On race day my wife and kids dropped me at Cork City Hall (race HQ) early which gave me some time to change and go for a brief one mile warm up around the city centre - a good opportunity to savour the pre-race atmosphere (tension!). The sun was shining, despite the weather forecasts, and it looked like it would be a nice day for a run.
I had a pre-race plan but after struggling with a groin injury for the preceding 5-6 weeks I decided not to be too upset if the plan didn't work out. However, it was a race and I had some objectives....
- Finish (always good!)
- Run sub 3:15 (although a bit unrealistic it would be great for a first marathon!)
- If the wheels came off run sub 3:30 (a more realistic and still a respectable time!)
So my optimistic plan was to head out at 7:15 and see how things went. Probably a novice marathoners mistake but one that I'd personally prefer than heading out too conservatively and always wondering what might have been.
So I lined up between the 3:00 and 3:15 pace groups and headed out at a pace that felt comfortably easy. I kept missing the mile markers (note these could be improved next year) and the first one that I saw was at mile 4 where I discovered that I had just run an average 7:07 min/mile pace - a bit fast but it was still feeling easy! The huge cheers from my support crew at the 3 mile mark certainly helped to maintain the pace.
Miles 5 brought me up to the first relay changeover point at Tivoli and the pace had eased back to 7:25. In the past when I've run the relay in this marathon I've run the second leg so for the next 5 miles I was on very familiar roads. Mile 6, 7 and 8 out to the Dunkettle roundabout and through the Jack Lynch Tunnel averaged 7:12 pace (back on target!). Once again my support crew appeared on the side of the road to encourage me.... it worked! :)
Miles 9, 10, 11 & 12 passed relatively easily in 7:12, 7:18, 7:16, 7:16. At this stage all things seemed to be going well and I took on my first gel as an energy insurance policy!
Miles 13 and 14 along river and over the footbridge over the South Ring road took 7:11 and 7:23 min / mile.
It was shortly after passing the 14 mile marker that the first signs of the wheels coming off occurred - left hamstring cramp! What the..... this had never happened before and was surprising as the pace so far had felt easy! Despite a short walking break I managed to cover Miles 15 & 16 at an average 7:25 pace.
Cramps in both hamstrings appeared at Mile 17 (8:06 pace) .... and the first thoughts of going home early crept in... but I was still ahead of the 3:15 pacer group so maybe I could walk out the cramp and salvage something. So I took on my second gel and walked out the South Link road!.
The remainder of the race was a series of running, stretching and walking. The chart below tells the story. with mile splits ranging from 9:01 to 9:18 for miles 18, 19, 20, 12, 22, 23, 24 & 25. Unfortunately the encouragement from the spectators (each mile I passed someone that I knew!!) couldn't help. Aerobically I was as fresh as when I started the race but my legs just didn't listen!!
Some pictures that tell a story (thanks to the many photographers out on the course incl. Doug Minihane, Darren Spring, John Quigley, Gearoid O'Laoi & Joe Murphy)...