“She sent you after me knowing you’re not ready, knowing you would likely die.” –Silva, ‘Skyfall’.
The start line of the Dublin Marathon was an odd place for me. I’d felt that my training was a hodge-podge of plenty of hard hours for little gain, spending most of the time taking apart anything I gained. I stood there, cold, unprepared and completely unexpectant.
With the finish line beckoning, as usual with myself suffering and heaving over the line, the clock was trying to tick itself over to 3h10m. A race of each laborious step against each ticking digit on the timepiece.
Looking back at my training I had no idea how or why this was happening. I only really had one emotion about my training- anger. Angry at myself for not being smart and making silly decisions and overworking myself in training. In Skyfall Bond is questioned as to his hobbies; “What’s yours?” to which he responds “Resurrection”. A self-referential joke maybe, a hero struggling to do what he was asked to do, what he expected to despite being grossly unprepared. Maybe resurrection was my hobby for this race, more appropriately considering my location, redemption. A three hour window to ignore everything else, to burn off the sins of training, and end up at the finish line with nothing left for better or worse.
What did that mean in the race itself? Well it meant looking at the 3hr pacers and just going for it, not letting anything else affect me. I had trained for it, so I’d give it a shot. The start was intense. I was near the front, but a surge of runners rushed past me towards those pacers as I was held up by some slower runners- there were even runners sprinting to get there. The pacers I think were running quicker than 3hr pace, so I gave up on catching them and stuck to running a decent 3hr pace. I spent a long while running silently next to another runner sticking to a similar pace, passing through the first half in 1h30m12s. After that I was struggling from a long way out, and that runner silently left me. Here’s a few stats comparing Dublin to London. At Dublin for the first 13 miles I averaged 6m47s a mile, 14-20 7m11s (+24s), and for 21-26.2 7m49s (+38s). This was a larger ‘positive split’ than London- for the same 7m14s, 7m24s (+10s) and 7m50s (+26s). All of that is a fancy way of saying it hurt like hell, legs and muscles wibbling all over the place, and holding on and being brave was all I could do. After the organisation and discipline of training, that odd mix of knowing holding on can make a difference regardless of the state of your body is one of my favourite things about marathon running.
I saw two signs- one early on, one later; “If it was easy, everyone would do it” and “it’s only you v. you”. I occupied my mind with little calculations, knowing I would PB if I did x a mile- reassuringly long times, and then started thinking of what I would have to do to bring it home in under 3h10m- my original goal for London, and maybe something I hoped for this race. However I was slowing dramatically, and for some reason my Garmin eventually ended recorded 26.5- with no knowledge of the route or Dublin in particular I had no idea how to time it. With the Garmin ticking over to 26 miles I just went for it, picking up the legs regardless of the pain on the top of my quads. I saw the line, the clock hanging above it. The green matting leading to the finish line. Coming up to the line I was running out of ticks to get the final steps in, I was too close to 3h10m. At Edinburgh I sprinted for the fun of it. Here I screamed, I sprinted and stopped the clock at 3h09m59s. Just.
I was absolutely elated, and I wasn’t going to not allow this to show. Running has meant a lot to me over the past few years, and Dublin was the achievement that didn’t happen at London. I was perhaps overreaching, thinking the 3hr mark was going to be a lot easier than it ended up being. How I did it? No idea. Maybe the training wasn’t as bad as I had thought, the weather was perhaps cooler, maybe I would have done that previously with the bravery to go for a 1h30m half and then hold on. Last Christmas my marathon PB was 3h54m44s. This Christmas it will be 3h09m59s, a whole 45m45s better. But really it doesn’t matter. I made it, I took the line and it was done.
And it will be done for a while now. Four marathons in just over a year is a punishing and stupid schedule. I’m taking a proper break after this race, not packing any running gear for this work placement. My next 3hr marathon attempt is not going to be until 2014, and when I start running that distance again it will be strictly once a year. In 2013 my focus is going to be on races in-between 10K and the half marathon, with a few nice PBs to be gained there.
That can wait, but I’m sure that when I start training for 2014, the feeling of when I crossed that line will still knocking around my mind as if it were yesterday.