It is done.
I ran the Dublin Marathon and, in the process, checked off one of my harebrained bucket list items.
Some years ago, I decided that for my 40th birthday I wanted to run a full marathon, just so I could say I’d done it, and also to show that getting older doesn’t necessarily have to slow a body down. I don’t recall now why I chose the Dublin Marathon, except that it was in my birth month of October.
I was pretty well petrified when the calendar clicked over to 2013. (This is IT! Money where the mouth is, rubber to the road, etc.)
I persevered thanks in large part to my dear Bugman, who suffered through all those long runs with me, and also to Dr. Rohrick at Care Chiropractic, who got me past some pain that I thought would knock me out of running altogether, and also to my friends who encouraged me every step of the way via social media and in person on the road.
And nope, I won’t run another full marathon ever again, unless I am saving someone’s life or something. It was time-consuming and painful, and the half marathon distance is plenty challenging enough for me, thankyouverymuch.
Here is my experience of race day:
Got up and had some tea, buttered toast, and oatmeal for breakfast. Put on the clothing I had laid out the day before: long pants, technical short-sleeve t-shirt with race number affixed, the new thin rain jacket I’d purchased at the race expo, and my running cap. It was about 45 degrees Fahrenheit and expected to climb into the 50s, so I skipped the gloves.
Bugman and I walked the couple of blocks from our hotel over to the start area. (Side note: the Schoolhouse Hotel was not only a comfortable and quiet place to stay – it was a very convenient walk to the race start/finish, the expo, and the International Breakfast Run.)
The start area was chaotic, as one would expect with a race of 14,600-plus people, plus well-wishers. We entered the official start area gate by showing our race numbers and proceeded to the bag drop-off area, which was divided by start wave. There were three wave start times: 9 a.m. for the fastest runners (orange race bibs), 9:10 a.m. for the next fastest runners (green bibs), and 9:20 a.m. for back-of-the-pack people like me (blue bibs).
It was quite a process to get all those people organized and to the start line.
The orange people were directed west around the block, to line up at the start line. The green people were directed onto a side street to the east, so they could move into place at the start line after the orange people had taken off. We blue people lined up a few blocks back, behind the street where the green people came in, and moved forward after the green people took off.
Here’s a map of the start area:
The race program said we were to be in our designated start area by 8:30 a.m. That meant nearly an hour of waiting there on Fitzwilliam Street Lower in breezy 45-degree-Fahrenheit weather before our start time. Brrr! I really wish I had packed one of the sweatshirts Bugman purged from his closet for Goodwill. I could have put that on and then discarded it just before the race started. As it was, Bugman and I stood next to a building to get out of the wind as much as possible, huddled together to retain body heat, and shivered occasionally. All in all, though, we REALLY LUCKED OUT, as a massive storm just bypassed us on race day, causing death and destruction elsewhere in Europe.
It was overcast-to-partly-cloudy and breezy, and we did get hit with a wee random rain shower in the latter portion of the course, but otherwise it was great weather for a marathon.
We asked a fellow racer to take our picture.
It was interesting people watching as we waited. There were plenty of people to watch!
I had to shake my head at the people I saw in costumes with race numbers. One I remember seeing was Big Bird. There was a guy in a rhinoceros costume as well. Then there was this guy, whom I passed in the later miles of the race:
There were loudspeakers up and down the street, but the announcer’s voice echoed so much off the flat facades of the Georgian buildings, I couldn’t understand what was being said. I’m sure the folks in nearby apartments trying to sleep in on their bank holiday weren’t too pleased. At some point, there was music. I assume it was the Irish national anthem.
I vaguely heard the starts of the wheelchair racers and the orange wave. It must have been when the green wave took off that there was a stir in the blue wave crowd, and everyone began to move forward.
I could see the backpack flags for the 5-hour-finisher pacers, and I angled to line up behind them. “Hm,” I thought, “I wonder if I can do a 5-hour marathon.” It requires an average 11:27 pace, and I had run my last 12-miler at close to that pace . . .
The crowd moved forward again, towards the start line, and a bunch of people pushed ahead of us, so we were nearly the last ones lined up.
With 14,000+ runners of all paces, I’m sure the marathon was a parade stretching for miles. (It would be so cool to see an aerial shot. Anyone seen one?)
It took us about 3 minutes to reach the start line. When we were finally running on the course, I was THOROUGHLY annoyed. There were scads of people WALKING, some of them 4-5 across. Argh!! I probably added an extra mile to my run with all the dodging around I had to do. I wish there had been some pacer flags that said WALKER so the walkers could line up in the back, assuming they would have a clue and the common courtesy to do so.
