At around mile 20 my team-mate looked back at me one last time and I gestured for him to keep moving. My wheels were coming off and there was only one place I was going – backwards.
At the start I was feeling good. I had done the Dublin half in a personal best of 1 hr 23 mins and 21 seconds. If you double that and add 10, which is often one way of getting your possible marathon time I was a tad under 2 hr 57. So I was optimistic. I had some gels, plenty of water, slept well and had my girlfriend and two of my best friend’s on track who were going to meet at multiple spots. It was almost perfect. The almost were the unseasonably humid conditions for an October Bank Holiday weekend and the strong blustery winds.
My plan had changed a few days before the marathon when I decided to tag along with my team-mate Quentin. He had nailed the half-marathon helping me pace the final kilometre when I was getting into trouble. What was more he had already a sub 3 marathon under his belt having run a 2 hr 59 something the previous year. So I thought if there was something I should pace myself with, it was with him.
I have several memories from this race when things were going well – taking the t-shirt I had underneath my club jersey off along the quays because of the warmth of the day; my parents seeing me at the Phoenix Park; the cheers down at Castleknock; the speed we came down by the Strawberry Fields; the warmth of Dolphin’s Barn turn and giving Frances and Steve a thumbs up after 10. At the half-way mark the plan that we had set ourselves was working and we were a minute to the good as we faced into a strong head-wind that would bring us to the Walkinstown Roundabout. It was here that the good memories were replaced with others.
The feeling of disconnectedness as I ran down through Terenure with the wind not at my back; the beginning of the count as I started to pay more and more attention to the mile markers; running on Quentin’s heels rather than on his shoulder; and then the gaps as slowly he moved away from me.
The look backs became more frequent as he realised my distress. Words of encouragement became calls, which in turn became mouthings, as the distance continued to stretch before finally it was nearly 30 or 40 metres.
At this stage I knew there was no comeback and that Quentin who had ran so well needed to keep on going. I shook the head and he knew. He would later crack another personal best dipping into the 2 58 territory. For me, my personal best was turning into a personal hell as I tried to crack on through the final 4 miles.
A slow 9 k.