A marathon six-point plan


Here are six key turning points for next weekend’s race that should help get you over the line, writes IAN O'RIORDAN

I HAVEN’T MISSED the Dublin Marathon since 2000, the year Sonia O’Sullivan was in town. With typical audacity, O’Sullivan decided the night before that she’d like to run – and she won the bloody thing, leading every step of the way, in the driving rain, to clock 2:35:42, almost two minutes clear of the next-best woman.

It was, by the way, O’Sullivan’s marathon debut, and arguably her best one. If only more people realised just how brilliant she was.

Anyway, a year later, Dublin was the scene of my marathon debut, run in near-perfect conditions. Despite being shot in the left calf and stabbed in the right hamstring inside the last mile, it was arguably my best one, at least on the clock. Several others have come and gone, from Athens to Honolulu, but you never forget the first time, do you?

Indeed, I’ve been back for the Dublin Marathon every year since – always sitting right up with the leaders, feeling perfectly relaxed, trying not to spill a cup of hot black coffee, while looking out the back window of the official media bus that slowly shadows the race proper. And which Kenyan is that again?

There are usually some moments of queasiness, as anyone who has sat at the back of a bus would know, although this way you get an excellent feel for the marathon route, every bump on the road, every sharp corner, every slight incline – or at least those that force the bus driver to shift down a gear.

On that experience, there are probably six key turning points in the Dublin Marathon route that everyone lining up next Monday morning should be fully and properly aware of. All six turning points also make excellent viewing points.

1 Fitzwilliam Street Upper

The marathon starts at 9am, and although it might seem obvious, there’s no turning back now. You might be tempted to, if you’re foolishly late to arrive, or rushing around trying to locate a starting perch.

So give yourself plenty of time, and relax, and keep this attitude through the opening mile, which is unavoidably crowded. Space will soon appear once you get on to O’Connell Street, and then the broad horizon of what lies ahead will open up.

2 North Circular Road Gate

Four miles in, and entering the Phoenix Park brings some relief (and that includes the dash to the bushes to relieve the bladder). But there’s a long, straight road ahead, up Chesterfield Avenue, with only the sound of silence. Then there is a little pull, on rolling hills on the Upper Glen Road, and suddenly you notice the adrenaline associated with those opening miles quickly disappearing. Focus, concentrate, and get a lift from that nice sweep out the Chapelizod Gate. And don’t miss the next water stop, just around the corner.

3 Superquinn, Walkinstown Road

After a calm and ideally smooth run up the South Circular Road, over the Dolphin’s Barn Bridge and on to the Crumlin Road, things are about to get interesting. The marathon turns from prologue to monologue, and perhaps the single most important turning point beckons, somewhere around the old supermarket. Suddenly you’re halfway home, halfway there, halfway to heaven – whichever way you want to view it – and you have one less reason to turn back now.

4 The Dropping Well

That injection of enthusiasm from passing the halfway mark should last down Kimmage Road, into Templeogue and Terenure, and possibly down sweet-smelling Orwell Park. Yet beware; it won’t last, and, after turning down on to the Milltown Road at mile 18, past the Dropping Well and the Nine Arches, the leg muscles are about to take a drastic turn for the worse, and that nasty little climb up past the old Glenmalure Park will ensure the marathon has now turned into a monster.

5 Roebuck Mountain

Okay, so it’s a road, not a mountain, but this is easily the worst climb of the route, at a particularly cruel time, too, coming off Clonskeagh Road and just before the infamous “Wall” at mile 21. It’s actually more of a slow drag, the steepest section coming just before the left turn from Roebuck Road on to Foster’s Avenue, next to the friendly Spar shop, but get over it, because it’s all downhill from here.

6 UCD Flyover

Actually, that last bit about it being all downhill from here was a lie. There’s another little drag up the UCD flyover, which will burn every last ounce of glycogen, but then you go down Nutley Lane, on to Merrion Road, and it’s a glorious drive home, so that you won’t even feel that slope up Grand Canal Street, before it’s around College Green and finally that point, at last, of no return.

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