Marathon advice from a not-quite-ready runner
TIPPING POINT:Please, take the following rag-bag of dos and don’ts for runners and spectators with as much salt you can lay your hands on, writes MALACHY CLERKIN
I AM not a man. I am a creaking collection of strains and moans wrapped in a bag of chafed and blistered skin. I am not a runner. I am a shuffling mass of swooshes and stripes lost in a jungle of underarmour and overtraining. I am not the person you should be taking advice from. I am a lumpy gobdaw who’s doing his fourth marathon just because it’s there. I am not ready. I am, however, as ready as I’m going to be.
From long before daybreak this morning, close on 15,000 people have been rising, stretching, checking, fuelling, double checking and pointing themselves towards Fitzwilliam Street for the 26.2 miles they’ve thought about every day for eight months. Mine is six days and a trans-Atlantic flight away so I’ll head out and find a remote corner of the course today, mostly to cheer the runners on but also to ponder just how I got myself tangled up in another one of these.
I’ve done three of them before and after each one I’ve sworn Never Again. And I’ve meant it too. I never meant it more than the last time in 2008. Yet here I am once more, a thick-calved dope in overpriced gear cranking out 10-minute miles and dreaming of the end. If you want proof that experience is the name we give our mistakes, I’m it. So please, take the following rag-bag of dos and don’ts however with as much salt you can lay your hands on.
For the spectators . . . Do come out, first and foremost. Especially if the course goes past your door. There are whole estates where the runners can see through the front windows of the houses they’re passing. Nothing deadens the heart more than looking left to see people in their dressing-gowns watching Jeremy Kyle while you’re barely half the way around.
Do look out for people’s names written on the front of their tops. Do call them by them. It genuinely helps.
Do not call them Asics, Adidas or Nike. It does not help at all.
Do not tell the runners they’re looking good. They are not. Moreover, they know they are not. They know they look like they’ve gone over Niagara in a barrel that has smashed to pieces on the rocks below, bouncing them out on to the road with a note in their pocket telling them they’re 10 miles from home. They don’t need your patronising lies.
Do not tell the runners they’re doing great. You don’t know how they’re doing. You have no clue. Your good wishes are welcome and the runners know you mean well but please, don’t presume to know the first thing about how they’re doing. They’re sore, tired, sick and bored. They want it to be over. They want to be lying down. They want to be ex-marathon runners. Most of all, they want the chirpy, clappy father-of-five-coach-of-50 who never saw a problem a singsong wouldn’t cure to shut up telling them they’re doing great. Thanks, but go stick your head in a bucket of sludge.
On a related note, do expect the runners to be a little irrational and maybe a shade tetchy. It’s for one day only and it will pass. I’m sure you’re perfectly nice. You’re looking great, by the way.