Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Types of Tough Runs #1: Hills

Attack the hills, always attack the hills.
Hills can be amongst the most intimidating part of a race. Due to the basic concept of gravity, going up a hill tends to be an awful lot harder than going down it and while we might all like to run races that are entirely on the flat, more times than enough we will meet something in the way of an incline.

What sets some hills out from others is their position. If you come across a climb in the first half of a race it can often barely make a memory. However, if the slope is towards the end when you are almost at the edge of your energy then there is a good chance either you or your legs will remember it for a long time afterwards.

Four that particularly stand-out for me are:

  1. Dublin’s Heartbreak Hill near the 20-mile mark where you head up Roebuck Road just as the pain begins to really kick in.
  2. Connemara’s half-marathon where the Hell of the West, a mile and half spiralling climb, waits for you at mile 11
  3. The ever popular Raheny 5 mile where you blow the Christmas cobwebs off by holding onto the ankles of someone in front of you for the first 4 miles only to be met sharp climb up from the sea-front, a mile to go.
  4. And my own club’s local Braveheart 5k that have what I affectionately call the Three Sisters, a collection of climbs that surprise the visiting runner as soon as they pass under the bridge and towards the final kilometre.

To meet the challenge of running hills I suggest two approaches, one physical, one mental.

Physically: Incorporate an occasional hill session into your training schedule once every couple of weeks. To do this, find a nice long incline and then do a set of maybe 8 x 2 minutes with a jog back down to the start for a recovery. Aside from getting the body ready for slopes, running uphill is generally injury-risk free for the body.

Mentally: Love the hills and do this by attacking them. Always attack the hills. And if you do this enough times, especially on those slow runs where you just momentarily raise the pace until you hit the summit you can soon get your body into belief that hills are always welcome because they allow you to quicken up. It sounds counter-intuitive but for me it works. I love hills.

Except maybe Heartbreak Hill. But we’ll try again this year.

Yesterday’s training
11 k slow, 55 minutes.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Dear Agony Aunt,

...I’ve been two-timing my physio.

I feel like I’ve been cheating on my physio. It’s not him, it’s me. He has been very thorough and has worked really hard. He’s communicated with me as best he could, followed up by phone-call and email but ultimately I just couldn’t help but return to my old physio.

I feel a little guilty but I just wanted to get a second opinion and I hope he won’t mind. Thankfully they practice 50 minutes apart and as long as I don’t double-book myself with both he shouldn’t find out!

While seeing two physios at the same time is not morally wrong there is something that prevents me from telling the new physio I’d been seeing. It’s not like I’d be hurting their feelings, but even still.

I’m glad I did though. The old physio didn’t see anything different in what has been bothering me than what my newer guy had been saying. However, he knows me better and having treated me through three or four marathons at this stage he is confident that the bigger issue has been that I simply have not had the miles under my belt before I began training this time around. While this might sound strange, I mean surely you get the miles under your belt during training, he pointed out that to train hard for a sub-3 marathon means that you should be in the shape to train hard and having been out of running for several months with a beautiful new baby girl I probably was pushing myself too hard when I returned.

It's said with a confidence that makes me confident. It’s not my running style. Yes, I could and should keep my conditioning going but ultimately it comes down to simple mileage or lack thereof.

Where this leaves me is that I kind of wish I went to him in the first place. That sub-3 might be unrealistic though never say never. And that I am back training but I need to keep the training realistic and remembering that I can’t push it too much, not unless I want to have to make a decision as to which physio I should return to next.

Yesterday’s training
No running, just hours working in a garden. I guess it is a conditioning of sorts.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Types of Tough Runs #1: Interval Training

While short runs and long runs are pretty self-explanatory tough runs might need a little bit more in the way of illuminating.

Yes, you usually feel and look like crap doing them, but they are really important in helping you raise your race pace. As a result, they are particularly important for those chasing a time.

The first type of tough run you might be experiencing or want to include into your schedule if you have yet to do so is interval training.

Intervals are effectively where you run much faster than you would expect to run a marathon over a much shorter distance. You can run to the clock or to a specific short distance, though you usually combine both.

For example, you might run hard for 2 minutes at the same speed you might run for a 5 k race and then do a slow recovery run for the next minute.

Or you could do 800 metres around a track in 3 mins 10-15 seconds taking a 90 second stationary recovery.

Or you could do 6 x 2 k at half marathon pace with 2 minute recoveries.

Or you could just not bother thinking about the mathemathics of it all, join up with your athletic club and run the bollix off yourself as you tag along with a group, grit your teeth and try not to drop out the back.

While intervals are tough, they are really worthwhile pushing the ceiling up on your regular running speed and once you get your breath back, the heartbeat drops and you stop sweating, they do make you feel like good when you’re finished.

Yesterday’s training
A good solid 13 k as I start to get the long runs back again. Slowly but surely.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sub 3 - Second Go – Edinburgh (Part 3)

Looking at the guy lying to my left I strained my eyes to read his medical file. “Found running the wrong way up a street”. I couldn’t help but laugh. I asked him his name, which he could remember. Like me he was now drinking a mixture of water and isotonic and had also a drip in his arm. I had discovered I had been down 6 litres of water when they stretchered me off the course but at least I could remember being stretchered off, which was more than could be said for my new friend who hadn’t remember what street he’d been running up when they took him in!

