1) Be careful what you don’t wish for… I’ve learned to notice when people say “I would never…” or “I have no interest in…”. It often means “I would love to…”. So how come I believed myself when I proclaimed for years that running a marathon was a bad idea? Bad for the knees and hips. And yet, at a year-end goal-setting session led by my colleague Daire Coffey, who had drawn a series of empty picture frames on a flipchart page, asked “what pictures would you like to see in your gallery at the end of next year?” a picture of me crossing the finishing line of the Dublin City Marathon leapt into my head. Head up, smiling, emotional. And it made perfect sense. I’ve always wanted to run a marathon.
2) The power of words. In my 20s, I ran the Brussels 20K five years in a row. Trained for about six weeks before. Idle for the next 46 weeks. No problem. The Marathon was not going to be that easy. One day I wrote down “I need to train for this in a disciplined and determined way” (discipline and determination being slightly alien for me). I drew on those words when the going got tough.
3) The Power of Self Talk. I do a lot of my running on Inishbofin, Co. Galway. A hard place to run – not just because of the hills, but because the beauty of the place continues to take my breath away and all I want to do is stop and admire it. From the East End, I generally run up the high road, across the North Beach, turn left along Lough Bofin and then home by the Low Road – about 9K. And then one day I turned right after the North Beach and ran right out around Westquarter Mountain. When the going gets tough, I remember “I’m the girl who turned right at the North Beach”.
4) Ignorance is Bliss (sometimes). My sister Anna (who competes in Ironman Triathlons) asked me how long I reckoned the Marathon would take me. I told her “I’ll be happy with 4 ½ hours”. She nodded kindly, avoiding eye contact. And so, having once run 16 miles in advance of the race, I stood at the 4.30 balloon. They ran ahead. Then the 4.45s passed me, next the 5.00s. There are no more balloons after that – you’re on your own.
5) Don’t believe all they tell you – you can’t run alone, you have to join a club, you need a special watch, a special diet…Probably all great advice – but I took none of it
6) Goals are important: I thought that my main goal was to complete the marathon. On the day, as I saw people walking after a few miles it became clear to me that my main goal was to RUN the marathon. So I ran all the way – so slowly at the end, that the walkers passed me out. But I RAN it – and I’m proud of that.
7) The importance of support: Family and friends turned out at strategic spots on the road and they put a pep in my step. A friend ran the last eight miles with me: thank you John Church
8) Behaviour or identity? Up to October 29th I was someone running the marathon. On November 5th, when I signed up for the following year’s marathon, I became, in my own head at least, “a marathon runner”. I keep hoping that I’ll be at something someday (somewhere) when someone asks ‘can all the marathon runners come to the top of the room’ or some such. Well, it’s as good a way as any of dividing a group. (honest disclosure: I haven’t yet run another marathon)
9) Celebrating is important. My medal hangs on the bedpost (where else?). A gentle reminder of an achievement I never thought I would have
10) Never promise 10 things when you only have nine
So… did I finish head up, smiling, emotional? Well – I was surprised at how emotional starting was (the emotion being fear). Finishing was surreal – like being in a slow-motion film with wavy, wonky sounds. Time 5.34.04. Injuries: one blister on the right toe.