I spotted the rhinoceros guy up ahead of me and was determined to catch up so I could get a photo. Alas, I lost him while dodging walkers. Also had to dodge around a guy pedaling a massive 3-wheeled bike and blasting music from a radio. Who let that guy onto the course?
The run through Phoenix Park was lovely – the trees, the expanses of green grass perfect for kite flying.
Here is a park picture Bugman took on his phone camera:
I remember a few things from this part of the race: entering through the North Circular Road gate, the person in a plush rhinoceros costume waving at people outside the zoo, and also catching sight of a mountain off in the distance through the trees, which got this song going through my head. “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is . . .”
It was helpful to have some internal music at this point, somewhere between miles 4-8, since on the gentle hills in the park my left knee started complaining, and I started to get worried. I stopped to massage my I-T band a little, and the pain eventually went away. Huzzah! Only to have Bugman’s foot start bothering him a few miles later. Boo! But that pain seems to work itself out eventually, too. Huzzah! I also started to feel kind of sick to my stomach around this time. Something about the oatmeal and tea wasn’t working. Boo! I tried a chocolate gel at the mile 6 aid station, and it actually seemed to settle my stomach. Huzzah!
A few things I really appreciated as the marathon wore on:
Music stations. A good rhythm always helps motivate me and keep my feet moving. Although, as we passed through one station, they were playing Michael Jackson’s “Bille Jean.” Um . . . not something I would have chosen as motivational music . . .
The spectators. You could pretty much guarantee that at any turn of the course, the intersection would be packed with spectators. As a slower runner, I really, really appreciated those spectators who stayed out on the course for hours and didn’t give up and head home after the first waves went by. Our names were printed on our race bibs, and it was awfully fun to hear my name called out in an Irish accent: “Well done, KAY-ti.” There were also tons of people offering candy to the runners, particularly towards the later stage of the marathon. And there was one guy offering Vaseline somewhere around mile 18 to relieve runners suffering from chafing issues. I took him up on a dab – not for chafing, but for my chapped lips. Aaah! Much better!
The kids. The little tykes made the best cheerleaders. They were unabashedly enthusiastic, excited to have encouragement to yell at the top of their lungs for once. Lots of high-fives offered. A particular favorite were the kiddos on a tree-canopied residential street offering “good luck” leaves to the runners.
Past the halfway point, all the faster runners were long gone ahead of us, and we were in a sea of fellow resolutes. We were constantly passing each other as we alternately ran and took walk breaks.
It might have been before the halfway point, actually, that I noticed the first dropout: a limping woman, supported on the shoulders of friends, wailing that she would not be able to finish. I felt really bad for her, but quickly put her out of my mind. I did not want to think about that possibility.
MY FAVORITE RACE SIGN!
There was a guy on the course wearing a t-shirt that said on the back something like “I am a runner. Running is fun.” At that point, the statement made us laugh. Running FUN? Hahahaha!
Somewhere around mile 22, my fatigue and the increasing pain in my legs overwhelmed me. I started to cry, which make my airway constrict, and I wound up walking and wheezing, trying to focus away from the emotion and the discomfort.
I had never experienced attempting to keep running for so long. I had not anticipated what it would feel like to have the typical muscle and tendon achy-paininess compounded by the sore stiffness caused by being on my feet for so many hours. It was most unpleasant.
I finally realized what I needed to do to be able to finish the race: find ways to distract myself from the pain.
It certainly did not help that, at that point on the course, we happened to be passing through a quiet (boring) residential neighborhood.
“Where’s a squirrel when you need one?” I joked.
“SQUIRREL!” said Bugman.
(Reference to the movie “Up,” in case you missed it.)
I fought back the tears for the remainder of the race, constantly casting around for something to latch my mind onto.
I got an extended period of relief from a group of guys dressed in onesie animal costumes who were handing out candy. One of them was a tiger. I dredged up a ditty from childhood, which totally occupied my internal monologue for at least the next mile:
I’m the only one!
Yeah – I realize I got the lyrics a little wrong, but the imagery about rubber, springs, and bouncing helped my pace, I’m sure!
Those last couple of miles seemed so long! I often closed my eyes to try to block out my stupid tears. Totally embarrassing to be crying in front of all those people packed along the course in the heart of downtown Dublin.
I happened to notice a corner pub that had a melting clock on the upper portion of the building. The pub said something about microbrews, so I started focusing on the idea of a post-race beer. Maybe a microbrew instead of a Guinness? But the pain kept interfering with my visions of a convivial pint.
While we never got to visit the pub, it did make for an interesting story. The day after the race, we tried unsuccessfully to find the place. I approached a tourist information booth to see if the gent could help us.
