Dublin Marathon: ‘Whether I enjoyed it is anyone’s guess as I lie here in a heap’

What I will truly take from the day are the achievements I witnessed first-hand

Daniel Stewart: “Skies are blue, and as predicted, today is shaping up to be a good day – but will my legs feel the same way?” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Daniel Stewart: “Skies are blue, and as predicted, today is shaping up to be a good day – but will my legs feel the same way?” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

‘My mind’s telling me no! But my body, my body’s telling me yes…’

The words of R Kelly’s ‘Bump N’ Grind’ are in my head as I walk along the Dodder towards the start line of the 38th Dublin marathon.

I would say that “maybe” best describes what my body and mind are saying as I approach the start of the course.

Revelling in marathon-runners’ acceptance that a sleeveless vest is an okay thing to wear, I finish the look with a yellow bin bag, holding warmth in the morning crispness. Skies are blue, and as predicted, today is shaping up to be a good day – but will my legs feel the same way?

They shrug at the question, as seeds of doubt grow in my mind.

Should I have had that pint the other night? Or the other one?

We’re off!

A shot from the start pistol rings out – and we’re off! Adrenaline bubbles, running is easy. I should hold back, but my ego takes control; steaming along, eating up the miles.

All of a sudden I’m on my 18th. Only now I’m holding a pace of eight minutes a mile, with doubt creeping its way back.

There are eight miles to go, I remember.

Walking to the shops isn’t eight miles away. Living close to something means you are closer than eight miles. Eight miles is inconvenient. Eight miles is long.

My pace comes tumbling down. Dublin roads start to feel like Alpine ascents. Thinking of the hour’s sleep I benefited from, I wished that I could trade it to take an hour off this wretched run.

Pacer man

You can do it! I think.

Talking to myself would waste energy, which has now rationed my pace down to 11 minutes a mile. Five miles to go now, and I feel abhorrent.

I say hello to the 3½-hour pacer man.

I say goodbye to him shortly after.

I have not hit the wall. The wall has collapsed on top of me. A time of 3½ hours would have been ideal, but it’s not like I deserved that time… I picked that time like a child picks a cola bottle out of a sweet shop – it seemed like it was in reach, why not go for it?

Clock ticks on...

Twenty-five miles in and I can think of an abundance of reasons as to why I should not have gone for that time. The clock ticks on, as I run through spectator-filled streets, just praying for this ordeal to just end.

Crescendo of unconsciousness

And it does.

Stumbling over the finish line, I reach my masochistic capstone.

This is why I mustered up a brief spate of discipline and training, why I gave up alcohol since…Thursday. Hours of progression, pain and persistence have amounted to this crescendo of unconsciousness. Scrabbling for breath in a swirl of noise, a dangling medal appears around my neck, as I heavily contemplate what I am, who I am, and why I am.

Amazing people

Seeing my beautiful girlfriend and supportive parents feels like a present, a blessing.

I think of those who were not greeted at the finish line, and those who ran for the people who would’ve been there. And also the kind people of Dublin who cheered at me, not knowing me from Adam, with every fibre in their body, urging me to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

Whether I enjoyed the marathon is anyone’s guess for now, as I lie in a post-marathon heap. What I will truly take from the day are the achievements I witnessed first-hand, seeing all types of amazing people taking on the 26.2 miles, and winning.

Elegance is hopping over the Liffey; ascending Phoenix Park. Beauty is seeing a father push his wheelchair-bound son around the same course.

The 2017 Dublin Marathon route taught me not to be Icarus, flying too close to the sun, but the participants taught me the importance of staying humble.

Daniel Stewart (22) is a journalist and former professional cyclist who is based in London and originally from Belfast.

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