What I had trouble remembering was my home phone-number. That was normal the doctor told me. She mentioned how during extreme dehydration, all remaining sugars are diverted from the more mundane tasks like being used to generate memory to being absorbed by vital organs so I guess remembering your phone-number is not vital enough. Slowly though they more I drank, the more the numbers came back to me until I had the requisite amount of digits that rendered my phone home to Ireland meaningful. While it might be too dramatic to say I owed the female doctor my life I certainly owed her mobile credit as she gave me her phone to ring Ireland and my brother so he could begin the relaying of messages to my parents who were at the waiting line now wondering where on earth must I have got to?!

My final memories of the race where an implosion of our group somewhere around mile 19 (all of this I can no longer be certain of). If there was one amongst us who wasn’t dehydrated I would have been surprised. However, I probably was amongst the worst of us. The next day my neck was still stiff and sore so badly had it been lopping left and right in the hot Edinburgh midday sun.

We had ran out by the coast, completed a loop and were in the process of returning towards the finish at Musselborough race-course. There was no wind coming back. Just long straight roads and for a while waves of runners going the opposite direction who had yet to complete the loop. While seeing those behind you should in theory make you feel better it felt as if the energy was all flowing the other way and to this day I hate races where you have to run back on yourself and other competitors.

My final stand came 4 miles from the end when now delusional I believed that there was just 400 metres left. I kept wondering when the finish line would materialise and that was when I stumbled. A fellow runner grabbed me and I asked him to help me across the line as I could still break 3 hours. I thought this was karma and that the spirit of Donal Cashin would carry me over. With 4 miles to go I couldn’t have been more wrong and no sooner had I been left upright on my own I collapsed again.

It seemed to take an age for them to finally move me. I am surprised I didn’t pass out and needed a tremendous effort not to do so. I couldn’t open my eyes and kept saying to people to call my parents so they wouldn’t get worried. Then I got a sense of calm as they lifted and stretchered me off, followed by a sense of distress as I became overwhelmed with guilt for putting my folks through this before finally experienced a tremendous sense of love for my doctor. I guess that was kind of like the Stockholm syndrome for those charged with bringing you back to life.

As I drank more and more fluids and the IV drip kicked in these overpowering emotions soon left me and I began to deal with the practical question as to how do I get back to the B’n’B? When I finally left the first-aid tent the thought of walking the final 4 miles was briefly tempting (I mean a sub 5 hour marathon is good too). However, I wouldn’t get as good an invite as I had from my fellow ‘collapsee’ whose family had arrived to bring him the right way home, thus dropping me at the B’n’B and with my parents.

Thankfully I soon recovered even if my crampy legs and bruised ego remained for a little longer and by night-fall was comfortable enough to meet my friends Damo, Jeanette and Paraic for a drink.

Looking back there are regrets on Edinburgh but for a good while, the biggest one was that the feckers never gave me a marathon technical t-shirt. Yes, I didn’t complete the 26.2 miles. Yes, I am not a full Edinburgh marathon runner. But to this day I still feel that I left enough of me out on the streets of the city to warrant a t-shirt.

Yesterday’s training
Strength & conditioning.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sub 3, Second Go – Edinburgh (Part 2)

The first sign that something was going wrong was as we passed the 3 kilometre mark. I say we, because I wasn’t alone in swearing as I realised that I had made my first mistake and set off too quick. Edinburgh is generally a flat course, which might sound strange to anyone who has ever visited the city. The marathon starts off in the centre and for the first few kilometres it tapers downhill where it straightens out. The downhill had caught me and many others who looked at our watches and realised we had set out too fast. I probably would have noticed earlier except for whatever reason the 1 and 2 kilometre markers had gone missing, rumoured to be due to the previous night revelries.

It wasn’t the only thing to go missing of course. Crates of water that had been left out the night before had disappeared too, which was a problem because Edinburgh was just about to enjoy (for those not running)/endure (for those running) a heat-wave and the hottest temperatures it would get all year.

The next sign something troubling was taking place was around nine miles in I was already feeling the going tough. Though I had slowed and got myself into a bundle of runners aiming for 3 hours I was not running as smooth as I would have liked. If this was worrying I should have been even more concerned as we approached the half-way mark and I found myself doing two things:
  1. Running in a line with the others as we criss-crossed the roads seeking shelter.
  2. Hoping for half-way so I could get the mental plus of knowing I only had half the race then to run. Of course to anyone who has ever run a marathon this should sound ridiculous. Over a 5 k you might get a fillup for knowing the race is half-run, perhaps 10 k too, but anyone who has ever done the 42.1 k will know, your race only begins at half-way, it certainly is not half-ended.

 At about 15 miles I remember one of our group, now whittled down to no more than a dozen trying to gee-up everyone. It was around about this point I begin to feel the weight of my energy gel and water belt and after another very long mile or two later the urge to get rid of it became over-whelming. I was becoming dehydrated for three principal reasons, even if at the time I didn’t know it.
  • It was so friggin’ hot!
  • I was running too fast in a heat I wasn’t use to.
  • I wasn’t drinking anywhere near enough.

