Eight hours on my feet, 27-miles and a medal - but never again
MY MARATHON:I spent most of my first marathon extremely cross. It turns out I’m not a marathon person
EVERY YEAR an undisclosed number of people start the Dublin Marathon early. It’s against the rules and you run the risk of being disqualified, but we all have our reasons.
Limerick man Gary Kirwan who, with the support of the Ray D’Arcy Show has gone from 41 stone to 25 stone in the last year and a half, was at the starting line at 6am yesterday morning, as was this marathon novice. In the frosty morning air our plan felt so right and just the tiniest bit illicit.
Before we set off Gary recalled his first marathon last year when he finished outside the strict seven-hour completion time. By that stage the water stations were empty, the signs taken down and the crowd gone. After getting hopelessly lost he eventually finished in an unrecorded last place – even the finish line had been dismantled – in darkness and in silence.
This year he wanted to finish while there were still people to cheer him on. I had a similar ambition. I knew I wouldn’t quite make seven hours and I also knew that if I was left to finish in the dark with no indication of where I was going, I’d probably head petulantly to the pub rather than cross whatever was left of the finish line.
So Gary and I and a few walking buddies started off in darkness from Fitzwilliam Square, high on adrenalin and the certain knowledge that however tough it got with a three-hour head-start, we were not going to finish in last place in the dark.
The marathon organisers probably won’t thank me but I’d highly recommend this unorthodox approach to others. Even though we got slightly lost. Twice. When we went off course in the Phoenix Park, adding what we reckon was at least a mile onto the more traditional 26.2, we emerged back on the route to the sight of a stunning herd of deer, which seemed a good omen.
I can’t say it was. Apart from the privilege of watching the first wheelchair and elite athletes eat up the road at close quarters as they passed us out – an incredible sight – I spent most of my first marathon extremely cross. All my own fault, of course. It turns out I’m not a marathon person. I was cross at the lovely supporters telling me to “smile and enjoy it”.
I was cross at the sign reading “Heartbreak Hill” in Milltown. (I mean sorry but by that stage our hearts and other body parts were already broken – why rub it in?) I was cross at the beautiful people sitting at the side of the road in Ballsbridge singing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. (They are lucky, frankly, they lived to sing another day.) I was cross with my friends who were told not to talk to me or look at me when I hit the wall nine miles from home but still tried to inquire as to my wellbeing. When I tried to quit at the Merrion Shopping Centre, where incidentally there are some comfortable concrete steps, they stopped me, saying I would regret it later – which of course made me extremely cross.
But there were less annoying moments I’ll always remember. My children fast asleep in a buggy while their father waved a homemade banner near Holles Street. A woman offering me a sip of coffee and a fag (I took the coffee, declined the smoke). And the view, finally, of that beautiful finish line which represented an end to the horror that had taken over my body.
Gary had a much improved experience, I’m happy to report, and though it nearly killed me, I had an unforgettable experience. In the end that’s what we all, walkers, shiny Kenyan elites, brave runners, were after.
So, I’ve had that now, which is great. Another box ticked. Eight hours on my feet, a 27-mile marathon and a medal with a Phoenix Park stag round my neck to prove it. But oh my sweet Lord. Never. Again.