile. It was like a sped-up version of my work day. Go in all Mary Poppins and come out Miss Trunchbull. Every step I took, my legs reminded me that they had carried me 100 miles not long ago and even during that there were SNACKS. If I treated a dog like I treated my legs, I’d get bitten. And rightly so. I promised my legs some Pedigree Chum when they got home.

Needless to say when I was feeling sorry for myself and at mile 16 when my stomach started complaining about all of the 7am baked beans and chips, I decided to have a quick stop at one of the on-course portaloos. My stomach wasn’t impressed about the beans, but the rest of me was even less impressed when some bloke either assuming that I’d fallen in or that the door had jammed, forced the door open to reveal me sitting on the bog to all of the passing runners. Yep. Thanks for that, you bloody idiot.

Anyway, I DID feel a lot better after a nice sit down and despite my legs feeling as if they had no springs left I was feeling a lot **cough** lighter after my impromptu stop. 

Dublin marathon is a remarkably pretty course. It goes through parks and past gorgeous houses and gardens. Some houses were decorated for Halloween which was fun and running past orange ribbons and bulbous pumpkins added to the festival atmosphere of the marathon. 

I ran mile 22 for my father-in-law who started running at 60 and really encouraged me into running. He even entered me into my first marathon because I didn’t have the courage to enter it myself. Mile 22 is always the toughest. 

I noticed a few fancy dress runners on the course too including Spider-Man a really ENORMOUS Oompa Loompa and even Sonic the Hedgehog had donned his trainers. The support for the runners was epic too. There weren’t supporters all around the course, and the park was fairly quiet but where there were supporters they were vocal, enthusiastic and really smiley! It was lovely!

Photo by Jack Schofield of Stage Seven Photography

Best of all those was the Cheer Station at Mile 25. The ASICS Frontrunners had set up a cheer station about half a mile down from the hotel on the course and you could hear them almost half a kilometre a way. A marathon is a long way. Sometimes I forget that and it was SO nice to have friends on the course who would cheer for me and give me one last push towards the finish. My legs hurt, I’d had my dignity revealed to half of the field when I was interrupted mid-loo stop and I was tired. So seeing these lovely people at Mile 25 helped. Gazz spotted me having a tough old time and left the cheer station to run with me to almost up to the finish, encouraging me the whole way. Thanks Gazz, appreciated that. 

Finish a marathon and get a hat AND a medal!
Spotted Curtis at the finish running people in and walked back to find Holly and Jonathan. Jonathan who had smashed his PB and was sporting the standard I’ve-Just-Run-a-PB-Hobble. It’s like a smug walk but more painful. Becca and Lotta had also had a great run with Becca smashing a good chunk from her time also so it was a smiley happy group who headed back to the hotel. My head had gone down and I was less Elephant-Man and more deflated-party-balloon so I decided that I would celebrate my shrunken head and my marathon finish with the largest dinner I could find. 

I love meeting up with the FrontRunners, it’s not just about being the fastest but it’s about being your own best whatever that is. We’ve got such a nice group and everyone is so different. I’m really proud to be a part of that. 

Pic by Jevi from when we paced the Parkrun in Dublin

Runners Renew

I don’t know whether you’ve heard of the Runners Renew Programme but my fabulous friend Jevi started it. The idea is to donate second hand running shoes to other people, mainly women, to get them running:
  • They can be any brand (but clean please)
  • Take a photo of the shoes and send it to Jevi 
  • Jevi will send you the address to send the shoes to
  • You will have to pay £3 postage but that will be your good deed for the day and you’ll have helped someone get running!

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