It was to be my second half – half of the year and half ever – half marathon that is and was supposed to be the culmination of six months training for the Dublin marathon. ‘Tell him your plans’ is the answer to the riddle, ‘How do you make God laugh’ and this year has proven to be a particular plan thwarter and god laughter-maker, though not all in a negative way.
And so, i had told no-one that i intended to run the Dublin Half-Marathon, not even God – i can keep a secret if you keep me away from my computer. I consoled myself that i had half-ran the 15k race on Trooperstown Hill last weekend and had worked hard all week – not trained though – why wouldn’t i be able to run 20k on the flat around Phoenix Park – why not indeed?
First part of the plan was to get up extra early, well extra early for a Saturday morning and have a big breakfast of porridge with seseme seeds, chia seeds, blueberries and strawberries – whats not to like – as a little bit of carb and protein loading to help me through the 13.1 miles. The second part of the plan was to bring some energy gels for consumption as i ran – i had used them last week in Wicklow for the first time and they had no negative effects on me. The third part of the plan was to arrive early at the Phoenix Park as Dublin Bus was on strike again.
So far so good. A crowd of 9,000 was expected to run – i’ve never run with so many other people before and was pretty excited about it. Another of my favourites, pacers, were to be provided. For someone like me who just runs the best he can, pacers are like a significant scientific breakthrough – you can tell in advance what time you are going to complete the race in – all you have to do is keep up with the pacers. I was wearing one of my favourite running shirts – the bright yellow tee with the words “Bray 10k”, emblazoned on the front – the race that inspired my first half – hopefully the tee would inspire my second.
I sought the 2:30 pacers – my last half, the Connemara Half Marathon, took me just over 2:30 and so i thought that would be a good time given all that had occurred between the two halves.
Lets not kid ourselves here, 2.30 is close to the back of any half-marathon – but that is nothing to be ashamed about.
Dark clouds had been swirling around all morning and then, just as everyone lined up, the downpour commenced. I headed for the shelter of the trees, reckoning i could catch up if they started without me. The first wave began to move, i grabbed a discarded bin bag, a popular item of wear amongst runners in Ireland and joined the race. Once i started running i didn’t mind the rain and discarded the bin bag along with the hundreds of others – many had obviously been expecting the worse, weather-wise.
I had my eye on the 2:20 pacers and sped up a bit to catch their group – felt that they too were a little too slow for me and left them behind too. All went well for the first three miles – about my usual 5k – and then i began to feel the effort a little. Buoyed by the crowd though, the effort wasn’t particularly difficult and although it rained a bit, the rain tended to be as welcome as a cooling shower can be.
I was determined to run the whole race, no walking, no stopping. The run/walk system is a widely respected method of improving your fitness and running and of completing races but i try to keep running, even if that ends up more like a shuffle than something commonly associated with athletes.
– thanks to spreadshirt.ca
About mile 9 is started to suffer a bit, as well as shuffle and i started to hear supporters calling, “Come on the sub-2:20” and i knew that those pacers were catching me up but there was nothing i could do. I had three miles yet to run and had no energy to increase my speed at that stage. This slow overtaking took almost a mile before they were past me and gone. If the 2.30s had caught up with me at that stage, there would have been nothing i could have done to stop them leaving me behind too – but they didn’t and i kept on shuffling. I told myself that i hadn’t even started to dig deep yet and spent a few minutes chanting my Sri Chinmoy meditation, ‘Supreme, supreme’, yes, I know there are more than a few people laughing at this stage but it works for me and got me to mile thirteen.
At that stage i knew that i would make it – barring any calamities of course. Then i could see the finish line and hear the commentator talking the runners home – that’s a lovely sound when you are running and can finally hear the buzz at the Finish Line – my hearing being what it is means that when i hear it there is never too far to go. The last couple of hundred metres and the runners around me were speeding up. Next i was overtaken by a couple, the man shouting “Come on, come on, faster, faster”. Determined not to be outdone i dug deeper than i knew i could and found myself sprinting and passing out six or seven runners, including the couple, one half of whom at least still had plenty of breath left. Sprinting at the end of a half-marathon – Paddy Power would have given you considerable odds against that happening and as i crossed the finishing line the memorable words of the commentator rang in my ears, “The man from Bray is looking fresh” – probably one of the greatest compliments of my life. Then it was staggering – next step beyond shuffling – to collect my goodie bag and tee-shirt and my medal of course – my addiction to bling threatening to create a new five step programme in its wake.
thanks to ommile.myshopby.com
All was well until bag collection – which nearly proved more difficult than completing the half but couldn’t suppress that ark- sinking flood of endorphins. At that stage, it was lashing rain again but all was well in the world. A text informed me of my time 2:22:21 – so close to perfect harmony. My second half was some 12 minutes faster than my first half – with apologies to mathematicians everywhere.
So the answer to the question, “Can you complete a half-marathon without training” comes in three parts ‘Yes’, ‘Slowly’ and ‘Painfully’.
From a border assessment point of view – an interesting experiment.
Where next? – hush, hush, God may be listening.
Stay a little crazy my friends.