It’s half past midnight on the day of the marathon.  I’ve had a few beers with friends post-run, two coffees waiting for my delayed flight home, and writing this with a cup of tea in front of me.

I’ll try keeping this coherent.

Dublin was to be my 18th marathon, and first in Ireland in my umpteenth visit.  I was joined by social running club member Tony, who I hadn’t seen for just over two years.  Was great to catch up!

Preparation for this had been mixed.  I’d managed one 20 mile run – which was actually split into three shorter runs during one day – and my weekly mileage was typically around 30 – 35 miles.  I live in a hilly part of town though, and I’ve managed some short, sharp sessions in training that I hoped would help with speed, if not stamina.

Anyway, Expo happened on Saturday morning after parkrun; I met Tony at the door, grabbed our numbers and headed into the oldest post office in the world (allegedly) to make use of their cafe facilities.  Coffee and lunch consumed, catching up done, and off back to our hotels to rest up.  Only popping out for sushi at the J2 Grill & Sushi to sustain me.

Race morning: clocks went back, but my alarm app didn’t.  Woke up at 5:30 and took me 20 minutes and half a pot of porridge to notice.  Went back to bed for another hour.

Made it the short walk to the start line with half an hour to spare.  Enough time for photos:

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These hats were in our pre-race bags, and very cosy too!
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The masses descend down towards the start, with the bag drop on the left

Joined the queue for the required toilet visit, and got in only five minutes before the start.  Phew.

And on 9am, we were underway.

The early going was slow – in fact, on the first corner we came to a complete stand-still.  I’ve only had that happen in Florence four years ago, very odd.  Still, it picked back up and I kept it steady.  I’d had pain in my right knee that flared up as the distance piled on, so I hoped to keep that at bay as long as possible.

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Entering Phoenix Park was narrow and crowded – annoyingly so. Pet peeves being groups running in a row so you can’t pass, and other who do pass you, only to immediately get in your way and force you to change course.  Argh!

The rest of the park I really enjoyed, it’s a great space.

Through 10k: 49:29 (around 3:27 pace)

You’ve left the park by then, up a hill, then you come back into the southern part of the park that’s all downhill.  This was fun.  Could feel my knee a little at mile eight but it dissipated, and on I went.  I contemplated dropping out if it got really bad, but thankfully it never came to that.

Through HM: 1:42:50 (projected 3:26 finish)

I had my biggest scare here at mile 14 when my knee did flare up.  I’d nearly a mile where it hurt a lot and then it suddenly just calmed down again.  I was mighty glad it did because I was feeling good otherwise and was already considering when to push a bit harder.  I’d told people 3:30 – 3:40 was realistic, but had secretly always hoped to go under 3:30.  I knew that was on.

This also saw us get the longest uphill part out of the way, and it really didn’t amount to much.  No fuss!

Otherwise my entertainment came from a guy – who I’d spoken to briefly earlier – doing the aeroplane any time we got into a particularly crowded section (usually round a corner) to gee them up.  It worked a treat!

Actually, the crowds were brilliant.  Covering both sides of the road for large sections, loads of sweet and drinks, bananas and orange slices being handed out, and a few entertaining signs I can’t remember.  I touched lots of ‘Power Up’ signs, and there was a lot of high fiving of kids and a few adults too.  It really is a great race.

30k: 2:25:23 (3:27)

Briefly felt the knee again – kind of both this time – around mile 18/19 but again, it faded in time.  I still seemed to have plenty of running in me and as we crept over twenty miles and beyond the “Wall, What Wall?” banners everywhere, I picked it up a little.

Oh, gels.  I was regular.  6km, 12km, 17, 23*, 28 & 33.  SIS gels.  This pattern’s worked for me for the last half-dozen marathons, it’s just something you have to experiment with.

*I’d had jelly babies from a stranger at 22.

I was passing a lot of people and that just stoked the fires even more.  The positive reinforcement kept coming, all the cheers kept me going, and then I passed the RDS where the Expo had been and knew we were nearly there.  The last 2km I really pushed, and when the 800m sign came up – “two laps of the tracks, c’mon” – and went again.  Never felt so good so late in a marathon.

Finished in 3:22:25, in what is my fifth quickest time.

I absolutely did not expect that today, hence the cheesy grin posing with the medal.  Nice to know I’m not coming from too far back with the longer-term goal of breaking 3 still hopefully a thing.  Time to ease off to let injuries heal and work on my core (ha!) and give a race or two a proper crack next year.

Cheers!

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