Three months for a three-hour marathon

Power of three inspires Daniel Stewart as he focuses mind and body on Cornwall goal

July, 2018. I’m in the park, wheezing and heaving, recovering after the seventh sprint of 10. Skipping breakfast wasn’t smart; dizziness blobs black stars into the skies and trees surrounding. Lungs continue a laboured attempt to dislodge the badger grappling my chest, as I get prepared for my eighth effort.

“Two more to go,” I tell myself, completely unaware I’m now loudly vocalising thoughts to the bemusement of fellow park passers-by. Jogging gradually to my mark, I do not want to set eyes upon it, I do not want to set foot upon it, because that’s where the sprint starts.

Arms rocketing up-and-down, coaching my legs to do likewise, I make my way to the other side of the green. Trying their best, they still buckle. Counting to 10 takes longer on the eighth attempt. Hamstrings betray me, opting for oxygen eating rather than muscle aiding. Transforming into a Stretch Armstrong, the park grows vast. Grassy greens make the black stars become bigger blotches . . .

It’s done.


Every two weeks I will be writing of my progress in The Irish Times, whether it's going good, bad, or ugly

My lungs – a church organ, heavily vandalized: I feel large dents delivering no real acoustics apart from an infrequent soprano squeak. Sweat falls off me, faster than it took to press the stopwatch lap button.

Impatience, pain and suffering beg the question; “Why do this now?!”

"Citius, Altius, Fortius."

Translating to “Faster, Higher, Stronger”, the official motto of The Olympic Games. Created by a densely moustached Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the IOC, he hoped those three words demonstrated “the programme of moral beauty” in which he endeavoured to create.

Three months ago, that did it for me. Moral beauty is all I needed to sign up for my third marathon start, at the Eden Project, Cornwall, in October.

But the inner linguist in me perked up:

Why is it always three?
What is its power?
Why is it everywhere?
. . . can it be anywhere?

I’ve decided to find out.

Whether it is an elaborate procrastination method, or a genuine pursuit of the unknown, I’ve given myself only three months to prepare for my third marathon. What I really want to know is whether it’s possible for me to complete it in three hours.

Our three-leaved shamrock. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Mind, Body and Soul. There is undeniable evidence that we, as humans, have a phenomenal faith in the number three.

Frustrations pummelled previous marathon attempts: lack of discipline, leading to lack of motivation; lack of fitness leading to lack of converting potential. Over the next three months, I want to find out what’s possible with this number, through my own mind, body, suffering and sacrifices.

Every two weeks I will be writing of my progress in The Irish Times, whether it's going good, bad, or ugly. No matter what, it will be a learning curve; from picking up excruciating skills such as refusing post-work pints, to crying through pain barriers, the next three months will be a rollercoaster to Cornwall and The Eden Project Marathon.

This time a few years ago, as an ex-pro cyclist, I’ve been behind a fanfare of a red, white and blue parade preceding a race rollout into the Breton countryside.

And even here, the Power of Three is present, creating the timeless tripartite, Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

If the French have faith in three, I must trust three too, right?

Three months for a Three Hour Marathon. Can I do it?