It’s been nearly two weeks since the Dublin City Marathon – although, I’ve been so busy since, I’ve joked many a time that I feel that I haven’t stopped running since 30 October.
The week of the marathon coincided with my deadline for the college newspaper so once I had caught up with some sleep and refuelled, I was back on the bus to Galway to get my marathon-fatigued backside in gear for the latest edition of SIN… On top of regular college duties (i.e. the odd assignment and catching up with friends for tea), completing the marathon and somehow managing to get the paper in order was one feat I’ll be proud of for a while to come. It’s also the reason this final entry to the Marathon Diaries has been put on hold for the last few days but here it finally is: the conclusion to one experience I would recommend to anyone.
I don’t have a solid reason as to why I even took the idea into my head to join Team Carrie back in June other than I wanted something to fill my long summer. I do have one memory of being on a plane to France, en route to the World Championships for Irish dancing in Philadelphia and sitting beside a woman who was reading a guide to marathon running. Me being me, a chatty and inquisitive 13 year old on the very exciting journey Stateside, I asked her about her book. She informed me that she was in training for a marathon and I remember thinking how impressive that sounded and onto a bucket list at the very, very back of my mind it went.
I continued dancing up until I was 18 and then went on my merry way to NUI Galway to start a new chapter in university. First year was incredible, studying for a degree I loved, making new friends, and finding a sense of independence (aside from the fact I showed up at home nearly every weekend!). Second year wasn’t so great. There were a few bumps in the road and there were times during the year that my mental health really challenged me. Luckily I got a lot of support and managed to turn things around before the year was out but after that experience I was determined I was never going to feel so low again.
So I decided that I was going to find a new hobby – something I hadn’t had for a while – to fill up the many weeks off from college and to give myself a healthy release in the evenings after I got home from my summer job in Dublin. Team Carrie, the local Marathon club just seemed to be the answer. I would complete the Dublin race series with the team and hopefully run the 26.2 miles come October. On the day of registration, David asked if I would be interested in taking part as a guinea pig of sorts; to see the benefits running could have on mental health. It sounded perfect, if rather coincidental, and I agreed. If there was one way to keep a balance in life and stay positive, surely getting into the zone while running would be it?
To cut to it, my theory proved to be correct. Training with the motive of achieving the short term goals of the Dublin race series and with the long-term ambition of the marathon in mind meant I was pretty wrapped up in running. I had a focus and a drive to get things done and I (admittedly) thrived off praise from people who applauded my efforts. Running just made me feel good. I was by no means fast (a turtle, as David deems it) but each week I could take on the new challenge of a few extra miles and get it done. As the marathon drew closer, I was finishing a long run and having ran about 16 miles I was pretty glad to see the back of that Saturday morning. A thought popped into my head as I ran back towards the clubhouse though: in a mere few weeks I had gone from struggling through a four mile run to finishing four times as much with little complaint.
Of course it wasn’t always easy. We ran in some horrendous rain up and down the hilliest roads of Mid-Louth. There were days I wanted anyone to pull up at the side of the road and zoom off with me back to Dunleer for a cup of tea and the chocolatiest bun I could find. Two runs in particular stick out in my mind: one back in early September, the Saturday after starting back in college when I really did have to get rescued at mile ten, and the other, my final long run.
That final long run was torture, not just for me, but for many in the training group that week. It was lashing, and bodies and minds were tired. However, there is no doubt in my mind that it was that run that stood to me the most. I was again approaching the end of the run and had completely given up the ghost, making my way forlornly towards the clubhouse. Then came along Aoife and Aidan, two other team members and they persuaded me into running the last few metres. They told me I wasn’t going to finish a marathon like that, that I wouldn’t enjoy finishing the last few metres in the same way on the day. I knew I wouldn’t either and they said that I would thank myself for running these last few metres of the toughest run I had done all summer. In hindsight, I need to thank them for making me do it. On the day of the marathon I made sure I was still running at the end – proving what Aoife said: it’s the tough ones that make us tougher.
Marathon day thankfully dawned dry and sunny. Weeks of preparation boiled down to this one day. The atmosphere was brilliant – so brilliant that it was mile 11 before it dawned on me that I was actually running a marathon and had an actual 26.2 mile run to finish. The Dublin City Marathon is known as the friendly marathon and believe me you, it certainly lived up to its name. There was so much to look at as you went around the route and it was difficult to feel hard done by when you ran passed army men in full combat gear and a man dressed as the Eiffel Tower! There were times when it was tough and I was struck with serious leg pain at mile 15 – however, a woman ran up behind me and in asking me did I need a pain killer, I remembered my mam had given me two Panadol that morning. Before long, the pain had subsided and I was on my way once more.
I was aiming for under 5 hours, something that happily occurred on the day. There was a panic about two miles to go, when Brendan another Team Carrie runner informed me the 5 hour pacers weren’t far behind us: needless to say, we legged it and I made it in with 6 minutes to spare!
Crossing the finish line was incredible. Some people think there’s no point in running unless you’re out there competing. I beg to differ. Running became something I could always rely on this summer – every week without fail I knew I would achieve something new – but it also proved to me I could rely on myself. I proved to myself that I have endurance, that I can set my mind to a goal and I can achieve it. As I completed the course I also managed to see my family four times and saw many supporters from Team Carrie too and therefore, running also reminded me that there are many people out there who believe in me. The good luck texts from friends the night before also served as a great reminder that no matter what, there’s always someone willing you on to be the best version of you that you can be – and as David has said many a time at training and in his weekly motivational e-mail: a you that you probably didn’t even know existed before now. I’m way more positive, I have more self-belief and I enjoy getting out there and getting the job done. You’re not saving the planet, and you’re not curing cancer, but going to zero to 26.2 miles feels damn good – and I’m all the better for it. I raised funds for SOSAD and donating to such a wonderful cause is certainly the icing on the cake of one of the most positive things I’ve done in my twenty years!
I’ve ran twice since the marathon, and I’m itching to get back into the shorter distances. I’ve set myself the goal of getting a bit faster – so maybe next year I’ll win the feckin’ thing. I met so many great people and had the pleasure of sharing the road with so many inspiring individuals. Being part of such a great team has probably helped my enthusiasm to no end and as that enthusiasm continues on, it goes without saying: Team Carrie – a great bunch of lads.