Technically I ran the 26.2 miles on my own two feet, but my Dublin marathon experience has almost nothing to do with what I did that day, and everything to do with my amazing friends, family, and people of Dublin.
I entered the Dublin marathon last spring after Laura mentioned that Team Rainbow was making it a part of their annual adventure. I wasn’t sure I was ready to train for a marathon, but I did know that with women like Laura, Katie, Liz, Jen, Nicola, Josie, and Cathy with me I would stand a good chance of getting around in one piece. Plus there is nothing I like more than running in a new city.
There were major ups and downs during my 16 weeks of training but the one thing I really enjoyed was that it never took over my life. I still ran the races I wanted to, I went on holidays and ran on volcanoes instead of 20 miles, I ran a 24 hour race, I went to track sometimes, I ran with friends, and I ran what made me happy. Every month I got to go to Six Seconds High clinic and get a sports massage and mental boost from Simon.
8 weeks before the marathon Alex decided to sign up to run the marathon, and my parents booked their flights to spend the weekend in Dublin too. Flights & hotels were booked and all that seemed left to do was get my Team Rainbow t-shirt and run the distance.
We arrived in Dublin early on Saturday morning and made our way straight to the hotel. After a quick nap we were off to the expo which was only open on Saturday & Sunday. It was rammed but some good queue management meant we were registered in about 30 minutes and spent the rest of the time wandering the gear stands. I bought a branded windbreaker jacket (first marathon and all) and Alex bought a Dublin Marathon touque (beanie for non-Canadians). We also picked up some important bodyglide. We received our marathon bag which included a big bag for gear check, a towel, a race guide, some fancy smancy foot cream, wart removal cream (thanks), a pinwheel, a giant box of pasta, an energy drink, and a pack of oreos (sorry Phil).
We went straight from the expo to the Guinness Storehouse for lunch and the tour. The food at the Brewers Dining Hall was just what we needed. I ended up having the stuffed baked potato but defo regret not having the Irish stew. Beer Tour &
free Guinness carb loading done we headed back with my parents for quiet night and dinner.
Sunday was spent eating our body weight in carbs at a breakfast buffet and with our feet up the wall. We wanted to go to the Breakfast Run 5k organised by the marathon, but I was still feeling a bit of a cold so decided a warm bed was a better idea. The rest of Team Rainbow arrived throughout the day and a few of us met up for a great pasta meal at Marios Taverna. Even I managed to get a bit down before the nerves really kicked in. Alex on the other hand had lots of room for all the doughnuts we found…
I woke up half an hour before my alarm and got stuck in to my porridge, nuun, and coffee breakfast. After a full-body application of body glide, my race outfit was on and it was time to go. Being so close to the start line we didn’t need to leave until 8am (even that was too generous – 8:30 would have been fine) With 14,000 runners the baggage drop and start funnels were well organised and marked. The toilet queues were ridiculously long but a few houses and businesses had opened up to let runners in which was nice. Right before the start there were a dozen portaloos with almost no one in line! Amazing! I lined up and who comes out of one of the doors? Only JOSIE! It was a marathon miracle! Quickly Josie, Alex, and I were at the start of our pen and then all of a sudden
OMG I WAS RUNNING A MARATHON
Being a the back of the last wave we dodged a lot of walkers for the first bit but had no problems going super slow and steady. We caught up to the 5 hour pacer, then the 4:50 and by the time we had to 4:40 pacer in our sights we were half way up the huge hill in Phoenix Park (which on Marathon Monday included a nice headwind). Josie mentioned it would be a good idea to stick with this group for a bit and keep this more than respectable pace. Before I left for Dublin, a friend told me that if it gets hard remember, “You like running” and that became my mantra for the day. I had enjoy it! tattooed on my arm and it became a good reminder during the race.
The 4:40 pace group was one of my highlights of the marathon. The amazing pacers were funny and chatty and kept us all entertained with their banter about what pub their mom’s were waiting at and the 99 marathons previously run. Check out one of the pacer’s article about the day here. Unfortunately, during one of the chats I got a massive stitch and spent miles 7-9 trying to get rid of it. I had to walk through a water station to finally kick it, but felt a lot better after that. I knew my parents & Team Rainbow cheerleaders would be around the half way point so I started to look forward to that but as I took my gel at mile 10 (I planned to do 5,10,15,20) things weren’t looking good for my stomach. It was sloshy and because it was so hot out (hello Irish heat wave!) and I was taking on at least half a bottle of water at every stop I think I was just full. The nauseousness hung around for a while but I managed to smile at my parents and give Liz & Banana-legs-Cathy a high five as we ran past them at the half way point.
