By Jon Laye
…………Or ‘from the Sublime to the Ridiculous’
In Dublin’s fair city,
Autumnal and pretty,
I first ran a race at a sensible pace.
Along the banks of the Liffey,
Despite knees feeling ‘iffy’
Stinging tendons and muscles, I survived, alive-O!
(All together now) Stinging tendons and muscles, I survived….etc.
Many of you will know that I ran the sublimely beautiful Loch Ness Marathon recently. However, months before I booked a place on the Dublin marathon as a backup just in case I was unable to run at Loch Ness due to injury or illness. And so with the beauty and magic of running through the Scottish Highlands still fresh in my mind, I enthusiastically packed my bags and flew off to Ireland to get my second fix of marathon running within a month. I had been suffering a feeling of unshakable weariness whenever I ran over the last few weeks and so as I set off to the airport I decided to ignore any pressure to race hard and instead relax and enjoy the event.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the immense scale of the spectacle. For the first time the organizers had rescheduled the race for a Sunday, and with a Bank Holiday due the following day the whole of Dublin had a carnival-like feel. In addition, the Sunday timetabling had resulted in over-subscription of the race and a massive influx of foreign runners instantly promoting Dublin into the top 5 biggest European marathons. So on a beautiful crisp autumnal morning, I toed the line with 19,499 other runners and soon found myself shuffling along through the streets of Dublin.
It was only after nearly 8 miles that the scrum of runners had spread out sufficiently to allow me to run in a relaxed fashion. This was a crazy contrast to Loch Ness where at some points I found myself running with no more than 2 other runners! However, it was a lovely morning and I managed to tag onto a group of runners gathered around the 3:20 pacemakers.
If I was a little shocked at the number of runners, that was nothing to my surprise at the sheer quantity of Dubliners who turned out in the sun to enthusiastically roar their support. The crowds were immense throughout! At various points the noise was so loud I found it impossible to concentrate on running! Ridiculous. And the locals demonstrated a delightful mix of genuine kind-hearted support and Irish wit throughout. I found myself keeping an eye-out for the funny banners at the roadside, such as the following proffered by a young lady:
Me: Coffee, cake, toenails,
You: Pain, suffering, free banana.
By mile 13 I had overtaken the 3:20 pacemakers but found that my will to maintain a faster pace was marred by the constant desire to stop and laugh with the crowds (plus a feeling of exhaustion, I hasten to add). Finally, at the deafening 25 mile mark the lead 3:20 pacemaker caught up with me: he was running backwards enthusing those around him to keep up the pace and keep smiling. I thanked him for his amazing efforts at which he hugged me and told me to get a move on, and so I did. I surged away and completed the last section of the race at significantly faster than any of the previous miles. The ridiculous contrast between the two marathons (Loch Ness and Dublin) was really what made the whole thing so pleasurable!
The last word should really go to the lovely young lady who served me an all-day breakfast in a café post-race. She saw my race tee shirt and asked if I had done the marathon and I replied yes.
“You ARE amazing!” she warmly responded. “How long did it take you?”
“Just under 3 hours and twenty minutes”
“Jeez, that is incredible! And it was an extra-long one this year too!”
“Well, it wasn’t a short marathon, it was an extra-long one wasn’t it?”
“It was 26.2 miles.”
“Holey shite! And you ran that in 3 hours…..there’s no way I could do that. If I ever enter a marathon it would have to be a short one. A very, very, very short one so I could do it in a few minutes, like in my lunch break.”
Utterly ridiculous! And yet entirely in keeping with the genuine regard and warmth the people of Dublin demonstrated throughout the marathon. They turned the whole thing into a truly wonderful occasion.
It just goes to show that the transition from sublime to ridiculous is not necessarily a bad thing at all.
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