The last two were key, particularly the final one. Rather than sips I should have lugging the water into me slowing the pace to get my heart-beat under control.

By mile 18 it was too late. I dumped the water-belt and set full sail for the reef.

Yesterday’s training
8k slow.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sub 3, The Second Go – Edinburgh (Part 1)

I don’t know why I choose Edinburgh for my second proper attempt at a sub-3 marathon. It was in May and there were several other marathons much closer to home that I could have run. In the end I think it came down to someone suggesting that it was a fast marathon and would give me a great opportunity to dip below the 3 hours.

My training increased from what I had done for Berlin two years before. I was out running up to four times a week but even still it probably was not really enough, not with the inevitable niggles and doses that came with months of training and the end of school terms. That being said when I got on the plane along with my parents who were coming over to support I was feeling pretty confident.

We rented a nice B’n’B not far from the centre of town and there relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful Edinburgh sun that had parked itself over Scotland for the weekend. What could go wrong?

Actually, quite a lot.

Yesterday’s training
7.5k slow.

How you know you’re at risk of or have become dangerously dehydrated during a marathon.

  • You are getting thirsty and you are still at the start line.
  • A man who looks to be of Asian extraction is standing beside you wearing a cap (and you’re not).
  • Several of the crowd are already using umbrellas and it’s not raining!
  • You are thirsty.
  • From early on you begin to criss-cross the road as you run looking for the shade.
  • You feel things aren’t going so well at 9 miles.
  • Despite having a drink at each stop you are still thirsty.
  • Fellow athletes are running single file along what has become thin shadows given off from neighbouring walls.
  • You think if you can make it to half way, then at least you’ll only have half to do!
  • God, you’re thirsty.
  • Your head starts to go up and down like one of those dogs on the car dashboard.
  • You need to lose weight, and start throwing away stuff you’ve got strapped to you.
  • You are no longer thirsty.
  • You believe you have 400 metres to go instead of 4 miles.
  • You kinda collapse.
  • You get up.
  • You properly collapse.
  • You feel you are passing out.
  • You get emotional because what will your parents think at the finishing line when they don’t see you?
  • You can’t remember your phone number.
  • You fall in love with the doctor who has experienced treating people are dangerously dehydrated from her experience in the Parais-Dakar rally.
  • You’re on an IV drip.

Yesterday’s training
Strength & conditioning.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Newbie

It felt like watching the new recruit tell his embittered sergeant that he couldn’t wait to get home and see his beautiful wife and baby boy. You just knew he was going to get a bullet in the very next scene. That’s how I felt starting out yesterday evening.

I felt good, great in fact. Fresh air. Warm evening. Bright skies. And not even sight of a midge! A week, more not being able to run all the while noticing every size, shape, age and ability of runner out clocking the miles. And now I was back. I was moving. I was running. Sure something had to go wrong. I had to get the bullet.

That’s what happens when you get a string of injuries. They become normalised and running complaint free no longer feels natural, so you wait to feel what pulls first.

But nothing did. One kilometre, two kilometre, three kilometre, four! And I was on the way back along my usual route. I even began forgetting about the injury and the weeks of missed training for a while and then home came into view again and I felt grateful to be able to run and hopeful that this is just the start again.

Yesterday’s training
40 mins, 7 and a half k.

Things that mess up your run #1 – Midges

It’s warm. The sun is setting. The rain has held off. And you are out on the open road enjoying fresh air and endorphins.

And next thing it strikes. The midge.

The Irish midge is a fecker for three reasons.

First, it bites. Not as sore as a mosquito but enough that your head is wrecked by the second decade of the rosary at your local Cemetery Sunday’s. Thankfully for the runner, unless you are hanging around at the end of a run chatting when you should be stretching and home showering, a midge catching up to you to bite is not really a problem.

Second, is it getting into your mouth. While the midge might be a good source of protein there is almost nothing worse than taking a breath of fresh air only for a midge to wander in and get stuck in the gob or worse still swallowed direct, causing an immediate cough/retch to get the little blighter out of there.

Third is the worst, and that is the midge in the eye. Always happening at the worse possible time, unless you get lucky and can rub it out, or are particularly adept to be able to pull the eye-lid down and over the bottom lid and hook it out, then a midge in the eye can bring the best run to a halt as you or your unenviable companion starts to try and fish it out. Never fun for anyone involved.

While there is no real way of avoiding these final two incidents the following can help.

  • Avoid running in the evening.
  • Avoid river and canal banks.
  • Cut down on the talking.
  • Breathe through the nose.
  • Run behind a really tall person.
  • Wear swimming-goggles.
  • Learn to run back-wards.

Stretching and conditioning

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Changing of the Seasons

One thing I miss about not being able to run is the heightened awareness to the changing of the seasons that running gives, visible in three distinct ways:

Temperature: While mid-July does not guarantee high temperatures and unending sunshine, generally speaking from May onwards the days gradually warm up until October heralds the gradual cold descent. Of course all this is done rather schizophrenically with plenty of exceptions to each but generally speaking you won’t need your under-armour in July or your sunscreen in December.

