Liagh Miller: my marathon – from breakfast to the finish line


Breakfast: porridge, blueberries and Sudafed. My sneezing is getting worrying. At this rate, my nose will run faster than my legs.

Clothing conundrum sorted. Being cold a rotten prospect but over-heating worse. Dublin Simon Community singlet gets ditched for a T with name on and risky shorts option.

Why why did I wear shorts? This cold is unbearable. Shivering bodies and pinched faces abound and I see the largest goosebumps I’ve ever seen on one young guy.

Mile 1
Hurray for the shorts! The sun bursts out just as my corral gets going. We pass the Shelbourne and I chuckle to myself. Yin and yang: I’m running past now, the scruffy runner. Yet this Friday I’ll be all gúna-ed up for the Irish Cancer Society Halloween Masquerade I’m co-hosting.

Mile 3
Feeling good apart from the ever-dripping nose. Along the NCR a sign reads, “Hey you, yes you, aren’t you the pure ride?” Myself and some Portadown lads have a good laugh though I’m thinking, no one’s going to be saying that to us at the end. The mood is great and there’s a lot of chat.

Mile 7
Phoenix Park and last outer layer comes off. Thank God I wore the T. Almost immediately the fantastic crowds start calling out my name. It gives me just a nice buzz now but later this’ll become soul, heart and feet-lifting. Passing my new running club (Donore Harriers, who haven’t seen much of me yet), I think of all the superb club athletes who are flying it far, far ahead of me. I start to berate myself for my dreadful lack of training these last crucial seven weeks but soon stop. It’s going to be mind over lack-of-training matter.

Mile 11
Stopping on my first loo break, I think of a head-cold bright side: I can’t smell a thing. On the long, slow drag through Crumlin, the wind is particularly cold and biting but I’m feeling okay – until I spot a toddler running along the footpath faster than me.

A lovely woman calls out my name and tells me I’m doing great. It is at this point that I start wanting to kiss all who call my name. I’m not even half-way.

Mile 13
I hear the first reference to my Darth Vader black sleeve and glove. A couple are trying to work out why someone has a support on their arm on a marathon and not their leg. It wouldn’t be a quick scéal so I keep going. The compression gear is due to lymphoedema, which occurred after treatment for breast cancer.

I was diagnosed in 2008. I can’t stand the gear but I’ve got used to it. There were only two things that truly upset me over the course of my cancer malarkey: lymphoedema and my beloved dog Ziggy dying of lymphoma himself in 2010. I like to think he runs beside me still even if I can’t see him.

Mile 17
The magic marker for me: single-digit countdown. I’m mainlining the gels and starting to say thanks. Thanks to my legs for getting me this far, for all the support of family and friends – and thanks to the amazing crowd for braving the cold. By now I want to marry them every time I hear my name.

Mile 19
A kid turns to his mother and says, “Mammy I can run faster than that.” Children really should be seen and not heard.

Mile 20
The infamous Heartbreak Hill. It’s not so bad. The hills down home in Cork at least have set me up nicely for this. Getting up that hill with relative ease doesn’t stop me from going into a loo to sit down, just for a moment like.

Mile 22
I have a few dizzy spells. Head up Lili, I bark to myself. Another sneaky sit-down in the loos at the end of Nutley Lane.

Miles 23-25
Stumbleville. Population: sadly many. Please Lili don’t join them. Keep going. Ballsbridge goes on forever. I pass the first finisher walking against us with his medal. Dark thoughts cross my mind.

The “sprint”: what’ll get me there? The gels did their job as have the magnificent crowd. Only my childish game that I do in every race works now: a goal number of people to pass out. A conservative 30, I decide. It works. I pick up speed I could not have conceived of. I stop counting at 120 along Nassau Street and shortly after cross that beautiful finish line.

Thank you Dublin – you were GREAT.

Liagh Miller ran the marathon on behalf of the Dublin Simon Community. Donations are welcome at liagh_millers_ event/. She is co-hosting the Irish Cancer Society inaugural Halloween Masquerade at The Shelbourne Hotel. Tickets at cancer.iel.