So, as you might have known because I ceased to shut up about it for like 3 months, I went to Ireland last week to
run the Dublin Marathon take a vacation with AJ. It was my first international marathon and actually my first real trip overseas, although I’d been to Canada and Mexico and some of the Caribbean and whatnot. In typical T-Rex fashion, I did zero research about the course, the expo, and the race in general. I was too busy planning day trips and figuring out the best pubs to go to.
We got super lucky on the day of the marathon in terms of the weather. The whole week leading up to the race, unbeknownst to me, there was some Super Storm that was supposed to hit Ireland and was calling for winds upwards of 80 mph and driving rain and possibly hail. When I finally started checking the weather once we got to Ireland, I felt a little panicked because um, I’m not running in a fucking Irish hurricane, thankyouverymuch. At the last second, the storm turned to the south and ended up hitting London instead, so the only thing we got were 20 mph hour winds, cold temperatures and plenty of sunshine. Whew! Although that meant I had no excuse to skip the marathon.
I made plans to meet up with my favorite Swedish person, Anders, who I saw at many races last year but haven’t seen in probably almost a year since he left the US to go back to Sweden. We were trying to coordinate a Maniacs picture at the start line, but the corrals were taken very seriously and there was no way my slow ass was going to be allowed anywhere near the corrals at the front. Instead, I stood in line for the bathrooms for 45 minutes just for something to do, and I met a woman behind me who was from West Virginia. We talked for quite awhile and I decided to run with her for a bit because a) I’m afraid of running marathons alone and b) I didn’t really have a plan for the race aside from telling AJ I would finish under 5 hours.
We crossed the start line around 25 minutes after the race started, which was just fine with me since I actually made it to the front of the bathroom line right as our wave started. So basically, my friend and I started in dead last, but we quickly made our way through the crowd. I knew I would be seeing AJ around mile 1.5 (solely because he had to walk less than a quarter mile from our hotel to get there) and I would be able to dump my blanket (yes, I started the race wearing a blanket) and my gloves (actually socks) off on him. After that, I would be on my own with no spectators.
Miraculously, I saw a jovial Swede not too far ahead of me, taking pictures and harassing the spectators. It was Anders! I sprinted ahead to catch up and found him running with Wendy, a fellow Maniac. They told they were doing a 3:1 run/walk ratio, which sounded positively delightful to me. Hooray! People to run with!!
The course started out in the Dublin city center and then eventually wound around somewhere. Sorry, that’s all the information I have given that I know nothing about Dublin. All I know is that we stuck to our 3:1 intervals faithfully and ran at about 9:30 pace during the running parts. We ran through Phoenix Park for several miles, which was really beautiful, and at this point, we caught up to the 5 hour pace group, which held a fellow Maniac. Someone asked me how many marathons I had run, and when I said that this was number 42, everyone was very surprised. I’m used to that, though. We passed the 5 hour group not too long after that and vowed never to see them again.
There weren’t too many Maniacs in Dublin, but we did manage to catch up to Lichu at one point. She runs marathons in countries all over the world and is completely amazing. She was home (in New York) for a week between a trip to Slovakia for a marathon and then the trip to Dublin! What a life.
We hit the halfway point in almost exactly 2:25, which I was very pleased with, and our splits were quite consistent. The pace felt easy. One thing that surprised me about this race was that the water stops were about every 3 miles, so much less frequent than I am used to here in the States. I always carry my own bottle, but still, it was weird. At the few water stations, though, they gave you a full bottle of water or the Irish equivalent of Gatorade, which is called Lucozade. I felt like taking a risk, so I decided to test out the Lucozade and see how my stomach handled it because really, what’s the worst that could happen? Don’t answer that. Turns out, it was DELICIOUS and I carried that bottle with me from mile 8 through the end of the race, taking really small sips at a time so as not to upset my stomach.
Wendy was struggling during the race with her asthma and her legs were feeling like lead. The road had a good bit of camber to it, so my knee started to randomly hurt. That was very alarming because I take great pride in the fact that despite all non-runners thinking my knees are slowly turning to sawdust, my knees have never, ever hurt me since I had some cartilage removed from my right knee ten years before I ever started running. It seemed like just a fluke thing that was flaring up based on the course, but I was still frustrated. I mentioned it to Wendy, and she suggested stretching, but I wasn’t sure how to stretch my knee. Don’t worry, she showed me.
