Signs and sideline cheer that spurred me onward
I DOUBT that anything will ever look more beautiful to me than the 22-mile flag, rising majestically out of the ground just before the Merrion Shopping Centre sometime yesterday afternoon.
Right up to that point, I'd been thinking I 'might' finish the marathon. But that 22-mile mark put me within 4.2 miles of the finish line and for the first time I actually believed I could do it.
And it felt amazing. Suddenly I could run like it was mile one again, mile one of a five-mile run even, a mile when you blaze the ground like there's no tomorrow.
Of course it didn't last -- by mile 24ish I was once again in agony, but it sure was a great mile.
As for the rest of the race, a few hours later, it's already becoming a bit of a blur. Given my very patchy training regime and the pain coursing through my body right now, it seems likely that I had more low moments than high ones.
But all the standout moments of the day are good ones.
The boy with the 'your brilliant' sign in the Phoenix Park who made me suspend my inner pedant for just a few moments; the girl with her 'RUN total stranger RUN' sign; the tiny children shouting "go on, go on, go on".
I'd always wanted to do a marathon somewhere like Paris or New York with fabulous sights to distract me, but there's something truly special about doing one in your home city.
Strangers -- but fellow Dubliners -- cheering us on from the sidelines, braving torrential rain to shout words of encouragement when we most needed it, offering mini Aero bars and gels and water with kindness and generosity of spirit that you just don't see that much these days.
Then there was the team outside Crumlin Hospital, who picked me out for my Crumlin T-shirt and began cheering, at a time when I was really flagging, bringing a tear to my eye (it can all get a bit emotional out there) but spurring me on when I really needed it.
With some of my colleagues opting for the 'completed contract' method of donation -- as in you don't get the money unless you finish the race -- I knew I had to keep moving and make it to the finish line.
And I did, after five hours and 20 minutes. Wow, that feels good. Nearly as good as the mile 22 marker.
Laura Noonan ran her first marathon yesterday for Crumlin Children's Hospital and Children's Medical Research.
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