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:
Here are some 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...