Monday, 29 October 2007

Dublin City Marathon - very mixed feelings

11,000 turned out on a fine sunny (and windy - as I later found out) Dublin morning to take part in the Dublin City Marathon. Over half the field came from overseas with over 2,000 form the UK, 1,000+ from Canada and the US and another few thousand from various European countries (France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Russia etc).

Adrian (my cycling support and replacement drink holder) and I stayed with my brother in Dunlaoighre (7 miles form the city centre) the night before and arrived at the start area in plenty of time. I left Adrian a map and a range of expected times (varied from 07:20 to 08:00 paces) I would be at various locations on the course.

I headed for the start-line early to make sure I got a reasonably good position. Race numbers were coloured green (4 hrs plus) and white (sub-4 hrs). An error in booking on-line saw me with a green number. As I wore an old sweater to keep me warm before the race it obscured my number and as I approached the gates I kept my head down and made my way towards the (sub- 4hrs pen) The marshals were calling "white numbers to the left and green numbers to the right" and were inspecting as many numbers as they could - but I managed to give them the slip - first hurdle over with. As I was early (50 minutes before mens start) I was quite close to the front and managed to see the elite women head off at 0845, the trikes (2 in all) at 0850 and the wheelchairs at 0855. The elite men and the rest of the field headed off at 0910.

I crossed the start line and while there was a bit of jostling for position I couldn't have asked for a better start give the size of the field. The start area was moved to Fitzwilliam Square from last years position to accomodate the larger field.

We headed off along Fitzwillian Sq, Merrion Sq, Holles St and Prease St and crossed the River Liffey onto O'Connel St past the Spire. I missed the first mile marker but clocked 15:37 when passing the second mile at Dorset Street Upper

"so far so good marginally over 07:30 pace. The first mile was probably closer to 08:00".

We headed along the North Circular Road towards the Phoenix Park. The 3rd and 4th miles came in 07:31 and 07:15. My legs felt fine and no sign of a problem with my left calf which I strained 2 weeks ago.

We headed into the Phoenix Park past Dublin Zoo. My pace was steady and the effort was manageable (Average HR for the first five miles was (152, 152, 164, 165, 164). Miles 5 and 6 through the park went by in 07:11 and 07:30. I met Adrian at Mile 5 and he cycled along beside me for a mile before the road narrowed. He turned up again at Mile 8 as I exited the park. Miles 7 and 8 in 07:07 and 06:45 (downhill) - I certainly paid for these fast miles later. I was running alongside three girls through the park but they surged ahead during the 8th downhill mile - I wasn't going with them as I was saving my energy for later - the 06:45 mile said differently.

I didn't generally run with anyone for long periods happy to run at my own pace which I was used to in training. As I was not heading for a podium finish I saw no benefit in racing those around me and concentrated on my target pace. However I tried to get in with a group of runners when battling headwinds. The course took us through the suburbs of Chapelizod, Inchicore and Dolphins Barn where there was plenty of support and cheering. Miles 9, 10 and 11 went by in 07:37 (steep uphill on a road underpass), 07:19 and 07:15. My legs still felt reasonably fresh and no niggles were evident - I was enjoying the run. No sign of Adrian though - maybe I didn't spot him although he had planned on cycling alongside me from about mile 11 until as close to the finish as possible.

At the 10 mile make I came alongside a fellow runner from Eagle AC, Laurence Courtney. I had seen him 100 yards ahead of me from mile 5 - took me 5 miles in chase him down (well not really as I was running to my pace). We chatted for awhile about our targets (Mine sub 3:20 his "as good a time as he can" - not revealing much) and ran together for a mile or two. I went ahead of him just before the halfway mark and didn't see him again.

Mile 11, 12 and 13 are out along the Crumlin Road which, like last year, had a strong headwind blowing. I took every opportunity to draft off other runners as the wind was quite strong at times.