Light: From the clocks going forward in March to the clocks going back in September Irish summers are marked by long evenings and beautiful daylight. There is nothing nicer than coming home for a run and noticing how the day is growing longer allowing you more and more time to get ready. This continues unabated until mid-June when taking off at 10 at night for a short run in the country-side is not a crazy idea at all. Of course, by the end of September things begin to run the other way like an egg-timer near-empty. Driving home you see the window of day-light shortening each evening until only the street-lights allow you out.

The Hedgerows & Fields: This final one is my favourite. As the year progresses from winter onwards week on week the hedgerows and fields begin to wake up with regular arrivals of flowers, plants, and flowery plants. From the snow-drops that lead the way like Kenyans in a marathon to cowslips, mid-June fields of golden buttercups to the general hoi-polloi of daisy’s and dandelions, which turn from yellow to green to feathery.

My own personal favourite were the bluebells in the forest runs at Carton House in Maynooth that opened up each spring and were soon followed by the clumps of wild garlic that would greet you before you even got within sight of them.

Anyway, that’s enough of the sentimentality crap. Tomorrow we’ll talk about that other seasonal companion, the midge.

Stretching and conditioning

Sunday, August 21, 2016



noun: sport; plural noun: sports
an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

The key word here being “entertainment”. And it is true. I love sport because it has given me so much entertainment. I mean what else would I have been doing all those years had I not being doing some type of sport. However, it would be remiss of me not to mention some of the other things it has given me, best summed up in the following short verse: 

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love* gave me to several black-eyes blinking, at least three-broken noses that needed straightening, one fractured pinkie stinging, ankle-ligaments straining, multiple concussions requiring resting, two partial dislocations of the knee cap needing relocating, dozens of cuts some needing stitching, a fractured eye-socket best not be sneezing, knee cartilage needing operating, several black-eyes bruising, one possible jaw-dislocation that several years later was still waiting, an inguinal hernia needing re-inserting and now… nerve… strainssssss.

At least that’s what the physios now reckon. I was in for a one-hour review with the recovery not going as well as it should and after a lot of pulling, pushing, thumbing, probing, stretching, straining, rubbing and some running the belief is that there are some nerve problems that are causing acute but generalised pain around the calf muscle, if that all makes sense. While it sounds annoying, the prognosis is positive with another two exercises being added to my recovery, which if they work might see me back on the road by next week. Here’s hoping.

Yet despite all that, I still love sport.

Yesterday’s training
Stretching and conditioning exercises

*True love, in this case being “sport” and not my real true love, Frances.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

And now for something a little bit different


I have heard it said that running is the graveyard of footballers. If this is true, then cycling might well be the graveyard of runners.

I used to play football when I was younger. Loved it. Eventually though, the injures built up and I found myself spending more time at physio, on an operating table or in rehab than I spent on the pitch. I had a brief renaissance with an over-35 football team last year, scoring more goals than I ever scored in my career and remembering with gusto what it was like to slide in and tackle before more trips to the hospital reminded me of why I retired and I returned to running.

Running is less destructive to the body. You generally don’t have to worry about someone swinging an elbow in your direction, clashing heads in the box or being taken out from behind with a two-footed lunge, not usually anyway. As a result, there are many I know who having spent a life-time kicking ball around a pitch retire and then realise that their body isn’t ready for just stopping and standing still. And this is where running comes in.

However, it is tough though and those miles and miles of running do add up and sometimes catch up with you. So while the injuries might not be as brutal looking as a bloody nose or stud marks down the thigh, they can come and for some, if they come too often then running can be called time on too. And this is where cycling arrives in. No continuous impact. No knee complaints. No thigh issues. Just a little soreness around the backside as the buttocks settle into the saddle and maybe a stiff neck from a brand-new sitting position.

I haven’t retired from running just yet. However, in the absence of mileage on the road as my leg recovers I need to do something to get the lungs going and cycling is just the ticket. I just need to get a little push. Bike and gear aren’t the issue. I bought those more than a year ago, along with half the country in the bike-to-work scheme, but after a staff cycle the tyres had gone flat from lack of usage! They have been pumped again a few weeks now but the bikes has remained sitting like a substitute in some U.S. sports movie staring up at me and shouting, “put me on Coach!” I finally decided to do so last night.

I met the neighbour Ray race-dressed and warming up outside. Asking him if he minded me joining him, fifteen minutes later we were on the road. Trim to Kildaley to Athboy to Kilbride to Trim and home again, eating miles so much quicker than I would had I been running, even if I was bringing down Ray’s average pace a few kilometres.

It is a real tonic having spent the last week or more doing feck all. So much so that when I realised that when Ray said he was going out for 40 or 45, he meant kilometres not minutes, I didn’t mind that I’d be on the road for an hour and a half so content I was just to be out doing something.

Like I said, I haven’t retired from running just yet, but at least it is good to know that if I ever did there is something else that might take its place.

Yesterday’s training
40 kilometre cycle – 1 hour and 30 mins.

