2:38:04 – 3:45 pace – 181st place – 162 HR – PB by 8 minutes
Life has ups and downs. You can plan, hope and try. Sometimes you can’t predict the result. Yesterday’s Frankfurt Marathon for me was one of those good days, where it felt really good to be alive. Doing what I love, amongst 15,000 other competitors.
It’s about the journey not the destination, they say. That’s so true on the long training build up and also during the race itself. I think it’s the cumulative years of training, not just an 8- or 12-week plan that matters. And while I’m delighted with my PB, I really did enjoy every mile and it was over before I wanted it to be.
My race build up went well regular club training with Rathfarnham AC really helped motivate me. The hay was stacked in the shed. I arrived over Friday so had a nice time to prep. It was great to meet an old friend Roberto, with his partner Daphne and lovely baby girl Iris. The highlight was carving a pumpkin (Kürbis schnitzen) at a local market building.
The temperature was perfect: about 11C and cloudy. The first 10K went around the skyscraper dominated downtown. I felt good and found my pace of 3:47 by feel. I broke the race into 5km splits, so that it’s just 8 sections.
Running along in silence with other runners. Strangers really, with singlets from German clubs, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Russia and the UK. The odd flash of an Irish club was nice to spot. Lots of Vaporflies. We were a human train, all charging along at the same pace. Different styles, body shapes and ages – some look more graceful and efficient, but all equally fast. That’s the beauty of running.
I had the delight of being beaten by a club mate who ran 2:27. No shame to be behind that time, but when you hear that man Tommy Hughes is pushing 60 it’s humbling. Tommy beat his son Eoin who did 2:31. They’re both world record holders, smashing the combined father and son time. Read Tommy story’s here.
Passing Roberto at 14km was nice – he said I looked focused. I was in a nice group now and we glided along. I started taking water at the excellent aid stations. A mix of bananas, dates, gels, isotonic and even hot tea at subsequent stations kept me going. I felt great at halfway, about 50 seconds under my target pace for 2:40.
My mind was racing forward, telling me I should run faster. I knew it would get harder, so kept steady. After 28km we turned back towards the city and that felt good. No toilet stops required – although I was impressed with a French runner who took a pee mid-stride, without so much as slowing beside me.
There were music and bands the whole way: samba drums, brass and aging rockers. With 10km to go, I could feel my right glute and hamstring tighten. It didn’t slow me, so I just followed Rob Heffernan’s mantra, telling myself “My head feels good. My legs feel good, etc…”
Jennifer gave me a cheer at 35 km as we passed the Messe. Back in the city for twists and turns I felt strong. Breathing and heart rate were under control. Runners were slowing by this late stage. It could have been me. I charged past the Alte Oper and Börse. Roberto and family popped up again, he said I looked happy this time. My pace was faster than ever period no. It’ll be over soon. I better push on, so I leave it all out there. The last 2km felt so good. I was light on my feet, passing many runners.
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The finish is unique as its indoors in the old Festhalle. A dome-like theater with hundreds of spectators in a dark space lit by strobes, disco lights and loud music. A concert venue, not a running track. The feeling running up the red carpet for 60 meters to the finish line was great. I didn’t even notice the girls dancing with pompoms. And suddenly it was over.
I’d done it! 2hrs 38min 4sec, so 2 minutes below my target. A whopping 8 minutes under my Boston 2013 time. 181st out of 15,000 runners. What I’m most proud of is the consistency of effort and pacing – each 5km was pretty close to my 18:55 target. My fastest kilometer was at the end 3:20min/km. Which just shows that I can run faster.
I’ve been inspired by clubmates achieving big goals. I’d like to build on this. Sub 2:30 is my goal really – let’s get to 2:35 and see what the next jump will take.
The post-race high is always special. Recounting the race with friends and new runners we met. A burger and pints hit the spot. The talk inevitably moves to quote “what’s next?” Well I’ve no 2020 plans yet, but will definitely do another marathon first. In the short term I have a week to recover, til I do it all again, when I toe the start line in Staten Island next Sunday at the New York City Marathon. I’m interested to see how my body recovers to this experiment. The pressure is off, I’ll enjoy every mile in New York City. I hope I’ve inspired you to go for a walk or run. Maybe in the hills or by the sea. It will make you feel better. Just try it.
If you’d like to support the Children’s Medical & Research Foundation, click here. I’m running 2 marathons in 8 days to support sick children in Crumlin, one of Ireland’s children’s hospitals.