A BIG "Thank You" to all participants & supporters for making 2016 one to remember.
With Roy Orbison ringing in my head, yes indeed the Waterford Viking Marathon 2015 is OVER!! And so this is my final sign-off on what has been a wonderful six months of blogging and training.
Did you run? Were you one of the 2,300 who did either the quarter, half or full. If you were - WELL DONE. If you one of the volunteer stewards, musicians, pacers or supporters who came out - THANK-YOU. And a huge thank-you to everyone behind the scenes at the WVM Committee, at WLRfm and especially to the main organiser Roisin Ferris who has worked so hard on this since its inception. Your hard work really paid off guys, I hope you are all very proud.
There was a great buzz on Saturday morning down on The Mall, but little sheepish head here didn't want to be a part of it. Let's just say I wasn't feeling the best. I woke up at 6am, as planned, to fuel up on a breakfast of porridge, toast and coffee (not all at once obviously) and continue my fluid intake. It felt like the nerves had well and truly kicked in and I felt my stomach churn with excitement and a nervousness not felt since Santa's visits Christmas Eve back in the eighties.
To cut a long story short and not drone on too much about why I didn't make my target time, I just felt really on edge and quite sick - that horrible queasy dry-retching in a port-a-loo that doesn't instil confidence five minutes before a race.
My first 11 miles were very strong, slightly ahead of target and I was running along smugly visualising myself beating all PBs and smashing a great time on the finish line. No bother so far, the nerves are gone, stomach good, this is going to be a great race. It was lovely to run through the city centre, I felt light as a feather and really confident.
I took on my first energy gel around mile 10 and was feeling nicely fuelled and hydrated. It was on the turn-off on the Tramore Road to the left (is it Pickardstown Hill) that things started to really take a bad turn. The wave of queasiness returned and I found myself grounded to a halt with my head in the ditch getting sick. Suddenly feeling like I had NOTHING left in the tank, and quite weak I did what I really hadn't anticipated atall during my training - stopped and walked. If this had been a long run on my training plan I would have called it a day, gone home, gone to bed and rescheduled for a few days time. But it was Marathon Day. What was I supposed to do? I decided the best, and most sensible thing was to quit at the half-way and at least say I gave the 13 miles my best shot.
So there I was, ambling along as I crossed the half way marker , feeling numb and still quite sick on a long lonely stretch of country road. Dammit anyway, this wasn't supposed to happen. WHAT is wrong with me? What will I do? I knew my friends would be somewhere around Riverstown and my husband and kids weren't too far away either. I'd just jog along until I saw them and let them take me home.
Feeling like sh*te and utterly dejected and GUTTED I was wasting so much time at this point, my time target that I had discussed with Brian Swaby would be well out the window and I'm sure a few people would be a bit disappointed. Well, me mainly. All these months of sacrifice, hard training, pacing, interval sessions, long runs, taking part in other races, blogging. For what? To not even do the bloody Marathon on the day? What a joke. Damn.
All of this is going through my head, still not another runner in sight. Don't tell me I'm the last runner left at this stage! As if from nowhere, a thin older man with a beard wearing a green and white singlet came jousting along. 'Well done, keep going,' were his words in a Midlands accent. 'I think I'm done,' I told him, 'It's not my day.'
Jesus Karen, is this it? Are you seriously quitting? You've just said it out loud. Have you honestly pushed yourself as hard as you can go? Will you regret this?
'You're half-way there, you'll only have to walk the 13 miles back if you stop. KEEP GOING, ' he shouted cheerfully. And with then he trotted into invisibility on the horizon, and though it wasn't technically true that I would have to walk the entire 13 miles back, I toyed with the possibility of actually running a bit more.
And then I remembered that I had back-up and out came the big guns - headphones, with some serious 90's Euphoric dance being called on - Darude's Sandstorm, Barber's Adigio for Strings, Titanium - you get the picture!
Boom, I was moving. Yep, one foot in front of the other. We're on the road again. God, you didn't let me down.
It was at that moment that I knew this Marathon would not defeat me. Okay, my PB would not be set today, in fact, all clocks out the window. That was desperately disappointing but as soon as I let it go, I was able to concentrate on tackling the next 13 miles at a slower pace, dealing with the nausea and actually enjoying defeating this bloody monster.
It was a different marathon than the one I had planned on running. But you know what, I ran it. Mile 14 turned into mile 17 and then 18 and before long I touched the magic mile 20 sign. On and on and on. And I truly learned what it is to 'dig deep', to pull something out of nothing , to take pride in letting go of my pride and crossing that finish line when I had almost certainly given up hope.
I've heard it said that marathon is about 10% physical and 90% mental. Okay so you certainly have to respect the physicality of those 26.2 miles - you'd be a fool to think it's easy or doesn't require serious preparation. It's massively physical - every neuron in your body is at play to get you through. But more than the pounding miles your legs are doing - it's sheer willpower, determination and true grit that determines the marathoner from all other runners.
Not one of the 2,300 runners on the Mall on Saturday morning were forced to run. They wanted to. Every single person had a reason for running. This was their day. There were amazing stories, and even tears, to be heard at the finish line.
By the same token not one of the 500 of those runners was being forced against their will to run the entire 26.2 miles. And yet, there's something in the human spirit that attracts us to a challenge. Some of us want to push ourselves far beyond our comfort zone. To test our own endurance, our strength and even our faith. The road is the battleground, the miles are the enemy and the marathon is war. It is not easy. And not for the faint-hearted. It will test you, and it doesn't always go to plan. But it is one of the most rewarding experiences in your humanity that you can willingly go up against. Congratulations on crossing the finish line marathon runner. The victory is yours.
I have no doubt I'll be back for more, and maybe there's an autumn marathon in me where I'll have a great day and achieve a PB. Grrr I'm not giving up that easily. In the meantime, I'm still letting my legs recover - 'Mammy why do you look like you're walking in a swamp?' and teetering sideways down the stairs. Whatever race you ran on Saturday, congratulations - it was your race and I hope you are really proud of yourself. Maybe it's time to up the game next year - take the quarter to a half, take the half to the.....gasp!!....full. If a neurotic working mother of two young kids, moaning on about her underactive thyroid, early morning starts and the constant battle that is running a house can do it, then so can YOU. I promise you it will be worth it, and it's one more thing off the bucket list!