“In the last two miles of the marathon, I saw a pub with a melting clock on the side of it, two stories tall. Do you know where it is?”
I didn’t realize how comically crazy that sounded until I heard my words repeated back as the tourism guy called a buddy to try to answer our question. So glad we found the place while retracing the marathon route later, or I’d have thought I’d been hallucinating!
Back to the marathon . . .
At some point, I completely tuned out, lasering my attention on the road ahead. Only the road. Just the road. Keep moving.
Finish in sight. Keep moving. The road ahead.
I suddenly became aware of Bugman’s hand in front of me.
“Do you want to hold hands crossing the finish?”
I waved him away.
The road ahead. Only the road. Just the road. Keep moving.
Bugman had the wherewithal to take a picture at the approach to the finish. I’m glad he did, as I was totally unaware of what it looked like.
My finish photos are not ones of joyous celebration.
But I finished!!! Chip time 5 hours, 25 minutes, 3 seconds.
We hobbled through the finish chute and had our finisher medals placed around our necks.
Major disappointment with the race shirts. They’d run out of all sizes smaller than a men’s large. What?? I recall having entered my race shirt size preference at registration. This was not an inaugural race. How could they run out??? Did they allow a bunch of late registrants? Did the earlier runners decide to choose smaller shirts than what they had registered for? Did they not expect so many people to finish? If it were a cotton shirt, I would probably still wear it, but it’s a long-sleeved technical tee – not comfortable for daily wear, and a major chafe risk on a run with that extra material flapping around. If I tacked it down at wrists and waist, I might be able to impersonate a flying squirrel.
I know I was not the only one disappointed, as I heard several runners complain about it as we encountered them on tours and at tourist attractions around the city. At least I was only one size off. I bet there were smaller runners than me who got stuck with extra-large shirts.
At least Bugman’s shirt fit him properly. At 6 foot 3, that’s not always the case for him. And maybe I can still wear my shirt on a cold day if I layer it on top of a cotton t-shirt. Oh well.
We collected our goody bags – which I recall contained a bottle of water, a bottle of sports drink, a mini pack of Oreos, and a pack of jelly beans – and slowly hobbled around the block to retrieve our gear bags, occasionally stopping to lean against a fence or light pole to stretch.
If there was any post-race food or celebration, I totally missed it.
I was so glad to put on my puffy down vest from my gear bag. I was getting pretty cold. Bugman had a zippered hoody he bought at the expo.
We hobbled back to the hotel, and I congratulated ourselves on booking first-floor accommodation. No steps!
While Bugman showered, I lay on the bed and stuck my legs up in the air and gently stretched them. After about 10-15 minutes I felt considerably better. I think I had accumulated fluid in my legs that just compounded the pain.
Once we were both cleaned up, we hobbled over to the hotel bar and ordered a couple of Guinnesses and some food. Hooray for having a pub directly attached to the hotel!!!
For some reason, I had a hard time celebrating my accomplishment. I could have run better. I was among the tail-end finishers, when parts of the water station were being packed up. I came in 620th place in my category, out of 717 finishers. (Although I realized later they base the rankings on official time rather than chip time, so that 3 minutes it took me to get to the start line meant I actually would have finished in 616th place.)
I had to keep reminding myself that only about 1% of the American populace will ever run a marathon, so I was way ahead of all the folks on the couch.
And I did finish. And I lived.
I had kind of joked about being able to survive the marathon, but for some, it’s no joking matter. People die while attempting marathons. A young man running his first marathon, just 27 years old, collapsed at the finish of the Dublin marathon and died the next day. I extend sympathies to his family. It’s so awful to have such a day of accomplishment turn tragic.
I think a lot of runners, myself included, tend to focus on our own running experiences, but there are so many other people out there, each running their own races. I was not the only runner, not the only American, not even not the only American running her first marathon in Dublin. There was probably another American runner out there running her first marathon in Dublin to celebrate her 40th birthday!
Anyway, I have been enjoying reading other people’s blogs about the Dublin marathon, and I’ll continue to update as I find more.
WendyBird Dublin marathon
I remember seeing her in the start area! I admired her sparkly pony tails. And I overheard Anders telling her about his recent race. I remember some of the areas in the race photos, too: the balloons tied to the gate at a turn, the kid in the stroller with the “worst parade ever” sign.
Run and Jump Dublin Marathon 2013 – finished!
The T-Rex Runner T-Rex Goes International – Dublin Marathon Race Report
Red Hen run Dublin City Marathon 2013
Ouch!! My back hurts!! The Joy! Dublin Marathon 2013.
Down by the Dougie By the finish line – the Dublin Marathon 2013
Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw