Experiencing a bad day in a marathon or a long run is a lonely, painful place to be – isolated and alone with only the road in front of you.
I entered the Dublin City Marathon because I retired from rugby and I had some unfinished business from my last marathon in 2012 – I had personal targets. I was interested to see how I’d get on, as this would be the first marathon I would run while not playing rugby at the same time. I have a personal best of 3hrs 19mins 59secs. I set the target of a sub 3 hour marathon . Perhaps unrealistic but I decided to give it a shot. I did more training than ever – long and slow, tempos, hills, intervals the whole lot – peaking at 10 runs per week and 110 km/week. I had no injuries and broke all my personal records at all distances from 5km to Athlone 3/4 marathon . I had some bad runs, I collapsed at the end of one race (http://kehoephysio.me/2014/08/20/inov-8-running-shoes-four-races-one-collapse-and-an-ambulance/) and the half marathon in the park was a terrible day but I had more good than bad. So why more than a week on from the marathon am still trying to come to terms with my first ever DNF since I started running.
4 days before the race
I took 2 days off work – I have never done this for any race and I have no idea why I started now?? I ate, drank and slept well – maybe too well. I had nothing else to think about. But anyway, I spent 2 days stewing and thinking about the marathon that I had spent the previous 20 weeks training for. I felt fine.
2 days before the race
I went to registration in the RDS. I picked up a couple of pacing strips, I couldn’t decide the pace I wanted to run at or to be more specific start at, so I didn’t decide and I stuck the 2 pacing strips on my wrist.
1 day before the race
I felt fine and was genuinely looking forward to the run. But I did nothing, I didn’t decide on pacing strategy or how many gels to take on, I did keep eating and drinking a ridiculous amount of fluids and electrolytes.
Morning of the Race
I woke up having slept well, I ate some more. Usually on the morning of runs I don’t eat a huge amount, my best and quickest runs have been done on little or no breakfast. But this was the marathon and I was aiming for a time so I forced myself to eat some porridge (hate it). My wife drove me to Dublin and it all went like clockwork. It was balmy, we were pushed into our starting pens and I still felt fine 10 mins before the start I took on a gel ……. just in case I hadn’t eaten enough because I didn’t want to “bonk” and at 8.59am off we went.
I tucked into position between the 3hr and 3hr 10min pacers and felt fine for the first 10 km going through it in 42-43mins and did the first quarter marathon in 45mins – bang on pace. I was sensible and let the 3hr pacers go as they upped the pace to 6min 40ish/mile pace. I took on 2 gels at 25 and 50 mins in – because I was going for a bloody time and I didn’t want to leave anything to chance …………and then I felt what I thought was a stitch …… a tightness just below my diaphragm, and then a rumble in the gut at 12km about 50 mins in . We were running downhill, I was slowing, other runners were flying by. I felt like I was on the motorway but stuck in 3rd gear. I purposely slowed but didn’t feel better and my stomach continued to cramp. And then I just stopped …………..
Post Race Analysis
Where to from here – dissect the ins and outs of why, how, if ………. yes I did all that. Did I have stomach cramps – yes. But did they stop me from completing the marathon, were they the cause of the DNF ?? No I don’t think so. Unlike when I had a bad day playing rugby (and there was many) there was no team mates to help, no substitutes to come on – I was alone. I had a bad day, I packed in and gave up. I “threw the rattle” because it was harder than I imagined and I wasn’t going to get the time I aimed for. I didn’t trust in my routine or my training. It took me a week to admit that to myself and its taken a month to write it down.
So where to from here? I decided I wanted to do a marathon just to run it – no time objectives, just enjoyment. The East of Ireland Marathon Group (http://www.eastofirelandmarathons.com/index.php) had a trail marathon organised for the Curragh on 16th November. So I did it, without fuss or fanfare, no time targets but just to prove to myself that I had the self-sufficiency to push through and finish. Which I did.