It was the month of May when I started getting excited about the next training season. I had already registered for the Dublin marathon where I knew my in-laws would be at the finish line waiting for Paul and I to cross. I had completed my last marathon in the fall of 2017 with a time of 3:53:49. I was on track to complete it in 3:45 but the last 10 km were tough and I allowed my mind to take over the race and my legs soon slowed. I told myself, that would not happen in 2018. I would focus on the rolling green hills of Ireland and the occasional castle along the route rather than the aches and pains you feel while running 42.2 km.
I started running again in May and felt great. I was getting the distance in that I needed to be prepared for the start of training. Then it happened. I started feeling pain in my shins that I had never felt before. I heard of shin splints but never understood how painful they were. By the end of June, I had bought three pairs of shoes and another in July. My online research led me to buying my first pair of compression socks which seemed to help a little. By this point I was only getting half of my training runs in. It was only after having to stop 500 m into a morning run due to the high level of pain that I decided to start seeing Jane (chiropractor) on a regular basis. I had hoped for a speedy recovery! I ran the Beaches Jazz Run and felt great which boosted my confidence. This was short lived though as the training runs that week were killers! I couldn’t make sense of it, one day I would have a great run, the next day I could barely get 2 km in without having to walk back home. August rolled around and I completed the Shakespeare 30 km race and again felt amazing. I was sure that the shin splints were a thing of the past. Again, I was disappointed when even walking the following week hurt. This cycle continued throughout the balance of training. One good run, followed by a couple terrible runs, then a chiro appointment, a massage…repeat. During my therapy, I was advised not to complete any hill or speed work training. My confidence dropped again. How could I possibly not train for hills? The Dublin marathon is littered with hills, in fact if you look at the elevation chart of the race there is not one flat surface the entire 42.2 km! September rolled around which brought with it the Ottawa Army Run which I always used as a guide to tell me how I would perform in the October marathon. It was September 10th when I was advised that I should “shut it down” for two weeks. This meant that I could not race the Army Run. Being the spectator of a race is usually very motivational. Watching each runner battling the demons inside only to win and cross the finish line. This time however it had the opposite effect since all I could think about is “I should be running this” & “if I can’t race a half marathon, how the hell am I going to complete a full?” It was at this point that I realized, that I would likely not run the Dublin marathon and even if I did, I would only be doing it to complete it. I continued to complete short, flat runs when possible just to keep my cardio up prior to the race.
Before I knew it I was in Ireland. There were three days till the race. I still didn’t know if I was going to participate. It was literally going to be a game time decision. I didn’t run the first two days that I was in Ireland as I didn’t want to irritate my legs. Finally, on Saturday I completed a 3km run. I felt pain but it was a three out of ten. I told myself at this point that I would run the marathon, that I would enjoy the scenery and collect the medal at the end!
Nerves had the best of me on race day. Was I making the right decision? This isn’t the Scotia Bank race in Toronto, I couldn’t simply walk home at the 30 km mark if the pain was too much. The Dublin marathon is one big loop; you either keep running or walk back the same distance you just ran. I popped another two Advil and hoped for the best.
I started the race in the wrong coral. I registered with an expected completion time of 3:40 but knew at this point that a 4-hour marathon was even unlikely. This meant that as the race started, I was already at a faster pace than I had wanted to be. My biggest pet peeve in a race is when someone is in the wrong coral and is slowing me down. I promised myself I would not do that to the people around me.
I had never seen so many spectators at a Marathon in my life!! They were 3 to four rows deep throughout the course! Everyone shouting at the runners “fair play to you” or “you are amazing.” It wasn’t only the kids trying to high five the runners, it was the adults as well. I think I high-fived half the population of Dublin throughout the race! It was at kilometer 9 that my iPod shuffle died! I couldn’t believe it. Was I going to have to run 33.2 km without music? I was angry, I stopped and threw it on the ground and shouted “for F-Sakes!” I then thought “what if someone slips on it…and did I just litter in a foreign country?” So I picked it up and plugged it back in and it started to work again. Yay!! I continued to run up to the 32 km point at a pretty steady pace. Everything was going well, I felt amazing. Then something happened, my legs began to hurt and my pace slowed. This is when I would normally start to reflect on all the training I had completed throughout the summer. I would tell myself, you have run 6 days a week for 18 weeks and completed 4 runs exceeding 30 km, you have this! The problem was that I didn’t run 6 days a week nor did I run more than 30 km once throughout the entire training cycle. The longest runs I completed were 24 km, 27 km & 30 km. I also didn’t get any hill training in and only completed three speed work runs. I was feeling pretty low, my confidence was gone, my mind was winning!
I took a minute to walk and a woman spectator looked at me directly in the eyes and screamed “RUN!!” She literally scared me half to death as I was expecting her to say something motivational! She looked angry, almost to say “this isn’t the Dublin stroll, it is a marathon, RUN!” I started to run again trying to think positively and pull anything out from my history of running to encourage me to continue to race. My mind was empty. It was then that I remembered reading Remy’s race report about her experience in Berlin. I remembered her determination to complete the race despite the level of pain she was in. This was what motivated me at this point in the race to keep going! I had already run 32 km, I only had a short 10 km left…that is the same distance as running from the Beaches to Don River and back. I could do this!
Before I knew it, there were only 3 km left in the race. The crowds were getting louder and louder. I turned my music off and focused on trying to find Paul and my in-laws through the sea of people. Finally, on top of the last damn hill (I honestly think it was one rolling hill the entire race) I saw the finish line, the race would be over in minutes.
I completed the marathon in 4:23:38. This was not my worst time nor was it my best but considering the small amount of training I was able to complete, this was a great accomplishment, this was something to be proud of! We have all heard the adage, “Running is 90% mental and the rest is physical.” I now believe this 100%. I will be using this race for motivation in my next race.