Last weekend I ran a marathon. Just like that! This had been something I had wanted to do for quite a while. I always wondered how I'd perform if I just set off for a 26.2mile run without any real specific training and without a real specific goal, other than completion. And last Saturday I found out.
One of my best friends has rediscovered his love for running and we are both planning on going Ultra this summer. In preparation he discovered a group called the East of Ireland Marathon club, they put on marathons regularly and it seems they usually have about 60 entrants per race.
I checked out their web site in late January and found they had a race on Feb 22nd, a full marathon. It was time to test the body, the two marathons I did last year had not really went to plan, poor training and negative thoughts had hampered my performance and left me a great deal shy of a new PB.
I found myself on the start line with a race belt full of energy gels, raisins, dates and granola bars. I set off at a very easy pace and was running alone. It felt great running. Running just to run. Running because I could run and not because I had to run. I love running long distance, I love the thought that over a very short period of time you feel immense self doubt, self pity and pain followed by epic euphoria, joy and self confidence.
At the first aid station I took a water bottle and carried it until it was empty. I repeated this at the next aid station which was 5 miles later and the next and the next. I gulped down 2 gels and a small box of raisins between every aid station. At every aid station I stopped and had half a banana and 3-4 dates before setting off again at a light pace. Everything was going well, I had no pain and my body seemed tireless. I knew I was good for 20 miles but after that it could go either way.
I anticipated hitting the infamous wall, I hadn't after-all done any marathon training and my longest run since the Dublin marathon back in Oct 2013 had been 15 miles which I did the Tuesday before this race.
The course was out and back, beginning with a run north along the Dublin coast with a strong tailwind, a double lap of Howth head (which has a fairly modest hill to climb), before returning back along the coast into a very strong head wind.
I was feeling good as I approached the last section, my Garmin bleeped and I saw I had completed 20 miles. This was a warning, the wall was coming and I was about to go BOOM! I ran on, the wind certainly felt like a wall but the pain and exhaustion of the 'physiological wall' never arrived. The miles clicked past and I finished feeling good. Official time 3hrs50mins flat.
I had done it. I had ran for sheer fun and enjoyment and I had completed a marathon very easily. I never felt like stopping or quitting, in fact I hadn't had any negative thoughts through out the entire race. That hadn't happened in a long time. I had been searching for this feeling last year and couldn't find. Every race I did I went out hard and suffered for the majority of the race, I hated racing and I certainly wasn't enjoying myself. Today I had learned a lot about nutrition, fluid intake and pace but most importantly I'd relearned how to enjoy racing. It's not about chasing PB's and suffering, it's about measuring yourself against the distance, the course and the elements and hoping you come out on top.
Run far, run fast but most of all RunSensible!