Just after I saw everyone I had to pull over and sort out my stomach. Nothing came out but the resulting walking break made my throat close up (a new thing my body’s been doing lately, annoying) and I was finding it a bit too hard to breathe. For the next *a lot of * miles Alex and I took many walking breaks. I know we did the whole “Till death do us part” vows thing at our wedding, but I seriously didn’t think that included “till your wife has a meltdown, is cursing at the wind and doesn’t want to run another 13 miles ever again in her life” Alex was an absolute saint walking with me when it was needed, pointing out signs or traffic lights we’d start running again at, and grabbing me extra water or lucozades. It was his second marathon and afterwards he said it mentally felt a million times easier so he knew how I was feeling.
There were a lot of hills during these difficult miles and I just tried to keep focused on moving forward even if walking. Much to my surprise the miles kept ticking by and by mile 20 I felt it was time for another gel to get me to the finish. Mentally I was back on after that. I think I hit the opposite of the wall and really felt that after mile 20 I could do this and surprise! my legs could still run. We started to run more than walk and I set the goal of running the last 2 miles no matter what. Before mile 24 though there were some grim stretches along a very busy highway which were no fun for anyone involved. But as we turned off the highway just before mile 24 Alex and I started running and didn’t stop.
I always dedicate hard miles to important people in my life and the last 2 miles I had one of my best friends in mind and knew that if she could get through what life was throwing her way then I could damn well run 2 miles. The last 2 miles were packed with spectators and with my improved spirits I really did enjoy every second of it. I found my legs again and with Alex beside me we wound through the streets and towards the finish line. I was totes emosh during the last mile seeing my parents, Liz, and Cathy again and could not believe it when we saw the green finish gate ahead. I had a teeny bit of a moment where I thought “I don’t want this to end” but then quickly snapped back into reality and just wanted to get over the finish line. The lovely 4:50 pacers encouraged us to sprint the last 100m and suddenly there I was. Finished a marathon with Alex beside me.
We were medalled, then given a finishers t-shirt and a goody-bag filled with everything-but-beer and corralled back to the baggage pick up and meeting areas. Suddenly nothing in my body was moving so we had a little sit down, ate some Tayto chips, and tried to stretch what we could. We found my parents, who had watched their first marathon and were absolutely amazed with the sheer amount of people who could complete it. Inspiring folk you lot! After a slow hobble back to the hotel I quickly ice bathed, got my legs in compression tights and threw them up a wall until it was time for dinner.
Over burgers & beers we met the rest of Team Rainbow family and friends and shared our stories of the weekend. Some of us were falling asleep on the bar stool, but didn’t want the night to end. The whole day (and weekend) was everything I enjoy about running, challenge, exhaustion, friendship, fun, and beer. I’m over the moon I ran a marathon in 4:48, but even more excited about how amazing the whole weekend was.
If you’re into more of the hard racecation details and less of the totes-emosh-Laura see below:
Entry: Around £60 depending on when you enter. It’s a very well organised race, with loads of freebies and kit, and a real “big marathon” vibe to it so if that’s your thing I highly recommend it. Especially for first time marathon runners. I loved every second.
Flights: BA Eurotraveller. If you don’t know about these then find out. £69 return almost everywhere in Europe and you don’t have to catch a 3am ryanair flight from not-actually-in-london-airport.
Hotel: Doubletree Hotel. We found a deal for £59/night and could not recommend it more for anyone heading up to run the marathon. The staff were amazing, the food (if you say were too lazy to move from your bed the day before the marathon… ahem) was plentiful and carby, and the beds huge. I’m usually a big fan of Airbnb or a smaller hotel, but when it comes to marathon weekends convenience is king and being 10 minutes from the start/finish plus all the amenities of a chain (daily cleaning, toiletries, room service, COOKIES ON ARRIVAL) you can’t go wrong.
I didn’t run this marathon for a charity, but have made a donation to the Down Syndrome Centre one of the official charities that is doing great work in an important area. I encourage everyone to take a moment to think about where they can help out too.