Sunday, 20 February 2011
Watch me ... watch me! I got it! Watch me ... I got it! HEY!
I got somethin' that makes me wanna shout!
I got somethin' that tells me what it's all about! Huh, I got soul and I'm super bad!
The Godfather of Soul has made a fairly frequent appearance on my running playlist ever since I raided lovely boyfriend's collection of 70s funk albums for my iPod; however, I did without his shouts and screams today and settled for a nice, long natter with Mr Lumpy Badger over the course of a 15.7 mile run instead. For the badger boy, this was the furthest he'd ever run (go Badger, go!); for me, this marked the end of 8 weeks of London training so far, which entitles me to a little more marathon reminiscing.
Following Amsterdam 2005, I was certain that I had to run another marathon and, more importantly, that it had be better than the first experience. My lunatic friends were reassuringly keen for another adventure too, so we settled on a weekend away to run Dublin Marathon in October 2006. Luckily, my failings at Amsterdam were solely due to my own inadequacies, so that was fairly easy to remedy; I consulted the Runners World "ultimate" training schedules and decided to put in the advised 16 weeks of hard work, instead of the 10 weeks of faffing and denial I'd resorted to previously. In pursuit of marathon fitness, I also managed to lose about 10 kg; now that doesn't sound a lot when you're packing to meet Ryanair's uncompromising baggage allowance, but it definitely felt a lot when carrying said baggage to the youth hostel and it was comforting to know that I wouldn't have to carry that additional mass around another 26.2 miles.
In Amsterdam, we learned a lot about appropriate preparation on the day of the marathon (or at least about inappropriate preparation). In Dublin, we learned exactly what to do the day before: namely, a trip to the Guinness factory for my first ever pint of this nutritious, yet delicious, sports drink. In fact, this is a pre-race ritual I have grown very much accustomed to since (the pint, that is, not the factory). We were organised enough even to sort out some breakfast for the race morning and looked very wise and experienced as we chowed down on muesli and yogurt, instead of pastries and cold coffee, at 6am in the hostel common room; all the more, we took pity on a nice Swedish man who was eating a very sad looking banana for sustenance. We saw him later that day and found out he'd run the race in about 2:30, we hoped, in part, thanks to our mercy muesli.
The start in the centre of the city was a big improvement on the train journey to the outskirts of Amsterdam, but the crowded streets made it slow going to the start line; still, chip timing saved any worries and it wasn't long before we were on our way on what has remained my favourite marathon to date. Everywhere the course went, there was cheery support: from shouts of encouragement to hand outs of sweets and lollies. The course went through one estate where the local children had devised dance routines to keep the runners going and families had set up makeshift water tables outside their houses. It might be a stereotype to say the Irish are friendly, but with this evidence to go on, what else do you expect me to say? The training had also paid off, meaning I could enjoy the distractions whilst maintaining a halfway respectable pace. I finished in 4:07, a 40 minute improvement of my Amsterdam time, and the finishers' photo had much bigger smiles than the one taken 12 months previously. I'm a long way off a run like this on April 17th 2011, but knowing that I can enjoy a marathon this much is enough to keep me going with my more pedestrian pace for now.
You'd be right to wonder how the weekend could have got much better, but it did. James Brown had taken his "Seven Decades Of Funk World Tour" to Dublin that weekend and, passing the theatre, we managed to score some last minute tickets to watch his gig that night. The bouncer was very apologetic that our seats at the front on the balcony were "too dangerous" for us to stand up and dance on; we grinned and accepted his apology, happy to rest our weary legs and let the late, great Mr Brown do the dancing. What a show! I think I might consider using his "cape routine" in a race one day as a tribute.
Lessons learned by running Dublin marathon:
Marathons are fun.
A few kilos make a big difference.
Go to see aging soul legends while you have the chance.