As Ed says I gave him a somewhat obtuse answer to his question about my strategy an hour before the race actually started. The answer was not so much to confuse and sow seeds of doubt in Ed’s mind as to my tactics but reflected a host of unknowns which I had been unable to properly square off in my own head.
That morning I had eventually admitted to Will Byrne that I was too scared to run with him to target a goal which I thought might have been out of reach and I did not want to hold him back. Secondly I had had my Shin Splints adventures over the last three weeks and the memory of having to stop in real pain after 10 steps when I thought I was going to do my third 33km long run was very fresh in my mind. Thirdly, I was aware of the advice of my son Marcus who said to me that if I did not think I could finish it (due to injury) that I should not start as it would upset everyone if I got into trouble. (I have history…which remains just beneath the surface whenever I take on something “extreme”). However when I met Ed I was feeling great , the shins were pain free and I was excited but could still not get my head around all the advice I had been receiving.
To be honest I had always a plan deep in my head which was to try and stick with the 3:30 balloon guy for as long as possible and the questions as to my stamina would be revealed in the course of the event one way or the other. In 2017 I had found myself running with the 3:40 balloon guy , had run away from him then been caught and left behind. My real question was whether I should try and run with the 3:40 guy and if I was feeling strong , to have a go at a negative split. So meeting Ed crystalised all this into a simple – Run with the 3:30 balloon guy and simultaneously hope that Ed would not leave me too far behind in his wake.
As described by Ed, We met Mark the 3:30 guy with the big personality and we inched our way up Fitzwilliam Street in precision fashion to be set off at precisely 09:15am. In the first moments Ed ran ahead and looked back at me and I thought that all in all it was probably right that Ed should run away from me at the start…so I let him go. Yes I let Ed go for about the first 500m then my pre match nerves dissipated and I weaved my way back alongside him and then to my own surprise I ran ahead and started running quickly and apparently effortlessly. 4.35 pace into Castleknock where my Dad (81) was standing on his walking sticks on the main road then Ed joined me and we ran together discussing the likelihood of what everyone might think of us running together. Congratulations Ruth, I hear you won the bet !
Ed has pedigree and a history of beating me consistently but this time I had trained and felt good. I thought this could be interesting. I also knew that the trick if there is one is to stay with the balloon guy. This is harder to do when you are feeling well as you get carried away by the crowds and the occasion. What is fascinating is finding yourself in a defined group of strangers as developing a camaraderie with them as the miles progress. Suddenly it was the half way point (1.42 and a half marathon PB tells you how easily I was running !!) and we were cruising together though the chat had stopped by then with only Mark the pacer issuing instructions and advice.
Ed made his break for fame and fortune and I let him go. I was feeling comfortable and cruising easily. Colm was on the road in Terenure with a big smile and yells of support . 18 miles and Ed efforts to run away from the group were not successful as I could see him being reeled in by myself and the group to within about 10m at one stage. Yes I thought, He is going to blow up and I have learned the lesson of last year…I will keep watching his back !! The 20 mile mark is on Miltown road after you pass Wilde and Green where my family were expected but absent but like Ed I saw Gena and Brendan who was exorting me with passion. I really appreciated it.
Suddenly out of the blue my ankle started to hurt and the shin splint pain returned. F**K I screamed silently to myself. Not here, not F**king now. I had spent a year psyching myself up and promising myself how I would run the last 6 miles. It is uphill all the way to the top of fosters avenue. Suddenly my pace started to give way to the pain. I was determined that I was not going to stop but I just could not run at that 4.50 pace anymore. I have become an acolyte of the Mark Foran school of racing with only “Average Pace” and I was bang on 4.50 average pace at this point. This would have brought me home in sub 3.25 time. Mark the Pace guy was running ahead of pace.
In Clonskeagh when I was losing my mind as the pain grew and the Balloon disappeared into the distance I suddenly heard my name and the twin angels of Sarah and Laura here calling and urging me on. I saw Sarah mouth the words “are you ok ? as I ran by trying to smile and pretend everything was alright. The next bit was a struggle as my pace slowed and my dreams with it. I took the last Gel and some Lucozade at Roebuck before the physical wall and then I targeted getting home. John McAree and Anna were on the top of Fosters avenue with yet another boost of Support .
Towards the bottom of Fosters avenue, I was surprised to hear the crowds sheering “Come on the 3:30’s !!” and I realised for the first time that perhaps the pacer I had been running with was going too fast as there was another pacer leading his group. I could do nothing to increase my speed as they came by but I tried my best. On the N11 an official started yelling at me and a bunch of others that the pacers were all ahead of their pace and that we were actually on pace. This made me dig for reserves of determination to keep going as I knew that I was now less than 3 miles from the finish. Familiar faces on Nutley lane kept me going and then the turn at Tesco with a straight 2 miles to the finish. I remembered this road from last year. It is the hardest two miles but the crowds were big and encouraging. My Garmin however was telling me a story I did not want to know. The 4.50 metronomic pace was now 4.58 and I had nothing left except will power. I took some sweets from the St.Michaels School boys and touched their “press here for a “Power Boost” poster.
In Ballsbridge at the RDS the Garmin ticked to 5.00 pace average. I needed 4.59 to hit the 3:30 mark. I spotted Harvey on his lead and saw Paula at Herbert Park. I think I got my Smiling face on properly as I ran by with thumbs up. Suddenly the loudspeaker at the American Embassy saying 900m to go … the crowds are deep and the noise is inspiring with complete strangers urging and clapping you on. Suddenly Herbert Street bridge and you feel like a hero as the crowds are really deep and you can see the finish line. I am completely relieved and all the pain and angst disappears , the Garmin ticked to 5.01 and by then I did not care and when I see the time as I pass the finish line I grin with delight. Home, safe and don’t need to run for months J.
I had no idea if getting close to 3:30 was achievable and to have had such a great run for so long made the struggles over the last 6 miles dissipate really quickly. I also knew that my real goal had been to see if I could achieve the qualifying time for (BQ time) Boston Marathon which had been revised just two weeks prior to Dublin to 3.35 form my age group. The BQ qualifying time meant nothing to me until I saw how much I had missed it by after 2017 and being a typical uncompetitive T3 male, I had started to wonder if I could achieve this which triggered my entering Dublin for the second time. So (relatively secret) Goal achieved, I phoned home , arranged to meet my Family and then hobbled to Toners Pub to meet Anna who had cycled in from Fosters Avenue for the obligatory Post Marathon Beer and gossip ! I love T3 !
I have to thank Mark for his unflinching encouragement and to Dara , Doug , Tim , Stephen , Laura ,Ruth and John for all taking in some of the long runs around UCD. Another season over. Here is to 2019 !
Liam Boggan 31 October 2018