It's fair to say that I am a creature of habit. If I find a routine I like, I cling to it fiercely. There is a certain comfort to these routines. Ritual is calming; it allows the familiar to sweep away our worries. This is why having a pre-race routine can coax away nerves.
While the Dublin Marathon is not the fastest course – with a couple of tough hills – and certainly not the most glamorous, I have found its familiarity soothing, and race execution is simple compared to the wear and tear of traipsing around a foreign city for one of the majors.
I have run the Dublin Marathon three times now, faster times and good memories folding over one another with each repeat race, so that the marathon weekend is becoming a nearly annual event, with an expanding list of rituals which must be met:
• I always stay with my friends Eoin and Jeremy in their apartment on Northbrook Road, just a 10-minute walk from the marathon start.
• There must be socks or arm warmers and other last-minute unnecessary items purchased at the Marathon Expo. Hanging on to my race number for dear life, I love wandering around chatting to friends at their stands – the Connemarathon team, the Galway Amphibian King crew, Triathlon Ireland, and, of course, FIT Magazine.
• I attend the annual Athenry AC pasta party in a city-centre restaurant.
• Race-day breakfast changes a little year-on-year, but always includes some very, very strong coffee. Most recently, I've settled on scrambled eggs and wheat toast.
• Autumn is a great time for running, and two out of three of my Dublin Marathon days have been sunny; the other one grey and wet. In my mind's eye, race morning always dawns crisp and sunny, crackling with fallen leaves as I walk down to Leeson Street Bridge towards the start area.
• My running club meets on race morning for an annual photo (picturesquely, always outside Tesco on Lower Baggot Street) before the race start. There are generally some unsavoury decisions to be made around last-minute bathroom breaks: portaloo queues or alternative unhygienic options.
• The last few pre-race minutes are spent lining up in a pace group, usually with running friends with similar time goals.
• The race post mortem is held in Buswell's Hotel on Molesworth Street, just staggering distance from the race finish near Stephen's Green. The Athenry team limps, totters and hobbles to this old-fashioned Dublin stalwart, where we dine on toasted ham sandwiches and Ribena and recount race highlights.
My Boston Marathon entry confirmation popped into my inbox and I'm excited about my plans for running Boston Strong. While it looks – disappointingly – like I won't make it back to Dublin for this year's marathon due to work commitments, I'm planning some autumn running to keep me motivated and in shape for the trip to Boston next spring.
First up is a half-marathon in November. I'll be fulfilling a bucket-list wish by running across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco at the US Half-Marathon. I'm not sure I'll be breaking any records but it will set me up for a December 30k adventure in Marin County at the Rodeo Beach Trail Race.
I'm still enjoying some post-season easy running. This weekend included a special run along the edge of Lake Tahoe in Northern California, crossing (briefly) over the border into Nevada, just because it was nearby, before heading down Highway 28 along the edge of the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe bike route, to shout encouragement to friends and strangers; the excitement of an Ironman race sweeping me up.