Ian O'Riordan: 10 reasons I’m not running the Dublin Marathon

Memories of marathons far and wide come flooding back – but my final race isn’t run yet

 Irish competitors taking part in the Dublin Marathon of 2001, from left, John Griffin, Pauric McKinney, Ian O’Riordan and Gary Patrick Crossan. Photograph:  Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Irish competitors taking part in the Dublin Marathon of 2001, from left, John Griffin, Pauric McKinney, Ian O’Riordan and Gary Patrick Crossan. Photograph: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

 

No. Before anyone else asks I am not running the Dublin Marathon on Sunday. Just because you look unattainably thin and your dad ran in the Olympics doesn’t mean you have to sign up for 26.2 miles with 20,000 other loose minds every time it runs through your home town.

Besides, there are other reasons – 10, off the top of my head, starting with the still fresh memory of running the Dublin Marathon already, back in 2001 (reason #1): raging against the dying of my youth only still bold enough to believe in it, five months of crash training lured me into thinking I could be the best of the Irish. Which for a while I was, passing halfway in 70 minutes and still mixing it with the Kenyans, before both wheels blew off and I finished in 2:31:09, swearing never again.

Until 2003 when, dreaming up fresh ways to impress the Sports Editor, I signed up for the Athens Marathon (reason #2) – a sort of test run for the Olympic marathon the follow year.

This of course being no ordinary marathon, but the original one, tracing the exact footsteps of Pheidippides, the Greek messenger who in 490 BC ran the 26-odd miles from the town of Marathon into Athens to announce victory over the invading Persians, shouting nenikikamen (‘rejoice, we have conquered’) before promptly dying, as well he might.

Ian O’Riordan from Ireland passes by the statue “The Runner” during the Athens Classic Marathon in 2003. Photograph: Orestis Panagioutou/EPA
Ian O’Riordan from Ireland passes by the statue “The Runner” during the Athens Classic Marathon in 2003. Photograph: Orestis Panagioutou/EPA

I didn’t die on that original marathon, revived for the first modern Olympics in 1896, but the murderous hills around 20 miles nearly killed me, before I finished in 2:51:56, cursing words too horrible to repeat.

That was to be the end of my marathon history, until a three-sentence email invited me to run the Honolulu Marathon in December 2005 (reason #3), including room and board at the Hawaiian Hilton, the same place Elvis used to stay.

Inspired by the aloha spirit and the prospect of an immediate dip in the clear Pacific waters off Waikiki Beach at the finish, I ran 2:50:03 and came home smiling.

This marathon holiday approach may have turned things if the next invitation hadn’t come from Jamaica, via my accountant, in December 2007, for something unknown as the Reggae Marathon (reason #4).

Things didn’t get off to a promising start when our plane landed in Kingston instead of Montego Bay, and the route from the hot town of Negril was straight out and straight back, in parts the only spectators being prostitutes, drug pushers and fresh road kill. Truth is I’d hardly trained at all and my 3:25:54 hurt like a bomb, enough to put me off marathon running for life.

No more of this 26.2-mile lark, the natural regression being a weekend trip with some friends to run the Connemara half marathon, 13.1 miles, in April 2008 (reason #5): or so I thought, the vertically empurpled landscape over mountains such as Devilsmother and Lugnabrick leaving me utterly breathless, mostly from the running, my 75:17 feeling a lot more than half full.

Boney man

Only you know what they say about charity and sins, so when an ex-girlfriend asked me to help pace her to run the Madrid Marathon in 2009 to raise funds for a school in Africa there was no way out (reason #6).

Her goal was to break four hours and not feel like she was dying and we just about got half that right, running 3:59:00 exactly, and in keeping with Einstein’s theory about speed and time, that one lasted forever.

By now seriously finished with the marathon, the natural progression was the triathlon (reason #7), or again so I thought, because after just one try at the swim, bike and run in Athy that May that was enough already. Cold Irish rivers are no place for the boney man.

Maybe runners are just a different breed, which may explain why a few months later my once teenage rival had talked me into running the 2009 New York marathon (reason #8).

We were sitting in the Blue Light on one of those beautifully calm summer evenings when living in the Dublin Mountains makes perfect sense, and so did running 26.2 miles through all five boroughs on about two months training.

Ian O’Riordan running with his dad, former Olympic runner Tom O’Riordan, in his early athletics days.
Ian O’Riordan running with his dad, former Olympic runner Tom O’Riordan, in his early athletics days.

Nothing is impossible in New York and the marathon is no exception, the loose electricity and the two million people who lined the route making it a sort of runner’s paradise, each epic sight playing on the heart like a rhapsody, my time flying by in 2:47:50.

Our kinship suitably revived, London came calling next (reason #9), a city that will always have its place in marathon history, not just for the climax of the 1908 Olympic marathon, when the Italian Dorando Pietri staggered bow-legged into White City Stadium, was bundled over the winning line, then promptly disqualified; this was also when they moved the start inside the grounds of Windsor Castle, and measured an exact 26 miles and 385 yards to the finish in front of the royal box at White City.

Again lured into running the London Marathon in 2012, another test run before those Olympics, my experience over those last 385 yards suitably mirrored Pietri, my time of 2:52:37 so unevenly split that everything ended up in mutual separation, the contents of my stomach included.

Until now (reason #10), because when anyone asks me if I’m running the Dublin Marathon the answer is no, not when 2019 is the 40th anniversary of my still original and favourite and best of them all, and where else would I be that Sunday but running it? 

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