Friday, August 19, 2016

My usual run

Most runners have a regular route they run more often than not. With the need to put away many, many miles before the marathon a weekly training schedule is often dotted with days of shorter slow runs. And many of these short outings are often on a regular route that thus becomes the bread and butter of a marathon training regime.

For some these runs are along town ring-roads, local woodland trails, park routes or a nearby field. When I lived in the town of Maynooth my habitual lope was down the canal paths. One direction brought me in the direction of the lovely environs of Carton House, the other aimed towards Kilcock with equally pretty old canal bridges en-route. The Kilcock route for some strange reason always reminded me of Normandy, even though I’d never been to Normandy! When I moved to Navan I used to go to the Hill of Tara. While this circular lap could not have been more historic the camber or slope throughout coupled with the long ups and downs meant it wasn’t as pleasurable as I would have liked.

When I came back to the town of Trim a year or two later the “Five Fingers” as I used to call them became my regular series. These “Fingers” were the roads leading in and out of the town, which I would run up and back as far as the wide town path would take me – Kildalkey Road – Athboy Road – Navan Road – Dublin Road and the Summerhill Road, at least to the roundabout. The Kildalkey Road was the shortest route and what I called the thumb while the Navan Road was the middle finger and longest section. In the summer-time the bright long evenings opened up what we called the Porchfields, two large green spaces in the centre of town. However, in the dark of winter it was always the “Five Fingers” for me.

Eventually though I moved a little out of town and I needed a new route, and this is where I settled for my new reliable, the 7.5 km up and back down the Rock Road to Jack Quinns. It’s a course that I could now run blind. Cross the busy country road, up and over a small brow heading down past a small stream before rising a little the first kilometre mark where a new house has been built at a fast bend where a pot-hole annually seems to give out.

Then around two twisty bends, one twistier than others where an ear must be kept for oncoming traffic. Once negotiated the road straightens out with several nice houses alongside it. One of these is populated by a town of gnomes and defended by two ridiculously huge dogs who respect the white-picket fence that stops them from going out and make sure that everyone outside respects the picket fence and don’t come in. My wife tells me this whole place is called Dogtown and this second kilometre explains why.

The third kilometre takes some long bends and fine fields with various crops and livestock. You can see the 14th hole of local golf-course on one side and horses galloping free on the other. This kilometre ends at the point where my local school bus used to turn up for the country-side route to my primary school.

The last half kilometre brings you down to the Dublin road, which every town in Ireland seems to have. You know it’s the Dublin Road because Jack Quinn’s pub is on the corner helping give directions to visiting friends for years, “when you see Jack Quinns, turn left”.

At this stage you do one of three things. You head left for town and a longer 12 k loop or stagger yourself across towards Bective for one of those long, slow ones. Or more often than for me, I turn and do it all back again, heading for home and the ticking off of one more group of miles ran.

While I have never actually done it well, I’d like to think one day when I run the perfect race I will hit 3 and a half kilometres to go and as well as taking in the remaining distance I will be brought back to this regular route and visualise each and every twist and turn as I finish the 42+ k, remembering just how much effort has gone in. That would make me smile.

More rest.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Marathons & Medical Experiments

The second time I ran the Dublin Marathon was in 2008. It was a strange choice. I had only ran Berlin a month before and was content with the run having left nothing on the road bar the usual mix of blood, sweats and tears. My friend Dave on the other hand had other feelings. He had cramped up badly and felt he hadn’t been able to give it his all. After several months of training this hurt. As a result, he wanted to have another go and with the Dublin Marathon just a month later he had the perfect tonic - that is if a tonic for you is a 26.2 mile run. He asked me to join him for encouragement and having helped each other over the last half a year I really only had one answer. Sign me up. Thus, with no real pressure I went into my third ever marathon with the sole goal of enjoying myself and being involved in a medical experiment!

While I can’t be certain if it was Bath, Bristol or some other English university beginning with B I do know the experiment was to see the difference in performance between runners who took energy gels every twenty minutes throughout the race and those who didn’t. I remember this because I was one of those who was going to be eating gels every twenty minutes and I got two boxes of the stuff for free for doing the experiment! Result! The only thing I needed to do was get a pin prick and give a drop of blood or two at the start and again at the finish. Though David had no ethical issues with this he did have time issues and as I was already the cause of us being late into Dublin he decided he was not going to wait around for me to give blood and collect my two boxes of energy gels. And as a result we started separate from each other.

The race itself was pretty unremarkable except for two things. One was how well I felt, part energy-gel and part water-related, something I had failed to do in Berlin. So good did I feel that with 5 miles to go, I thought I might actually score a PB! The second interesting thing was the ending. This was the marathon where I helped Donal to the end (an earlier blog) having been part responsible for him being on the ground in the first place.

In the end, I came home in 3 hrs 19 mins 12 seconds, just over 3 minutes slower than Berlin, two and a half slower if you allow me the 30 seconds for helping carry Donal over. And 14 seconds later David came trundling over too. He had left nothing on the road this time, and having started after me on the line had gotten a time of 3 hr 17.40.

