My challenge: to train for a marathon and laugh about it

When I’m between the biomes of The Eden Project, I haven’t a notion what my fitness will be like but I do know I will be smiling

Every two weeks, you reach into the cacophony, deep within your mind, and pinch out a rock of thought. Sculpting, sanding, crafting, you present a teardrop of what it’s like to train to complete a marathon in three hours, in three months.

You are Daniel Stewart. You are doing The Eden Project Marathon on October 14th.

“Why do such a thing?” they always ask.

Giggling, you humour them with a “dunno”. They laugh too.


They’re all gone, and you’re staring at the ceiling, willing for sleep. You can’t help but look deep down now. And there, you find the truth.

In 2014, I won a bronze medal at the Irish National Cycling Championships. It left me empty and gutted. In my first cycling season of opting to chase a professional contract over a university degree, I was under excruciating self-made pressure to secure worthy results.

This wasn't one of them. Ryan Mullen, now a stalwart in the sport at Trek-Segafredo, took more than three minutes out of my committed training, passionate belief, and utter determination. There was no Plan B – I needed to perfect Plan A.

I carried the same ethos through to the next season: if outcome x was not desired, presume you forgot to dot an i, cross a t. My downfall had started before I’d even begun.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. A wiser me reflects.

If the fairy godmother granted me one wish, I’d be back at that National Championships in a heartbeat, shaking the boy with the bronze medal around his neck. But I have no regrets, because I’m not alone.

The finish line

Out of the cycling bubble and into the world, the common denominator still resides: we all look at the finish line before we reach the start.

Stopping ourselves leaving the house for the gym as we pass the mirror on the way out, thinking, we’ll never be slim again.

Stopping ourselves from speaking out when we know we’re right, as our monkey-brains drum up the projector to broadcast the cult classic, how it will all look if you’re wrong.

So this is my challenge: to train for a three-hour marathon in three months, and laugh about it. Laugh about the ups, grin and bear the downs. Instead of grovelling about what didn’t happen in the office that day, give myself a challenge to drain all that frustration out of me with a run on the way home. Find that drive and run with it.

The challenge gets me to the start line, its fierceness gets me training hard, and my instability helps me write the training diary.

“The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure” – Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie was born on the same day as me, and is name is sort of similar, so technically I can say I am his reincarnation. I don't know what he would've wanted, but I know what I want when the handful of people read this.

I want them to scrap the ifs and buts churning about in their minds, and go with what they feel they want to do. If you want to run, go for a run; a marathon is in all of us. If you want to cycle, go for a ride – it is the best way to discover the land we live on. Whatever it is, what’s most important is you think about the result when you are staring at it.

When it's October 14th, and I'm between the biomes of The Eden Project, I haven't a notion what my fitness will be like.

I do know I will be smiling.

Part 1: Three months for a three-hour marathon
Part 2: Sweat and suffering
Part 3: I silently panicked: I'm training for a marathon! Ale was the only answer
Part 4: 'I run like the back-end of a donkey in a school nativity play'
Part 5: He turns, eyes burning into mine . . . 'ice baths! Take plenty'
Part 6: My challenge: to train for a marathon and laugh about it