Simply typing that header feels so surreal. But it’s true.
Last weekend, James and I ran 26.2 miles through and across the streets of Dublin, a cumulative effort of a year’s worth of training, sports massages, sweaty and rushed lunch runs, sports gels and Sunday lie-ins interrupted.
And it was worth every step of the way.
It began around this time last year, having completed the Eden Project Half Marathon. I’d attempted to train for two marathons before, but due to IT band pain, it didn’t work out.
This time, with James spurring me on, I was determined we’d do one together.
So we entered Dublin and I printed myself an intermediate training plan from the Virgin London Marathon website. Slowly, gradually, I began running 2km and 3km runs, increasing the distance and number of runs per week to 3 – 4. I loosely followed the plan, ramping up my Sunday long runs by a couple of km each week.
At the beginning, I was so good with going to the gym twice a week and cross training by cycling or swimming – but after a while, the Sunday long run distances ramped up to half marathon distance and beyond and that fell away slightly.
We’ve been having a very busy few months, but in the midst of everything we clung to our training plans and religiously stuck to our Sunday runs, refusing to give up even when we had a bazillion things to do – but resting when we felt our bodies needed it.
As the marathon day grew closer, we started to get some sports massages to limber us up and slowed down the mileage.
On the day
We flew to Dublin a day beforehand and my Mam and niece came to stay in the Airbnb with us – with my sister, bro-in-law, niece and nephew coming to visit and cheer us on as well. James’ best friend and his girlfriend came along too – so there were plenty of friendly faces on the course and in the crowd!
We had a slight nightmare trying to get a taxi on the morning of the marathon (basically the one we’d booked decided it was too busy and didn’t show up) and then we remembered Uber existed, so we got there on time in the end.
We met up with James’ friend and then queued up in our wave pen, ready to face the miles that lay ahead. The atmosphere, 20,000 people waiting to run, was charged with emotion (for me anyway), and I could hardly believe I was standing there, with everyone – all ages, body types, nationalities – ready to run all that way.
The gun went, the sun shone down on us, and before I knew it we were all thundering over the start line. I paced myself well at the start, running with James and Mark before they both took off and I was left alone to run across the peaceful expanse of Phoenix Park with lots of other runners.
At the start, I felt happy – super happy. I couldn’t believe I’d finally made it to the beginning of a marathon – and some of the signs and jokes being cracked by other runners with heavy Dublin accents carried me on. At Castleknock, I spotted my sis and bro in law cheering for us, which spurred me on even more.
However, I diligently stuck to the nice, slow pace I’d adopted, telling myself that I hadn’t gone past 18 miles in training and my body was bound to feel differently when I did.
The supporters – which seemed to line every one of the 26.2 miles – carried me on through as I took jelly babies, slapped kids’ outstretched hands and smiled at people telling me, “You’re looking strong!”
Mile 22, Heartbreak Hill, did indeed break my heart slightly however. I hit that famous ‘wall’ with a bang much like Run Fatboy Run, despite my good pacing and gel-intake. My mood began to deteriorate around mile 24, and the next 4 miles were the longest I’ve ever run in my life.
Coming back into the city centre, half walking, half running, I spotted the vast crowds lining the streets and the finish line in the distance. I fought back the urge to cry the entire rest of the way across that finish line and into James’ arms – I’d run 26.2 miles in under 5 hours, and I did it all, every single step of the way without needing a break or quitting or anything. James did a wonderful time of 4.13, his friend Mark in 4.09 and I came jogging after at 4.52. My first marathon – my PB. My time.
Seeing our family waiting for us both afterwards was amazing – it was great to share this incredible experience with them. We really appreciated having them there and it was so lovely to know that my bro and sis in law were tracking us via the app in the UK!
We ate a lot post marathon – a wonderful Thai meal in Camile with my Mum, niece, James, Mark and Erin and a super full Irish breakfast next morning in Woodstock Phibsborough – and really enjoyed a final meal in JW Sweetman the afternoon before our flight home.
It’s been a week since the marathon and we both haven’t run – my left foot’s decided it’s really sore (it didn’t hurt at all during the race) but is feeling a little better so we’ll start swimming and doing some gentle exercise again soon.
The whole experience has made me so happy – I’d definitely run another marathon, but not for another year or two yet. Next up is a lovely short fun run, and then we are into 2018 and more triathlons and lots of other busy-ness!