I ran my first marathon 10 years ago. If you are so inclined you can trawl through the back catalogue of this blog and read about it in gory detail. It was in Cologne, the German party city, so it was full of people in a carnival mood banging pots and pans as you ran past. My two memories of the race were watching some poor souls running the ultra event and the fog of pain in the last few kilometers as even the gentle rise of the bridge across the Rhine felt like a Grand Tour category 1 climb.
After that race I promised myself I’d never run a hilly course and would NEVER EVER run an ultramarathon.
But, like a teenager dabbling with gateway drugs, within a few years I found myself lost on a mountain 40km from the start and 40km from the finish of an ultramarathon.
Fast forward 10 years and after a year of more or less running when the urge took me – which wasn’t very often- and with no target race or training plan I entered a marathon last Thursday and lined up in the biting cold last Saturday morning to run it. It was an MCI marathon and was a low key affair. I’m always a bit taken aback by how much the members of MCI treat running a marathon on a Saturday morning as being a bit like being involved in the Tidy Towns Committee – a bit unusual but generally normal. I feel like screaming it’s freezing and we seem to be running a marathon! What’s wrong with us? But, I suppose perception and participation are interconnected and everyone’s hobbies are a bit sisyphean when viewed from the outside.
the runners were a mix of those with natural ability (very fast) and those that found some sort of peace and freedom in activity (much slower). I thought I was part of the first group but am probably more a part of the second.
The course was on my regular running route in Cork – around the Blackrock line and Mahon walk.
5 laps and an out and back from the start/finish line at the local GAA club. I ran on an empty stomach and had two bottles of water with vitamin tablets and a gel at around mile 23. The first lap was just to get the feel for the course and then I lost count of the laps until the end of the fourth lap when I realised that a bit too much recreational pissing, taking photographs and tweeting meant that I’d have to run a bit harder for the last lap to break the 4 hour mark. The 4 hour mark just acts as a personal goal as it tells me I’m at least as fit as I was 10 years ago (but maybe not as fit as I was 5 years ago).
With about 2 miles to go I met the Race Director, Aidan Hogan, as he was chaperoning Jerry Forde around the course. I thanked him for organising the race and told him I may have done too much sightseeing to break the 4 hour barrier. Aidan thought I could still do it, which was easy to say as he was cycling. But as I turned onto the Marina by the Atlantic Pond I thought I might as well give it a go. I finished my water and at Blackrock village I put my head down and headed for the line. If you’ve ever watched TV athletics you’ll know what the kick is. The final spurt for the line. In my head that’s what the last 1.5 miles was like. From the outside you’d have seen a man huffing and puffing a bit more that seemed healthy for his age.
I crossed the line 32 seconds faster than in Cologne way back in 2007. I collected my medal, had some tea and sandwiches and walked the half mile back to my car. After a shower and short doze on the sofa it was back to normal dad duties (shopping, dog walking, janitor, etc).
A great day and I’d recommend it to all. Thanks to the MCI for organising such an enjoyable and accessible event. I think I’ll do some more of them.