Monday, October 25, 2010

Dublin Marathon 2:28:20

The race wasn't scheduled to start until 9am so no need to rush about in the morning. I woke up at 6:30am and had my breakfast including half a banana and a Le Rice. I then went back to bed and eventually got up just after 8am. I had a quick cup of coffee, then made my way down into the foyer. I should mention I had 2 visits to the toilet which was always good. Outside it was very cold but I wasn't complaining - no wind or rain so it was looking just about perfect.

I made my way down to the start area and was struggling to get through the crowds. After about 10 minutes I found my way down to the elite start area where I met up with a few familiar faces. I had a little light jog, then soon it was time to drop off the gear and line up at the start.

The wheelies were off a few minutes before the main race. The atmosphere at the start was really good. There was a band playing and there was also the singing of the national anthem. Then the gun sounded and we were off.

I was quickly into my running. I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace and had the usual nervous anticipation of getting feedback from the first mile marker. That quickly passed and I was very uneasy when my watch read 5:09. That was way too fast but I didn't panic as I suspected the first mile was short. We made our way over the Liffey, along O'Connell street heading south towards Phoenix Park. I was feeling great and already I was running with a small pack. All good so far.

My next mile split was 6:01. Okay, so the markers are not accurate but assuming the 2 mile mark was in the right place I was averaging 5:35s which was a little quick but about right. A lot of the detail of the run has been erased from my memory but by mile 4 we entered Phoenix Park. This part of the run was amazing. It was very cold and frosty, and our group was soon joined by the 2 lead women so now we had a group of 9. At one point about 100m ahead there must have been at least 50 deer charging across the road. This was a fantastic sight and would have been scary if we were a little closer. By 10km, we were still in the group and the time on the clock read 35:25. Bang on schedule.

After leaving Phoenix Park it was back on the roads. There were numerous water stops which had bottled water - very good. Again, my memory fails me but despite a few little hills and drags the course remained very flat. I recall seeing the 15km marker in 52:52, again that was target pace. The group was still tightly formed and we were following the lead car for the women. The constant reminder of having the clock in your face was good and bad. Could I keep this up for another hour and a half?

The next point I recall clearly was the halfway point. We rolled under a big archway, still in the group in about 1:14 but the timing mat was a good few meters past that and my official halfway time was 1:14:12. That was 18 seconds quicker than target and I was still in the pack getting dragged round. Things were hotting up and looking good.

Again, I'm lacking detail from this point of the race but my feedback was the splits each mile and these were consistently around the 5:40 mark. My thought process was get to 20 miles and then try and push for home. I'd say at about 16 miles, the race started to develop and one of the lead females made a break. I decided that I was happy running at the pace I was but I think it was about at this point that our group got strung out. I was still running well, no need to do anything brash with 10 miles still to go.

I found myself running with one other guy, and I could hear a few of the others not too far behind. The crowd support around the course was generally very good. The course was by no means lined by people but there were pockets where the were lots of people cheering you on. The miles kept ticking by, again on target, and I was closing in on 20 miles.

At 19 miles I had a wobble. I can't recall if it was a hill, but it felt like I was struggling to run in a straight line. Keep focused. This is where mental toughness was paramount. I was still running with the other guy and could see the lead female up front, though it looked like she was pulling away. I briefly spoke with my wing-man and he mentioned he wasn't feeling great and would try and put the foot down at 20 miles. Well that soon came and the clock read 1:53 round numbers. Quick mental arithmetic - I could run 6 minute miles plus 1 minute for the final 0.2 miles and I had my sub 2:30. It was time to start believing.

It was probably some point before that the eventual winner of the women's race came screaming past. And I mean screaming - she went past me like I was barely moving. Very impressive. She went on the win the race running the second half in 1:11 and change. Incredible. I thought I had slowed but thankfully the mile splits didn't show that.

So it was mind games from here on in. My old trick of breaking it down into smaller segments. I was focusing on each mile and my new target of 6 minutes per mile was ingrained into my thinking. My partner had sped up, or that was what I was hoping and then I reached mile 21 with a mile split of 5:48. A little slower but the mile markers were definitely dodgy and well under 6 minutes so still good.

