Forget pumpkins, scary ghouls and breaking dentures on a ring in a fruit cake. If you’re a runner, the last weekend in October can only mean Dublin City Marathon time. Hurrah for screaming calf pain, chaffing nether regions and blistered feet.
This Sunday marks the start of the SSE Airtricity Dublin City Marathon. A record almost 20,000 runners will make their way through our capital covering 26.2 miles.
They will pass familiar landmarks like Phoenix Park (feeling great, I am zen), Crumlin Road (hmm long and a bit uphill but I’ll be fine), Bushy Park and Terenure (great crowds, yes I do look good), The Clonskeagh Road (starting to hurt a bit now), “Heartbreak Hill" just before Taylors Lane (Oh my good God, why?), Taylors Lane (serious downhill: I am invincible, this is easy), right after Taylors Lane (end of downhill: I am not invincible, this is not easy), Stillorgan Road (I love these people handing out jellies) and finally into Merrion Street (joy, oh joy, the finish!).
The support you get from the spectators is incredible. The volunteers are just so selfless. The camaraderie between the runners is really special. It is not unusual to see strangers helping each other in the last few miles and new friends embracing at the end. It is a magical day that brings out all that is positive in the human spirit.
For runners, race day is the culmination of months of effort. You have spent your time doing your VO2 Max, lactate threshold, speed intervals or long and steadies and now it’s time. (For the uninitiated these are types of runs rather than fruity cocktails).
In my day job I meet lots of new students who are embarking on a race of their own, in terms of coming back to college. There are probably a few common lessons for both.
Firstly, whether it’s a marathon or a course of study, the power of positive thinking is very real. Yes, there will be times when it is really hard. Whenever I feel negative during a run, I try and calm myself and focus on something positive. It sounds corny but several studies have indicated that smiling while involved in a physical effort can actually improve performance. I’m not suggesting you spend your time studying Management Accounting or Advanced Programming with a Cheshire cat expression on your face, but positivity can help, and you can learn to be more positive.
Secondly, there is no substitute for good, steady work. A friend had a training policy of basically no training, and then trying to lash it all in before the marathon. The outcome was injury and frustration. When it comes to study, of course we all cram a bit but really there is no substitute for putting in the hours on a gradual basis, whether your challenge is a half marathon or a half year exam. Go into that exam knowing “the hay is in the barn” as marathoners like to say (I think it means you already have the work done).
Finally, whatever your age, whatever you have done in the past, you can achieve your goals. 85-year-old Ed Whitlock just ran a sub 4-hour marathon in Toronto. Many a 30-year-old would be happy with that time in Dublin this year. Truly wonderful. The marathon is about lots of people reaching their goals. For some it might be the mythical sub 3-hours, for others they may take 6 or 7 and they will be rightly proud just to finish. We see similar things at NCI, where people who come back to education after a while are surprised with what they can achieve and discover an appetite and aptitude for learning they never knew was there. The common thread is: you can usually achieve more than you might have expected, once you start and give it a go.
So to everyone starting out on the marathon this weekend, the very best of luck, soak up the atmosphere, stay safe and most of all enjoy it. It is supposed to be a hobby after all!