I had a niggling Achilles’ tendon injury coming into Dublin but it was never going to be an issue on race day. Otherwise, I had rested up the last couple of weeks, ate loads, got a decent night’s sleep on Sunday night and felt good on the morning of 26th October. Met up with the Athenry crew the night before for dinner, and then before the race for a few group photos.
Trotted off to the start line. The race numbers were colour-coded so that all sub-3:30 hour runners were allowed up to the front, and slower runners were not. Great idea! As a result, I was only about 25 seconds behind the start line.
Mile 1: 7:32. Not quite free running, but the race day euphoria propelled me ahead from the off.
Mile 2: 8:26. Purposefully slowed down because I thought my first mile was way to fast.
Mile 3: 7:47. Realised that I was more comfortable going a bit faster than mile 2.
Mile 4+5: 15:30. First of many mile markers I missed. This was a 7:45 average in a stretch where I had to make a quick pitstop through a fence in the Phoenix park. I was a bit angry with myself for needing this, but I sprinted to and from the fence and evidently didn’t lose any real time.
Mile 6: 7:47 (10k split – 48:36). Pretty solid…
Mile 7: 7:40. Same again. The park was very steady running.
Mile 8: 7:47. Last mile in the park (I think).
Mile 9+10: 14:53. Unwittingly picked up the pace a bit. A combined 7:27 and 7:26 on average. Sometime in mile 9 I passed Peter Ferris who was “pitstopping” while running – legend!
Mile 11+12: 15:28. Kept it steady.
Mile 13: 7:52 (10k split – 47:38). A little slower but nothing to worry about, and a very consistent 20k split compared to the 10k split, particularly if you note that mile 2 was needlessly slower than the average by about a minute.
Half-marathon split – 1:41:42. Feeling very strong and fairly optimistic about a negative split, and definitely a sub 3:24. A little apprehension was trying to creep in though. Last time I ran 1:41 in the first half of a marathon I ran 2:16 on the way back. =)
Mile 14: 7:40. Back into a nice, solid rhythm.
Mile 15: 7:42. More of the same.
Mile 16: 7:22. Best mile so far. I don’t remember any of these miles though. I had kinda switched off. A few sporadic images is all that my memory can conjure up – rounding certain corners, gliding over some speed ramps, the odd shout of “well done Athenry”, and Valerie (around mile 20 I think) giving me a loud cheer.
Mile 17: 7:36. Sucking that average pace closer to sub 7:40…
Mile 18+19: 14:51 (10k split – 46:44). More inroads on the average pace, with a 7:25 and a 7:26 (or thereabouts). Almost a minute better than the previous 10k as well.
Mile 20: 7:32. More strong, steady miles. A memory from this mile is the left hamstring feeling slightly tight, but it was only a brief worry and disappeared by the next marker.
Mile 21+22: 14:43. What’s that, let me see… a 7:21 and 7:22. Though I wasn’t doing the math during the run, another big negative split was clearly on the cards.
Mile 23: 7:11. This one just felt brilliant. My legs felt great, all the more so because I knew they shouldn’t by mile 23. :-)
Mile 24: 7:47. Okay, the 7:11 took a little out of me, but the average stayed pretty constant, and I re-doubled my efforts after this to keep the average from straying above 7:40 again.
Mile 25: 7:24 (10k split – 46:31). Another few seconds inside the previous 10k split and another strong mile.
Mile 26: 7:27. Thoughts of the finish started crashing down on my brain, which was fairly deadened at this stage to most other stimuli. It’s a familiar feeling by now – I know that if the race had been 30 miles, or whatever, I’d still have run this one in 7:27 or so, but probably much more comfortably than I did. The knowledge that I was on the final straight made me feel like I was pushing it and giving it everything I had left, when in reality I just churned out another good mile.
Finish: 1:27. Good strong finish.
Half-marathon split – 1:37:42
In fairness, I was in bits at the end, but looking back I definitely had another couple of minutes in me. Mile 2 was just silly, as was the toilet break in mile 5, and a negative split of almost 4 minutes is certainly suggestive of unused potential in the first half. Nevertheless, I was absolutely delighted with the time. After my first few marathons I thought a sub 3:20 was impossible with the training effort I was willing to put in. Some long miles and a few “training” marathons over the summer, however, put me in great shape. I feel pretty confident of a 3:15 or a 3:10 next year. A 3:10 on home soil in the Cork marathon would be pretty awesome. Two 1:35 half marathons… 7:15 per mile. We’ll see.
Connemara Ultra is next!