On a training run a few weeks ago I was out with my good friend Derek, we were doing a short run before the Tramore Valley Parkrun. As most runners do while we run, we talk about all things running. We were chatting about our first marathons.
Derek had run his first one in Cork 2011, I ran my first, also in Cork, the year after in 2012. I signed up for it on New Year’s Day the same year. I was slightly hungover from the night before and was a bit lost in my sporting life. I’d struggled with a few knee injuries playing GAA for the previous few years and I was getting to the point where I found it difficult to train. Straight line running was fine but the twisting and turning didn’t suit my knee. For some reason I spotted an ad for Cork City Marathon online and something just clicked for me. I said to Lorna, ‘I’m looking at the Cork City Marathon here’, and she replied ‘you should do that’. I signed up there and then on a whim.
I had no experience training for a marathon. I had a look on Google and found a Hal Higdon plan and off I went. I ran the next day, I decided on a one mile (ish) loop around where I live, I’ll do that twice I thought and that’ll be a good start. Boy, was in for a shock, I did the loop once and was completely out of gas, and I remember thinking how the hell can I do 26 more of these. I struggled on with my training and went on to run Cork in a time of 4 hours 11 minutes, and I loved it.
There were times in that Marathon where I questioned what I was doing and if I could finish. But I did finish and I was elated. I didn’t have any major tactics when I was running my first marathon. I decided that nine minute miles would suit me so I jumped in with the four hour pacers. Unknown to me at the time, the pacers that day were my future Eagle club mates, Alan O’Brien and Denis Looney and I will never forget how important they were for my first marathon. The constant encouragement they gave to the whole group was amazing. Anytime the group passed by a crowd of people, Denis and Alan were constantly conducting the crowd to cheer us on. It was a fantastic experience and one I will never forget. The contrast between my first marathon training and my training now couldn’t be more different.
I have a more structured plan now, my weekly mileage has increased and I feel I’m a much stronger runner now. This week’s training was probably the hardest week I’ve ever put down to date. I did some mile repeats on Tuesday evening, these are sessions that I really enjoy doing as the miles fly by, but they are hard going. I ran the BHAA Pfizer’s 6 mile road race on familiar ground in Ringaskiddy and completed my long run on Saturday. This was a 23 mile run with plenty of miles at marathon pace, another huge confidence booster with the big day approaching. I typically do these sessions down in the Marina. I park by the Marina Market as there are plenty of loops around Mahon and Blackrock to get in the miles and pop back to the car for a quick drink of water if needed. Running around that area is lovely, there is always a nice crowd around and also the post run coffee is easily accessible!
It’s now taper time for my training, long runs will be cut down and my mileage and intensity will be dropped down gradually up until marathon day. Previously I have found tapering difficult. I used to always question whether I had enough work done and the phantom niggles used to always creep in. I’m a bit more relaxed this time around, this probably comes with experience. I’m more excited than ever to get to the start line. Knowing the hard work has been put in and is almost done is very satisfying.
All I need to do is go out on the day, respect the race and the distance and hopefully reap the rewards of the work done. I’ve come a long way since 2012 when I struggled to run a mile.
Enjoy the week and happy running!