The seeds of my marathon were sown in London in April when the pacer I tried to follow had a bad day at the office and so, to some small degree, contributed to mine.
I came away wondering about the people who choose to put themselves under more pressure than simply running 26.2 miles but thought little more of it until an email came around to members of my club saying they were looking for a few new faces on the Dublin pacing team. They put me with Eamonn and Gary on the 4 hours 40 minutes slot.
The former, it turned out, I had met before, back in 2007 when I was training and writing about my first marathon. He was making his debut that year too but had run 98 by the time he lined up yesterday. In two weeks time he’ll head to Athens for number 100. For Gary this was only number 58; mind you, that’s since 2012 and yesterday was his 28th this year. I, meanwhile, have run five, ever, but the way I prefer to look at it is that as of 2pm or so today, we averaged 52 each.
The group running with us was a disparate bunch, mostly first or second-timers, some of whom had travelled a long way to take part. I spoke to a Liverpool-based student, a Belfast (soon to be Norwich) autism charity worker, a teacher just moved back from London, a Garda based in Donnybrook and a referees’ inspector.
Out on the course, for the most part, they looked good. Eamonn and Gary, veterans in the role, kept things light-hearted and worked the crowd well in the busier spots.
The record number of entrants, inevitably, meant more spectators and perhaps because so many of the participants finish in the sort of time we were targeting, there definitely seemed to me to be more people about than in previous years.
Airtricity had helped too by distributing so many plastic clapping gadgets (do they have a proper name?) and so the noise in quite a few places along the way was really tremendous. My sympathies go out to all those parents whose young kids brought the gadgets home afterwards.
The heat took its toll, especially around the back of Belfield, and the wind had its moments too. Quite a few personal-bests must have bitten the dust over those closing miles.
But only then really, was I completely confident that my own run was going to be problem-free although just as had happened to the guy I tried to follow in London, my Garmin (GPS watch which tells wearers how fast they are going) packed it in mid-race. From Nutley Lane onwards, I found myself having to stay close to my fellow pacers and furiously trying to work out how we stood at each mile marker.
In the end we were a few seconds ahead of our target time range and when we encouraged those following us to break for the line a couple of hundred metres out, there seemed to be quite a few who took the cue, although I didn’t catch sight of too many familiar faces.
It was really nice not to feel as we crossed the line that we’d let anyone down. Mostly, though, the disappointed ones after these events are the ones who feel they have let themselves down because of a missed target which can often, for them, overshadow the achievement of just finishing the thing.
Remember, there are simply no guarantees in marathons; just ask my guy in London. But, dare I say it, there is always next time.