2579/6674 (39/100 normalised)
Previous race: DLR Bay 10k 2018
The 2018 SSE Airtricity Half Marathon was both my first half marathon race and a major personal milestone. As I write this post in late October it has been a year since I took up running as a hobby. My personal gains in weight loss and fitness over the year underscore what has been the best choice of my life.
The half-marathon scared me. The runners I see at 5k (parkrun) and 10k races are more casual, the get up and go out to have fun. Runners at the half marathon were from a whole other crowd. Although everyone there was friendly and eager, they intimidated me. I felt dowdy and unprepared for the race. Remember: only person you compete against is yourself.
One mistake I continue to make is to start too far back in the pack, from pure lack of confidence in myself. While I don’t want to be too far in front and outrun, that’s exactly what I do myself. Looking back at my run times, I wasted a lot of energy in the first few kilometres as I overtook slower runners. The path through the park was narrow and twisted, meaning I often had to go up onto the verge to overtake.
Between the 5k and 10k marks not much of interest happened. The pack stretched out as runners found their place and pace. It was around 10k, when we rounded Phoenix Park, that the thought “oh, this is a half marathon” began to percolate. We were less than halfway done. I passed a poor runner crouched down with diarrhea behind a tree.
As the run wore on, my thoughts wore into a determination to finish. Why else was I there except to earn that bloody medal? The cold got to me in a bad way toward the end because I didn’t dress warm enough. Layers, layers, layers! Layers are key to a comfortable run in poor weather. Phoenix Park sat high and exposed to a cold, wet wind out of the south below a heavy overcast. My hands felt like clubs glued onto my arms, and my arms felt like sticks glued onto my body. Looking around I could see other people struggle with the same cold. Of all things, it was seeing other people suffer along with me that gave me the strength to get through.
The race became a slog to the end. My mind went to my body, from my body to my feet, and to each foot as it moved. Up, ahead down, next foot. I know in my heart that I would have struggled to go on if I had stopped for any reason.
After going around the Zoo, looping out to Farmleigh, down Tower Road, back into the Park, at last I crossed the line. I finished under my target time of 1:50. My big mistake after the race was to not check my actual finish time. The race clock read 1:55:30, while my hands were too numb to pull out my phone to check. I thought I had missed by five minutes. All my triumph over having made the finish turned into me kicking my own ass because I didn’t finish fast enough. That’s so typical of me, the way I beat myself up. By the time I realised that, no, I did make my target, I had crushed my own enjoyment of the day.
From now-October-I look back and feel an absolute sense of pride in my accomplishment. Back in late 2012 when I lived in Sligo, I had to walk back to my apartment one day after class. I was so badly out of shape and my leg so sore, that I had to stop a few times to rest it. Compare then with now. The day taught me valuable lessons about attitude, clothes, assumptions and focus on the track.
Ever upwards. 💪