I had no idea how fantastic the marathon would be, or how awful.
The weather was perfect. Cold and dry with just a hint of sun cracking through the morning mist. Fourteen thousand runners clambered into Merrion Square, stopping en route for a final caffeine buzz or toilet break. The organization was slick, given the crowds involved and, their attendant supporters. Baggage was collected and penned off quickly, and stewards herded us swiftly into our respective wave corrals. We waited for the gun.Boom! And we were off.
I tracked the 4.30 pacers. With one eye glued to their pink sails I could relax, find a comfortable pace and take in the sights and sounds of marathon. The rhythmic pounding of thousands of feet and the resonant cheers of the supporters were all that could be heard throughout the city as we made our way through the centre and out towards the Phoenix Park. That first glimpse of the Park`s Wellington Monument through the mist was one of the many uplifting city sights I was to view in our long ramble around Dublin.
The crowd,runners and supporters alike, cheered as we entered the park. Six miles were soon left behind us and there was a scramble for water and toilets. It seemed like every man in the race was peeling off towards the nearest available trees but equality issues raised a few eyebrows when some women felt they should do likewise…Eek!Not for me! I dived into the nearest available portaloo leaving the pink sails of the pacers to ebb away into the distance. Hmmm, yes,something I hope to avoid next year. Pacers don`t wait and I don`t have the kick to catch up.
We were soon streaming out of the park and downhill all the way along Sarsfield Road.. I marvelled at how well I felt, how beautiful the morning was and how the city unfurled her streets so swiftly before us:Inchicore running into South Circular Road and onwards to Crumlin.
And it was at Crumlin, I crumpled. My feet -broad flat Celtic spogaroos, at the best of times-felt like they had collapsed entirely. My socks seemed tighter too, so I pulled over to whip them off. More seconds lost as I struggled with laces.But at least my feet could breathe more easily.
I sucked on a gel as comfort food. Anything to distract my mind from the pain, threw on my headphones and thanked RTE 1 for some great running radio.
Drimnagh lead into Walkinstown and onto Kimmage. I particularly like Kimmage, a village of nicely tended gardens and pretty houses.The crowds were friendly and sympathetic too They were used to seeing runners struggle at this, the fifteen mile point and more and more of us were in pain or walking or both.
Suddenly I felt very chilled. The morning was cold to be sure, but over heating is my usual trouble when running so I hadn`t expected this. I realised I hadn`t taken much water at this point, and that I was possibly headed for trouble. Gratefully, I snatched a jelly snake from the extended hand of a smiling stranger and headed swiftly for the next water station where I gulped a bottle of water and sucked on another gel.
People in the crowd held signs aloft with messages such as “Sixteen weeks ago this seemes like a great idea” “You think you`re in pain? My arms are killing me” Anything that raised a smile. raised the mood and the pounding could continue.
Clonskeagh spread out luxuriantly before us. But we knew it had a sting in it`s tail:Heartbreak Hill awaited. I was beyond pain at this stage because by now my thighs were screaming at my feet They were tired carrying the clumsy appendages.I walked as soon as Heartbreak Hill approached, figuring it would be better save my exertions for later.
But the hill wasn`t as heartbreaking, nor as long as I`d anticipated. I clambered on again. I knew it was downhill for the next six miles into the city. Six miles is an eternity after running twenty though, so I brought my strategies into play for the home run. “Don`t think,run!” got me through most of those miles. And dedicating the final four to each of my children and my sister brought me past the RDS, onto Shelbourne road, Grand Canal street and down to the swelling cheers of the waiting supporters.
Michéal, a Concern charity runner tried to encourage me to run in with him. But he was gregarious and energetic and I had left both qualities in Crumlin with my socks. The lap of Trinity was difficult, even with the crowds shouting “C`mon Mum!” at the sight of my Mum emblazoned number. I smiled when I could but struggled, even with “Finish” in view.
Oh, but stepping over the line. seeing the chip timer and onto the walking chute brought a little shiver of excitement and disbelief.
I was home. I had done it. I am a marathon runner.