Job well done. Dave got his personal best while I got my two boxes of energy gels. It was just a pity it took me nearly two days to sleep properly, something that B*@$# University never told me about!

Dublin Marathon 2008 – 3.19.12

I’m going to stop calling it training, until I start running again:(.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Getting antsy

I’m starting to get antsy. So much so, that I’m starting to use the word “antsy”, which I never did before. Not running. Not training. Not knowing when I will be able to do both again.

It’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when small jogs seem to create pain. It feels like I’m going backwards and that’s no fun at all. If things continue like this, the blog will become an injury blog as opposed to a running one.

But put your faith in the process. Trust in medicine. And have believe that one day the injury will be a memory and you will be out running again.

Tough though. Very tough though. It’d be far easier if I was out running miles.

 Yesterday’s training
Short intense bike work.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Doctors who you should go to when training for a mararthon.

Those who have either played sport or whose partner once did, preferably at a very high level. They will look at the injury or strain you have and respond by saying such things as…

…oh, it’s just a sprain, take a few days and you’ll be grand.
…you’re doing a marathon?! That’s fantastic!
…what time are you chasing?
…oh, it’s just a sprain, take a few days and you’ll be grand.
…my husband was an Olympic sprinter, don’t worry.
…a marathon? Brilliant. My wife is doing her fifth Dublin marathon.
…I remember my first marathon. It was 34 years ago. We didn’t have special runners back then. It snowed from half way. I trained for two months as I was just back from the Africa. Oh your injury, it’s just a sprain, take a few days and you’ll be grand. So where was I? Yes, Africa.

Yesterday’s training

Same, same - glutes and calf exercises:(.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Doctors who you should not go to when training for a marathon.

Those who have never played sports. They will look at your niggle, injury or strain and respond by saying such things as…

…you should give up the running.
…you know the first person who did a marathon died?
…have you ever considered taking up walking?
…you should give up running.
…I don’t understand why anyone would ever want to run a marathon.
…you know it’s not natural.
…you should give up running.

Yesterday’s training
Just some glute and calf exercises:(.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

When you hit that wall

“You do what it takes.”

If and when you hit that wall hard in the last few miles you will often do anything to get home. I know, I have.

·         You pray (even if you are not the praying type).
·         You swear you will never run another mile (even if deep down you know it won’t be).
·         You swear proper.
·         You beg.
·         You cry.
·         You curse some more.
·         You count up in nines, spell backwards the alphabet and try to remember the names of every pupil in every class you ever sat in in order to take you mind off the pain.
·         You curse again when this stops working.
·         You give up giving the crowd high fives, they only push you back-wards.
·         You get rid of anything that is weighing you down from hats, belts and wristbands.
·         You eat muscle, chew fat and burn absolutely everything for energy even if that means throwing your dignity, pride and self-respect under the bus just so you can squeeze another few hundred metres out of it.
·         You see Jelly Babies as more sacred than the Holy Communion.

·         And when a local looking middle-aged woman holds out in her hand a small brown sweet /mint/chew/bonbon/toffy you don’t care if it’s a Werther's Original or something used to cure river blindness you just grab it, gobble it and move on.

Because when and if you hit that wall, you do what it takes.

(Thankfully it was a glucose tablet though the river blindness hasn’t been back since.)

Yesterday’s training

First session on the bike. A short but intense 4 mins, with 30 second intervals on and off pushing really fast. Repeated twice. And I didn’t forget the glutes and calf exercises.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


“Keep cheering, keep shouting, keep going.”

Of all the things that help marathon runners keep going during races, perhaps the most personal are the partners, families and friends that come out whatever the weather or the time to cheer you on. I always found the roadside support one of the most fascinating things about running. I could understand why people ran, but why people came out to cheers those who ran at first escaped me. It was only when an injury one year kept me back from running and instead saw me out supporting a friend along the streets of Dublin that I realised that you can’t just cheer your own on, it’s damn near impossible. Everyone is in the same both as each other so in the end you cheer everyone on, or at least I did.

I’ve been lucky to have had some great people come out to urge me on but some standouts include:

My wonderful wife Frances who not only has endured my running but with my mate Steve criss-crossed Dublin one year avoiding traffic-jams and diversions with fluids and food for me over at least three or four stops. No easy thing.

My parents who’ve been at so many of my runs, some good, Cork, some bad, Edinburgh. My best memory of them was my second marathon when I organised to meet them at a bus shelter near Hanlon’s corner about 4 miles into Dublin. I wanted them to take a photo of me and gave them the position and the time. However just as I arrived at the junction I could see them with their backs turned still approaching the bus-shelter. I shouted to them as I came near and only at the last moment did my mother, et camera, hear me. Instead of turning and trying to snap however she decided to run ahead, not really thinking that I was in the process of running too! It was a somewhat futile effort and when she turned to see how much she gained I was pretty much jogging on the spot beside her. As I continued to jog-super slowly, she did get the shot, even managing to get the early morning sun over my shoulder too.

My siblings, particularly my sister Maria and her kids, who were responsible for the first ever drawn poster wishing me well. “Come on Roro!!!” in beautifully colourful crayon.

My mate Paraic. Despite not seeing me at Edinburgh (we’ll get to that) he was there for me in Cork doing the sums at one stage and with the resources at another. He even forgave me just after Heartbreak Hill in Dublin when he offered me three types of drink to choose from only for me to grab the most expensive one, spill half it on him, take a mouthful before chucking it onto the ground.

My mate Podge who fought a hangover to get out of bed and her me say around the 22 mile mark in Dublin, “I feel shite”.

Our friends David and Laura from Spain and France whose enthusiasm in Sevilla with “go on guy!”, “Well done”, “You can do it”, gave me the briefest of respites as the final 7 or 8 kilometres kicked in.

Trim A.C. My club whose members cheer us all on, whenever they see the red and white strip of Baile Atha Troim

However perhaps the best award, or at least some sort of award has to go to Samantha and Colette, who joined Dave and I in Berlin. Having organised four places to see us with drinks and bananas they went out for the night while we retired to our own apartment. Then the next day because we went through the first two stops a little bit earlier than planned (and they may have been just a minute late, maybe) we missed each other. At this stage they sagely decided to skip the third stop to ensure the last. But of course at this stage our wheels had fallen off and when we had failed to arrive 10, 15 minutes after we said we would they figured they must have missed us again and left for the finish. Come a few hundred miles to cheer us on and we didn’t see each once. Still it’s the intention that counts, we met them for dinner and they had a one hell of a Friday night.

To all those supporters and everyone else, I and we thank you.

Yesterday’s training

Just core work:(.

Friday, August 12, 2016

First Go – Berlin (Part 2)

Marathon learning – Hydrate and feed during the race. 26.2 miles is a long time.

Around about mile 14 or 15 I latched onto a Chilean’s ankles. Not literally.

Dave had slowed a little a couple of miles back so I was on my own. By this stage of the race those around me were generally staying the same having settled on a pace. It was at this point that I saw the clear running jersey a few yards directly ahead of me that read “CHILE” and a relatively small female figure who was wearing it. She was a moving at the same speed as me and was a perfect reference point so I decided to track those ankles.

Over the next few miles I remember thinking how I could not see her face but that I was planning on visiting South America next summer and maybe those ankles would walk by me on a sun-drenched beach and I’d say, “hey, I recognise those ankles, did you run the Berlin Marathon?!” I also recall thinking how I would thank her at the end for pacing me. While that might sound creepy in most circumstances, “your ankles kept me going out there”, I think she’d have understood. Unfortunately, by mile 18 those ankles had said goodbye going forward as I faded back.

In hindsight we didn’t have the miles in our legs and could not have realistically expected to break 3 in what was really our first marathon (Dublin 2003 excluded). However, one area we fell down on during it was hydrating and feeding during the run. Going at the pace we had planned and set out on, we needed to take on fluids and food yet we failed miserably. At the water stops a mouthful is probably all I took with a splash over the head before I kept going. As for food, forget it. It was only at the end that I started scavenging whatever the crowds were holding out to keep me going. Running 26.2 miles is a long time and doing so with little or no food or water is not a great idea. It would be my second marathon learning.

Those last few kilometres were tough. As tough as anything I’d experienced since Dublin half a decade before although I knew I was not going to stop and start walking this time. I remember streams of runners pass by me as my pace dropped dramatically and feeling thoroughly dejected though stoically determined to just… keep… going.

Several months ago when we were debating what marathon I had suggested Longford (there weren’t loads of marathons in Ireland even then) while he had suggested Berlin. “I mean, come on Ronan. If you are going to break 3 hours, where would you want to break it? Longord? Or Berlin!” I like Longford but Berlin was just too inviting. After mile 14 I had long since given up taking in the architecture. At some stage well into the twenties (miles) the race crossed over cobble-stones. We were probably surrounded by wonderfully ornate Germanic Berlin buildings too but at that moment I would have just loved had they dug ever God-damn cobble stone up and replaced it with smooth tarmac.

However, Berlin did have two wonderful features to it. One, were the crowds that remained hugely supportive throughout. The second was the ending. Maybe a mile from the finish you can see it, the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of peace, of unity and today of victory. As far as light-houses guiding you home, the 26-metre-high gate has few equals and for an extremely fatigued runner like me it was just what I needed to help me that final way home. Crossing through it and into the final hundred metres with temporary stands either side finishing Berlin, despite being more than 15 minutes slower than I had hoped felt like an achievement. And there were few better feelings than the emotion I felt as we crossed over the line to be met with medals, foil coats, food and smiles.

Berlin Marathon 2008 – 3.15.50

Yesterday’s training

None again but I was back with the physio and a new plan is being drawn up where I will focus on cycling to keep the fitness up while the leg recovers. We will see.

First Go – Berlin 2008 (Part 1)

When I woke it was still dark outside. Despite it being a strange bed in a foreign city my mind was already aware of what was ahead and why I was here. Brown bread, porridge, bananas, tea and juice. We ate breakfast in relative silence. Dave, my third running buddy, and I were here for the same reason. The Berlin Marathon and our first proper attempt to run a sub 3.

A half hour later we loaded a few basics and with the September morning sun now lighting up the city we left the apartment we had rented for the weekend and began out on the empty street – two drops of rain falling down.

Gaunt faces, expectant eyes, luminous runners, tracksuit bottoms with one solitary plastic bag carrying their gear. No, not drug dealers but marathon runners, and as we arrived into the metro station we began seeing the first signs of other road-warriors as our drops became a trickle, slowly growing at each stop until it became a stream when we changed over to the next line. As we came off into the main train-station of Berlin Hauptbahnhof, our stream was now a river and by the time we broke outside and down towards the start we were a full-flowing torrent of runners about to pour into the 40,000 strong lake that annually makes up one of the biggest marathons in the world, Berlin.

When races swell in numbers the start is often made up of channels you must walk down to find your starting point, something that is based around your expected finishing time. Of course we overcooked our entry point and came out in front of the start. In returning back to the start we then had to navigate our way round a hernia-shaped enclosure that abutted out from the front line. Dave, at 6-foot something decided that rather than jog round he would hop the barrier and short-cut across. I remember watching him as I circled and noticed his amble over start to slow-motion as his mouth widened and his jaw dropped. Catching my eye, he pointed down. There, passing him was one of the greatest all-time marathon runners, a social justice activist, future hotelier and all-round nice guy Haile Gebrselassie. His small, nimble frame just passed by Dave and smiled. It was cool. Almost 2 hours 3 minutes and 59 seconds later her would break his own marathon record, Haile that is, not Dave.

I heard a funny story once about Haile. Landing late into a city hotel where there was no place outside safe enough to run he began running lengths of the corridor. Once people realised it wasn’t a fire a few even joined him. From what I heard about him, he always came across as a really nice guy. I shared with Dave this story as we climbed back over a crash barrier and into the lake of runners also aiming for sub 3 hr. Then we waiting, along with 39,998 others, waiting for the gun and our dam to burst forward.

Yesterday’s running
Still a duck egg 0, though I continue to do strength & conditioning on my calf and gluts to keep them occupied.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Early Running Buddies

“Forming a habit sometimes need friends”

#1 Amy

I think it was in Africa I first began really running. Africa sounds like a great pedigree of place to begin running except I was less Rift Valley Kenya and more Middle Belt Nigeria. Nigeria is a great place for many reasons – the gregarious-natured people, the warm evening African sunshine, the pounded yam and the ice-cool Star beer and I loved living there. However long-distance running fell into the same category as progressive tax systems, corporate transparency and road safety as things Nigeria doesn’t really do. So it was a little strange that my slow love-affair with running began here but begin it did and much of it was down to my first running-buddy, Amy.

Amy was an Irish-Italian American from Boston who worked for the U.S. charity I was seconded to. She loved animals and she loved running, and quite often she would take her friendly black Lab Chloe for a run early Saturday morning before the sun got up. For a long time, I couldn’t understand why? I mean what else would anyone be doing on a Saturday morning but sleeping on from a late night and/or nursing a slight hangover. Something that happened quite a lot following the weekly weekend revelry down at the Village Bar. But eventually one Saturday, and not because the Village Bar was closed, I joined her for a run.

We must have only ran for 5 or 6 kilometres at most but at a dam and its sub-Saharan semi-tropical feeling surrounds I actually kind of enjoyed it! And a few weeks later I came back. And a few weeks after that too. I’d be lying if I said I continued to run every Saturday morning. The Friday nights at the Village were often just too much fun and occasionally the dry and dusty Harmattan wind that carried down Saharan sand made the runs a little too er… coughy. But it was on the fringes of Bwari Dam 30 kilometres from Abuja that my running career began.

#2 Mikko

When Amy and co. left for the U.S. there was a good chance that my budding running life might have ended but one Friday night I met Mikko, a Finnish embassy worker. Tall, blunt, with a black sense of humour that wasn’t immediately evident, a surname that was immediately difficult and a fondness for a few full-bodied drinks at the end of the night he fulfilled many of the stereotypes you might expect of a Finn. He was great craic though and he also ran.

So swapping the greenery of Bwari dam for the proximity of a nearby quarry in the Asokoro district of the Nigerian capital we met up on a regular basis for midweek evening runs, which had two great outcomes – it didn’t affect the weekend’s merriments but did make running a routine.

#3 Dave

If Amy and Mikko fostered a love of running, it was concretized when I returned to Ireland. During a teacher-training course in Maynooth University I met Dave who I quickly discovered shared a few commonalities with me:

·         We both enjoyed running.
·         We both would like to run more.
      ·         We both would like to run a marathon.
·         And we both would appreciate someone to run with to help overcome the dreadful monotony of miles that novice runners have when travelling solo.

That Dave lived in Dublin in warm-up distance from the Phoenix Park and in an apartment complex that had a communal gym and Jacuzzi that we could use for free after our run was even better!

So over the next nine months we began to regularly jog around the Park or canter along the canals of Maynooth until one day, running was just something we did. After that there was just one more thing to do, run a marathon.

Yesterday’s running
Nothing. Nada. Nil. Zilch. Zero.

Will meet the physio tomorrow and hope for positive news.