All the feedback from the body was telling me I was slowing. The legs were getting heavy, the calves were very sore, and I was getting the occasional tweak in the muscles as a reminder that a cramp was a possibility. But 22 miles came and went and I was still running big sub 6's. Only 4 and a bit miles to go. I was putting more time in the bank and was starting to get myself fired up by giving myself a motivational speech. Out loud. Thankfully nobody around me could hear so I could just about get away with it.

At 23 miles I was well on the way back to the city. The crowd was getting bigger and I was still running target pace. No slow down. This cannot be right - my legs were absolutely gone and I was still running quickly. I couldn't explain it but I'll take it. I could hear a fellow runner not far behind and that helped spur me on.

At this point I was running on pure adrenaline. I was very focused, I'd waited over 10 years for this. I only had to run for another 18 minutes or so. This was my big chance. Again, 24 miles arrived probably quicker than I would have expected. A glance to the watch showed a 5:51 split. More time in the bank.

The next mile was a real effort but I was still travelling nicely. I think you can gauge the pain factor by how often you look at your watch. I recall looking when the split was around 3 minutes. In times gone by, that may have been only 1 minute. I was hurting but still covering ground. And I recognised some of the city by this point so almost home.

At 25 miles I'd run a 5:39 split. Wow, that was quick and again more time up the sleeve. I knew I could have a real blow-up and still have a good chance of sub 2:30. I got to Trinity College and was running along Nassau Street and that is where I started my fist pumping to get really fired up. The crowd was huge and it felt like the finishing straight. With hindsight that was a bit of a mistake as at the end of this section the crowd thinned and I still had half a mile or so to go.

And then I could see the finishing chute. No need to sprint, just enjoy this. This was 10 years in the making. Time for more fist pumps and the aeroplane. I crossed the line in 2:28:23 and was almost in tears. The time was incredible and was beyond my wildest expectations.

So I'd done it. The sub 2:30 dream was now a reality. I still can't quite believe it - the race went perfectly. I'm not sure how I could have improved on it. Drugs perhaps?

The second half was covered in 1:14:11 so on gun time I ran a 1 second negative split. That's a new one on me, I think my previous best was a 3 minute positive split. That's testament to the shape I was in.

My 5km splits were:

5 - 17:41
10 - 17:44
15 - 17:16
20 - 17:39
25 - 17:27
30 - 17:23
35 - 17:52
40 - 17:36
42.2 - 7:45

Gun time 2:28:23, chip time 2:28:20. 27th overall and 9th in the Irish Championships.

More thoughts to follow when I come back down to earth. I'll be dining (boozing) out on this for years.

Here is the video:

BeerMatt Video

Here are some photos:

BeerMatt Photos

Here are the 12 weeks training in kms up to and inlcuding the marathon:

Week 1 - 101.2kms
Week 2 - 94.6kms
Week 3 - 96.4kms
Week 4 - 84.3kms
Week 5 - 14.4kms
Week 6 - 119.1kms
Week 7 - 104.0kms
Week 8 - 107.9kms
Week 9 - 101.0kms
Week 10 - 101.5kms
Week 11 - 87.1kms
Week 12 - 79.4kms (8 day week up to and including the marathon)

Total 1,090.9kms, Average 90.9kms.

So why the breakthrough in this marathon. I can think of:

1) The conditions - flat course and very cool conditions. Much colder than Oz
2) Injury free - no niggles to speak of
3) Consistency - I haven't missed a session all year. I just keep plugging away
4) More tempo/threshold runs - I have done a lot more of these than in previous build-ups
5) More volume - I've upped my training 10% and noticed a big improvement. Could be more to come - London 2012!
6) Increasing the pace of my easy runs - I was running these at around 4:10/km

Perhaps it's time to go public with my Blog. Originally I was doing this for my kids for when they get a bit older but they probably won't be interested. It could however be of some use to fellow hackers who want to improve on their marathon time.