The course turned off the Crumlin Road onto Walkinstown Avenue past the half-way mark. The clock struck 01:37 even as I crossed over the timing mat.
"On target for 03:14 If I have even splits" I doubted, even at this stage, if 03:14 was a realistic target. Maybe 3:15 (my "best" target) but certainly sub 3:20 which is my primary target (BQ).
All my systems were still working well although I was beginning to feel some fatigue.
Miles 14 to 18 took me along the southern suburbs of Kimmage, Templeogue, Terenure, Rathgar and Milltown. The sun was shining strongly now and I kept to shade where possible. No sign of Adrian -
"Where has he gone, did he get a puncture, he has my spare carb drink - I better take on more water at the drink stations"
Some runners were passing me along this section as my pace dropped slightly. Miles 14 to 18 went by in 07:37, 07:28, 22:30 (07:30 avg for miles 16 to 18).
"While above 03:14 target (07:24 pace) they were all within 03:20 range (07:38 pace)

From Milltown we turned onto the Clonskeagh Road and Roebuck Road which saw a slight incline give way to a shorter but steeper incline towards Mile 20 at Fosters Avenue. Along this section I began to noticeably fade recording 15:54 for the 2 miles (07:57 average with an average HR of 171 BPM). My HR was above what I wanted it to be - I was trying to keep it below 170. The clock at the 20 miles mark was about half a minute under 2:30 when I passed under it.

"10 minutes+ under the 08:00 minute pace of 2:40 for 20 miles - which means if I average 08:00 pace to the finish I will come in just under 03:20 - 10 minutes below the 08:00 minute pace of 3:30"

Once the inclines were out of the way it was downhill or flat to the finish so I had anticipated faster paces. However I passed the 21 mile mark on the Stillorgan Road in 08:06 (168 avg HR) - At least I met Adrian with my drinks bottle he had lost me and initially thought I was nearer the finish - I don't know how we missed each other as he stayed at the halfway mark from 01:30 to 01:40.

The effort to keep the pace was now very hard to maintain - however the 22nd mile passed in 07:39 (170 avg HR) dividends from Adrian's reappearance perhaps - maybe I could keep it together until the end. Mile 23 on the Merrion Road passed in 07:58 - strong headwinds from mile 22.5 to 25 were not helping my exhausted body. I wasn't speaking to Adrian much and any words of encouragement were falling on deaf ears. I kept telling him to slow down as my HR was too high and I needed to get it under 170. Mile 24 on the Shelbourne Road came in 08:16 (175 avg HR) the stress was becoming unsustainable.

At the humped back bridge over the Grand Canal before the 25 mile mark I stopped - the effort of going over the hump was too much and my body took over and stopped dead - I called after Adrian to stop and proceeded to walk over the bridge. Somehow I managed to recommence running - my legs weren't actually that bad. I missed the split at the 25 mile mark but I could see the finish line tantalising close (about 400m away to the left) but the course took you away from it for another mile and a bit around Trinity College - the final kick in the teeth.

The crowds cheering were unbelievable, but I didn't care - it was one foot in front of the other as I made my way down Pearse Street in front of Trinity College Gates and back up Nassau Street towards the finish line at Merrion Square - I was progressively slowing down as numerous runners passed me by - "you're nearly there" spectators shouted but no words of encouragement could spur me on. In fact I was slowing further and even beginning to wobble a bit. I took the clock at the end of Nassau Street to be the 26 miles mark - it read 3;20:something as I passed it - The split for miles 25 & 26 read 18:52 (09:26 average & 177 HR) I turned the corner and saw the finish line - I still could only manage a wobble as it took me nearly another 2 minutes to cross the finish line. My body actually stopped a few feet short as the clock past 03:22 - given up the ghost - and it took some effort to walk over the line and lean on a barrier - I could go no further - my hands were tingling and I felt light headed - scary stuff.

It took me another 20 minutes to collect my medal, goodie bag and rest up until I could make my way to the Physio tent. Those Physio's are a godsend. I have to go now as my daughter Safan is fighting to get on the computer. My thoughts on my run and why it went so horribly wrong will have to wait. While the time was disappointing the disastrous finish is very worrying and cause for concern. Adrian told me afterwards my face was snow white and my lips purple - seems like my body was beginning to shut down.


  1. Well done Grellan! You came out of it with a PB, which is pretty damn good considering the calf problem.

    Looks like you pushed yourself to the limit towards the end, trying to maintain the pace. The pear-shaped last few miles could have been simply down to dehydration.

    Thanks for the detailed report - good stuff.

  2. Woah, scary stuff, Grellan. However, that's a very impressive time considering how you felt towards the end.

    Recover well.

  3. Nice job Grellan! I hope you can figure out what went wrong there at the end. Dehydration or a lack of fuel? Things were going so well... and then the wheels fell off. Have a good recovery.

  4. Nice run Grellan. A 3:22 after the wheels coming off at the end is very impressive indeed.
    I am even more impressed by your capacity for math at 20 miles.

    Again, well done.