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marathon: dublin, ireland, 2018

smiling, relaxed, having the 'chats' is not how one should be finishing a marathon

It was a perfect day for running a marathon. Overcast skies, a coolness in the air, a sense of adrenaline. The start line was buzzing. The kind of buzz you can only truly feel amidst 20,000 other runners waiting to run the same race – their own race. The porridge oats were in and I hydrated sensibly. Also, my secret weapon, I carried my cling-wrapped, boiled potatoes. The magic spuds I had trained with all summer long, ready for the distance.

Training had gone well; all targets were hit, some even slightly exceeded beyond what the plan required of me. Nothing too chaotic though, to say I had left it all in training – I was fresh and relaxed.

underway & analysis

Starting shot fired, we were off. First couple of miles were easy, in fact my pace was pretty much perfect through the first 10 miles. Then I hit the series of 3 climbs midway through Dublin’s route. I normally thrive on hills and never fear them. Most times when I pass people in a race, it’s on a climb. However, something happened over the course of these 3 climbs. By the end of the third one, my hips just wouldn’t fire any more. I don’t know why, everything felt fresh.

smiling, relaxed, having the ‘chats’
is not how one should be finishing an attempt at a marathon PB

Psychologically, my head was still in the game, still focused, but hips and glutes just refused to deliver any power. Looking back on it, I think I must have run the last half of the race on calf muscles alone. Somewhat corroborated by a few serious calf spasms in the last mile. I jogged home, seriously off-pace, and crossed line as fresh as a daisy just no strength in my legs. A finishing time of 3:38 was a long way from what I knew was possible but why?

pace, elevation, and heart rate plots of my Dublin City Marathon 2018
on pace up to mile 10, should have been fresh after a downhill section but something happened…

It wasn’t dehydration that caused the issue, at least not dehydration that I could have prevented if it was. I had been diligent with respect to getting fluids in. I ran with 2x250ml bottles with dissolved electrolyte tablets in them from the start. The exact strategy as proven in my training. Keeping fluids topped up: I was taking mouthfuls from fresh bottles on route. I carried extra electrolyte tablets to dissolve during the later stages of the race too. When I finished the race I wasn’t even remotely thirsty!

“Project spud” had gone ok. I trained all summer with boiled potatoes instead of gel sachets. Having worked out the carb/calorie composition to a best estimate, there was nothing to suggest it was lacking. So, with hydration and fuel adding up, something unknown remained. As I once heard it put, “the marathon is a beast”.

final thoughts

You can never be unhappy finishing a marathon – don’t be that guy. Many would give their right arm to run one. You can be demoralised while you try to figure out why the ambition didn’t work out that day. That was the option I chose, while I collected my medal and goodie bag. While I meandered back to the bag collection area with some friends who had finished around the same time. I kept thinking about it on the way back to the hotel. Still thought about it on the way home in the car yesterday. I’ll be no doubt still thinking about it for many days to come too…

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