So what now? I'm considering retirement from the marathon. At 39 years of age I'm in the twilight of my running days. That said, I still seem to be improving at a rate of knots. I have one race left this year - the Norwich Half Marathon on Nov 28th. I'll take this week off and then start blogging again in the build-up to the half. Next year I may focus on the shorter stuff - 5km through to the half. It would be nice to give sub 32 a shake for 10km, and also try and run under 70 for the half. But I've achieved pretty much everything now I've set out to do on this running journey over the last 10 years and boy does this beer taste nice. Until next time...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Travel to Dublin, Expo, etc

I left Galway at lunchtime. I had a lift with my wingman for the weekend (Brian). All good.

The journey went quickly and despite a bit of traffic in Dublin city, we arrived at the expo to pick up the race numbers, register for the Irish Champs, meet Clare, and have a good look around all the stands. Very impressive set-up though I was keen to leave to get to the hotel, eat and have an early night.

That evening I met up with Clare - in the pub! Then on to a cheap and cheerful pasta joint which served a really decent pasta dish with loads of garlic bread. Just what I needed. On the way to the hotel I stocked up with more food for morning, then it was time for a big sleep.

The weather forecast was still looking good...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Last run

Just a light run tonight. I ran 7.0km in 31:17. All done now until showtime on Monday. The forecast looks really good. But that could change being Ireland...

Friday, October 22, 2010


I'm thinking that if I'm going to have a crack at breaking 2:30 I need to be going through the halfway point in 1:14:30. That's a pretty honest pace and only allows me (up to) a 1 minute fall-off in the second half. Ummm...

So 1:14:30 is 3:32/km, then follow that up with 1:15:29 (3:35/km). Total 2:29:59 (3:33/km).

Or in miles: 5:41/mile for the first half, 5:45/mile for the second half. Overall 5:43/mile...

Wow, sounds very quick. To be honest, I think it's a little bit out of reach but I need to aim high. I think 2:32 would be a more sensible target (as per what the race calculators are saying). I'll ignore them as I don't have too many more throws of the dice.

No running today. Feeling tired so will get a good nights sleep.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


A repeat of Tuesday's session. The only difference being I was wearing my racing flats. The time was a little quicker coming in at 34:06 for the 8.1km.

Rest day tomorrow. I need to work out my race plan...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Positive thinking

Okay, so I was on a downer yesterday. Time to put that to bed.

I ran well tonight. It felt really easy and I covered my 7.0km route in 29:45 (4:15/km).

Here is why I'm going to run a PB on Monday:

- I'm injury free. The left knee has been very good the last 6 months
- I've run the most volume in all my marathon preps i.e. consistent 100km+ weeks
- I've improved my half PB by almost 2 minutes since I ran my last marathon
- The weather in Dublin will be better suited for running
- There will be more runners to hook up with in Dublin

Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Another easy 30 minutes. I ran 5 mins 30 at marathon pace mid-way through the run and it felt awful. That's normal, don't worry. Total distance 8.1km in 35:40.

I'm trying to get fired up for the marathon. I'm in the negative thoughts stage at the moment:

- have I done enough long runs?
- have I done enough strength and hill work?
- am I too old for all this?

Again, perfectly normal for me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

One week today

Just a very easy 30 minutes today. I did an out and back run and finished up with 7.0km in the legs in a time of 31:29.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Getting close

Another easy run today. I was down for 70 minutes so I decided to run my 16.4km route and this was achieved in a time of 1:09:32. Felt pretty good.

Afterwards I had my first massage in about 6 months. Since arriving in Ireland I have taken the "if it's not broken then don't fix it" approach. Basically I have been lucky injury-wise but I was offered a free massage so decided to have a light pre-race rub. All good, not at all painful and I'll be back for more after the marathon is completed.

That's 87.1km for the week. So the first week of the taper is over. Only 8 more sleeps until showdown...

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I am now a fully qualified management accountant...job hunt starts proper. The weather in Dublin this morning was perfect for running. If it's like this next week I won't be able to use the weather as an excuse...

Today I ran an easy 14.4km in 59:32. That's the same run 3 times this week all under the hour. So much for variety.

Accommodation is booked for Dublin. I spoke with my coach and I'm to run most days next week, though only 30 minutes just to turn the legs over. Maybe drop in a mile at marathon pace here and there. Need to decide what marathon pace actually is now...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rest Day

Nothing today. Just getting ready for my CIMA interview tomorrow in Dublin.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Laps of the track

Back to Dangan for what I would imagine will be my last track session before Dublin. After a 3.2km warm-up, I was to run 12 x 400 with 30 seconds recovery.

Someone had left the steeplechase hurdles out on the straights so rather than move them, I decided I would run wide. Made me work a bit harder so all for the good. My times were:


Nice and consistent. I didn't run them eyeballs out, but still hard and not an easy session with such a short recovery.

I finished up with a 3.2km warm-down and bumped into Brian for a chat along the way.

All up 11.2km.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Same old

Another 14.4km run in the bag. Time was 58:26 so a bit quicker than Monday (4:03/km). A solid enough "easy run".

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Threshold Running

Today I was down for 3 x 12 minute threshold efforts. Another session you like to see the back of.

I ran on the old Claregalway 10km course. After a 10 minute warm-up, I started my first effort. I tried to keep it relaxed and push hard. It was a perfect evening for running so no excuses. Soon the first effort was over and it was nice to get slightly further than when I last did a similar session to this (see Aug 19th). After 3 minutes walk/slow jog, I turned to run the same effort in reverse. Again, I pushed hard and the return section is definitely quicker with more downhill. I just managed to run past the initial starting point so again, that was encouraging. The third effort was soon underway after another 3 minute break. I pushed this one all the way and again ran past my finishing point on the first effort by a good few seconds.

I finished up with a good 16 minute warm-down. All up this was 16.3km in a time of 1:02:34 (after removing the 6 minutes of recovery). Almost there.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Start of the taper

The race is 2 weeks today so time to start reducing the volume. After travelling back from Norwich, plus another night on the terps, I decided to run an easy hour. I ran 14.4kms in 58:54 (4:05/km) so pretty happy with that.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Long Enough

After a biggish night on the sauce with my old man, my running window was lunchtime. Not feeling good, and with what seemed like a scorching summers day, this was always going to be a struggle. The plan was 1hr 45 which I stuck with - running a similar route to the day before, but this time adding on a much bigger section after reaching the city centre. Finished up running 23.5km in 1:45:49 (4:30/km pace). Ideally I would have run some of this at marathon pace but that wasn't going to happen today. Just pleased to get it out of the way - talk about going through the motions...

All up 101.5km for the week. That's 5 weeks on the trot now where I've exceed 100kms...

Saturday, October 09, 2010

New Runners

In Sprowston staying at my grandparents. The weather was glorious and I had a very pleasant run of 14.6km which was covered in a time of 1:03:26. I took in a few of the sights of Norwich - nice to have a change of scenery. Feeling good.

Friday, October 08, 2010


Today is a rest day. Good really as I'm travelling to Norwich to see the family. More socialising!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

More Easy

I ran the 16.4km route today in 1:08:45 (4:12/km). The legs were a little sore after yesterday's track session but I felt better as the run progressed.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

KM Reps

Back to the track. After a 3.2km warm-up, I was on the track for 10 (ten) by 1kms with 1 minute recovery. The plan was to run them at 10km pace so I thought 3:10 per rep would be a very solid hit-out.

After a few run-throughs it was time to get started. The first one was to be the gauge and after running quite hard I was a little disappointed to see the time of 3:14. This was going to be a tough session. Anyway, I knuckled down and the remaining reps were all 3:10 or thereabouts. Here are the exact times:

3:14 / 3:10 / 3:11 / 3:11 / 3:10 / 3:12 / 3:11 / 3:10 / 3:11 / 3:07

Whilst I felt strong and could have run a few more of these, my lack of speed is a bit of a concern. It must be all the kms I'm racking up at the moment.

I finished up with a 3km warm-down. All up 16.2km for the day.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Another easy run today. I ran 14.4km in 59:53 after lifting the pace a little over the last 10 minutes to duck under the hour.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Start of a new week

I had a 16km run down in the plan with a few kms at marathon pace towards the end. I decided that was a bit optimistic as the legs were still not recovered from the half, plus the weather outside was atrocious - swirling winds and driving rain. Not good.

I headed out in my new warm weather gear - a long-sleeve top and my new running tights. Very gay. I ran my 16.4km route and was a drowned rat by the end. That said, I ran quite well covering the course in 1:06:43 so over 6 minutes quicker than the day previous (4:04/km). A few sections I had the wind on my back so I lifted the pace to run the odd km here and there quite hard (estimate 3:30/km pace).

By the time I finished the weather was improving. Bloody typical...

Sunday, October 03, 2010

End of another week

I took it really easy today. I ran my 16.4 km route (just over 10 miles) in a time of 1:12:48 so that works out to 4:26/km. Legs were a little sore from yesterday - especially the calves. Understandable when you've run a half marathon on the roads in racing flats.

That's 101.0km for the week. Notice a trend here? Another biggish week next week than will be a 2 week reduction in volume in the lead-up to Oct 25th.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Galway Bay Half Marathon 1st in 1:13:39

It was a windy day down at the Bay so we were going to cop it running away from the city. Didn't bother me, just wanted to get stuck in. It looked like none of the gun runners were going to show so that left me in with a good shout. After a 10 minute warm-up, I changed into my race singlet, dropped off the bag, had a quick toilet break, then made my way to the start where I did a few run-throughs. Soon we were off.

I found myself at the front straight away with 2 other Irish runners. I was sticking to my race plan to take the first few miles easy so good to settle into a mini group and try to get out of the wind. All good. The course itself was flat, and after a mini-lap at the start which had us at 5:36 for the first mile, the pace slowed a bit as we made the long drag out of town running into the wind for a couple of miles.

I was still in the group and miles 2 and 3 passed in 5:49 and 6:00 and we had a decent gap on anyone behind. We reached the turnaround point at about 3.5 miles and after a downhill section leading onto the sea, I decided to lift the pace and take the lead. Nobody responded so from this point on it was me against the clock. I had the 2 lead motorbikes to follow so no chance of getting lost but I must say the constant sirens were vary annoying.

With the wind now on the back it felt really easy and miles 4 and 5 passed in 5:30 and 5:27. There was a lot of support on the course from runners streaming in the other direction, plus from others who were watching the race and I was surprised by how many people knew my name and were giving me a big cheer. There was a horrible section where we had to run out and back along this jetty - straight into the wind on the way out and then wind behind for the return. By the end of the first lap I had opened up a good 40 second gap and decided I would run relaxed as I headed out for the second lap running straight into the wind once more.

I missed the mile markers for 6 and 7 but by mile 8 the previous 3 miles had passed in 16:55 so I was still running okay. Mile 9 was still into the wind and that passed in 5:49 and when I reached the turnaround for the run home it was time to lift the pace. The mile splits dropped straight away and miles 10 and 11 were covered in 5:35 and 5:32. I was really enjoying this run, I was taking in the crowd and it was nice to not be red-lining the whole race. Another trip up and down the windy jetty and mile 12 was covered in 5:27. So getting quicker still and now the last mile and a bit. Soon I could see the finishing area and after rounding the last corner I was soon running down the finishing chute to cross the line in 1:13:39. The last 1.1 miles taking me 5:59.

The second place runner was a good 2 minutes or so I had increased the gap significantly the second lap. Another prize cheque and my best win to date as there were well over 1,000 runners in the race. A perfect training run and felt comfortable the whole way.

I finished up with a couple of kms warm-down so all up 25.1km for the day.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Pre-race Rambling

Today was a rest day - nice to have a 1 day taper for the half tomorrow.

The plan is to use the half as a training session for the marathon in just over 3 weeks time. The ideal plan would be to run the first 3 miles steady, the next 5 miles at marathon pace, then the last 5 miles hard. That would give me a time of around 1:14 to 1:15.

That plan could go out of the window if I have a chance of winning the race - my competitive spirit may kick in! We shall see who fronts up and take it from there.

The course is potentially quicker than the half course from last month - if, and this is a big if, the wind is not blowing. It's nice and flat, but chances are you are going to cop the wind at some point...fingers crossed the weather gods are smiling.