Awkward as it may have looked, it did help just enough to get me through the race without total panic. At this point, Wendy really wasn’t feeling well, so our 3:1 intervals were somewhat disintegrating. When we did run, it was much slower than we had been, but I wasn’t too concerned. That is, I wasn’t too concerned until the 5 hour pacer ran up alongside me right before mile 20 and said “Surely you don’t want marathon #42 to be over 5 hours, do you?” And I laughed and said “Eh, plenty of the other ones have been, why not?” But then I remembered that I had promised AJ that I would finish under 5, and I really did feel perfectly fine, so there was no reason why I couldn’t. So I bid Wendy and Anders adieu and picked it up until I caught the 5 hour group. “You’re right,” I said. “I don’t want #42 to be over 5 hours.” And off I went.
Running by myself, I noticed even more than I had before that the crowd support at this race was not only ample, it was also super cute. Everywhere you looked, precious Irish people (they’re all adorable, I don’t even care) kept yelling “Well done! Brilliant!” It was great. Notably, there was a lack of beer on the course, which I found extremely concerning for obvious reasons. So even though I was looking at a chance to negative split and finish the second half faster than the first, when I came upon some college-age looking boys holding what appeared to be shots at Mile 23, I thought “FINALLY!” They had signs that said you had to make a shot to get a shot, and there was a soccer goal set up with a ball and a goalie to block it. I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to make that shot, despite the fact that I have not kicked a soccer ball since I was exactly 7.
I obviously made the goal, but tragically, they were NOT shots of alcohol. No, they were shots of Lucozade, which is one of the greatest disappointments of my life. But it was a cute set up anyway. Nonetheless, I picked it back up until mile 24, when my heart condition, which has been giving me a bit more trouble than usual over the past few months, reared its ugly head and reduced me to a walk for a few minutes. It’s not very often (ok, it’s never) that I negative split a marathon, so I was disappointed, but there’s really nothing I can do. I have to respect my heart because it actually could kill me, which would be even more disappointing. Anyway, I continued to run as much as I could and walk when I needed to as I wound my way to the finish. The crowds from mile 24 to the finish were really intense, and it was an exciting atmosphere! That being said, I was glad to be done, and I finished in 4:54 – not too bad at all considering we did run/walk the whole time!
I was FREEZING as soon as I finished the race (it was about 40 degrees and windy, by the way) so I immediately grabbed my medal and finishers shirt and headed to our designated spot to look for AJ. He had been tracking me during the race, so I 100% expected him to be there when I arrived, or at least close. He was not.
I sat there on the steps and waited for what seemed like hours but was probably 15 minutes before I got so cold that I started crying, which has happened once or twice in similar situations. I started walking around the area, but I couldn’t find him, and I didn’t have my phone because it didn’t work in Ireland and seemed silly to carry since we had a designated meeting point. WRONG. I finally got so frustrated that I asked a passerby if I could text him from their phone, and they (being Irish and therefore ridiculously friendly) of course obliged. Also, they were possibly afraid I was about to have a complete meltdown. The family even gave me their jackets while laughing and saying “we’re Irish, we don’t need them!” And eventually I called AJ only to figure out that he was not really nearby and had no idea how to get where we were supposed to meet. I knew where he was, and even though it was much farther away than I would have preferred to walk, at least there was hope. He had my jacket and a hat and gloves. So I bid the world’s nicest Irish people adieu and set off at the closest thing to a run I could manage. Then I weaved through the crowds in the finisher’s area for what seemed like forever and finally found him. I didn’t know whether to punch him or hug him, so I just took my jacket instead and we started walking as quickly as possible to our hotel, which was about 1.5 miles away. As long as I was moving, I felt fine.
After the race, AJ was very tired from not spectating or running so he took a two hour nap while I got some work done. Later, we went to an authentic, hole-in-the-wall, completely non-touristy Irish pub called Mulligan’s where JFK drank his first ever Guinness. It seemed like a fitting place for my post-race brew! Or three.
All in all, the Dublin Marathon was a really great experience. With the exception of needing more bathrooms at the start, it was perfectly organized and coordinated. The volunteers were great, the crowds were enthusiastic, and the course and the city are beautiful. Oh, the only thing I meant to mention is that they bill the race as “completely flat,” but that is a bold-faced lie. It is not prohibitively hilly by any means, but there are some long, slow inclines that definitely take their toll and a couple get-your-attention hills along the course. But hey, how much can you complain when you spend your race looking at things like this?
LEAVE A COMMENT: Have you ever run a race in a foreign country? What was it like?