So, Santa has been replaced by marathon races. That’s essentially what it boils down to. As a kid, Santa and Christmas reigned supreme as THE best part of my year, obviously. A very close second was my birthday (shocker, I know), which occurs in the summer and apart from the odd year when we would be away on holiday, was invariably celebrated big style with an old-fashioned party at home-party games, goodie bags, paper hats, homemade football pitch cake and as many friends as I wanted to invite (Thanks Mom). Sadly (and I was devastated…) Santa doesn’t visit my house anymore and birthdays have become a much more low-key, understated affair and let’s face it, adult life does not generally feature much excitement. Boo.
Move over Santa (you’ve abandoned me for years anyway so …)
And hello marathon buzz!
Don’t get me wrong, I do get super excited about a lot of things (don’t be naughty 😉 ) – Halloween, trips to the cinema, butternut squash, new running shoes, Insomnia coffee, the smell of a brand new book, Game of Thrones (in all its forms), a Starbucks gingerbread latte, the new Lance Armstrong movie (did I mention a small OBSESSION)… but what keeps me up all night with excitement (stop it!) is marathon time. I love it. You spend so long getting ready for marathon day and you put so much into it, it’s inevitable that you want to do well on the day. But I love the occasion and everything that surrounds it, as well as the bare essentials, ie. running 26.2 miles. The excitement. The buzz. I like to suck it all up.
It was hard, but I’ve narrowed it down to the top 10 things I am most looking forward to at this year’s Dublin Marathon:
1.The buzz in the starting gates before the gun goes off. This is one of my favourite moments of the entire day. For just a few minutes before the race starts, every entrant is standing packed together, all ready, all excited, a lot of nerves. The feeling standing in that bunch is so electric, you can almost hear it. It’s a very special moment for any runner.
2. Running down the middle of Dublin’s city streets. Apart from the section in the Phoenix Park, nearly all of the Dublin marathon is ran through its usually busy city streets, all of which are closed for the race. I get such a kick out of running down the middle of roads that for the other 364 days of the year, you wouldn’t even dream of running on for the realistic fear of being milled down by angry Dublin drivers. They’re in a hurry to very important places, you know. No traffic lights or road rage to contend with on this day. On this day, the runner reigns supreme on the roads. I feel like such a badass!
3. Food. I’m a worrier when it comes to food and obviously this comes with being a weight watcher and also wanting to keep my weight down for running. Marathon day is the one day that I feel a massive wave of release flow of my shoulders when it comes to food. My body is a furnace, I can eat whatever I like and I will. Because I NEED to 😉
4. Kilmainham. I love, love this section of the Dublin marathon. You’ve done the hard miles around the Phoenix Park and you’re now well into the serious miles of the race, moving on to the next geographical area and suddenly you emerge into this sea of noise and raucous support at the turn at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham. Atmosphere is killer here. Welling up is not unusual at this point.
5. Other people’s shirts. Reading other people’s t-shirts/ singlets during a race is one of my favourite things to do when running. People running for charity, a club or who have their own personal story written all over their top is a great way to learn about other peoples’ stories and how they ended up running the marathon and it often gives you great perspective too, making you appreciate how lucky you are to be able to run the race at all.
6. High Fives from Kids and Sweets: Support on the Dublin marathon course is fantastic and with lots of the course, particularly the second half, running through residential areas, there are loads of kids out on the streets dishing out sweets, orange segments, jaffa cakes, fig rolls and high-fives. It’s a total spirit pick-me-up and I’ll take a high-five from a five year old any time.
7. The Last 6 Miles. This is a weird one. I used to fear the last 6 miles of the 26.2, for obvious reasons. But you know what they say, keep your friends close… Now, I kinda look forward to getting past mile 20, just so I can battle the last 6. It’s torture but it’s where the real challenge of the marathon lies. It’s where you find out what you’re really made of. It’s raw, exposing and completely honest. Does this make me a sadist?
8. Random celebrity supporters and people I know. 2 years ago, Dublin marathon printed every person’s name on their race no., which was brilliant as random people cheered for me by name as I ran by them. Last year, they didn’t do this but I wrote my name on my number in big marker pen and it worked just as well. Great boost to keep you going. Among those who cheered for me from the sidelines were comedian Des Bishop (he was particularly enthusiastic!), Irish scrumhalf Conor Murray, Kerry legend Gooch Cooper and Ray Darcy. It’s amazing how much just seeing someone famous or someone you know can give you such a boost. Great distraction too.
9. Sarcastic Irish Support Banners: Irish sarcasm mixed with Irish scepticism about running. The result: hilarious banners from well-meaning supporters who just want “to lighten the mood” and give the runners on the road something to laugh about. Eg: “Hurry Mam, We’re Hungry” and “Run like you left the immersion on.” Love em all.
10. The home straight on Mount Street and seeing my Mom cheering me on. The finish at the Dublin Marathon is brilliant. The road widens, there are always huge crowds cheering the runners on and there is a red faux carpet that makes you feel like an olympian coming home to win a medal. Finishing a marathon is a very special moment but this combined with the incredible atmosphere in Dublin, as well as seeing my Mom there always gets me emotional. It’s awesome, that’s all I’ll say.
So I have to create my own excitement in my life, so be it. I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.