Take joy and fear in your stride: heroes all!
The moments just before the run begins can be daunting, but embrace the fear - it's your friend
A week today I will run my fourth marathon, my third in a row in Dublin. And I'm learning all the time.
You always go into a marathon with a plan - what pace you'll run, when you'll refuel, and so on - but what you quickly learn is that you need to be able to adapt, too.
I nearly came a cropper in the heat in Madrid last year, thinking I wouldn't finish the last five miles or so. I've had to adapt my training to recover from one injury, or avoid another. These are the ups and downs for the long-distance runner.
So, yes, if you are running your first marathon next Sunday, have a plan A, B and C. But don't lock yourself into it.
Experience teaches you to recognise the conditions around you and to listen to your own body. It might be sunny, or windy or wet - or a mixture of all three, given our climate these days.
It's important to remember that once you have the training done, then your body is ready for the unique challenge a marathon poses.
In those moments before the run begins, the nerves may seem overwhelming, but embrace the fear, fear is your friend. I have experienced the full range of emotions around my marathon running since I was bitten by the bug - fear, frustration, excitement, nervousness, joy, worry, happiness and even sadness.
But, above all, there is elation - the feeling that courses through you as you make your closing strides down Mount Street on to Merrion Square, and that buzz that stays with you for some time, making light of your weary limbs.
There may be times during your run when doubt creeps in because, after all, 26 miles can be a long and lonely trek. Even in the midst of thousands of runners you are ultimately alone, but don't despair. There is comfort and strength to be drawn from those around you, and from the people who cheer you on every step of the way. Enjoy the last mile - the golden mile - as the hair on the back of your neck stands. Those final paces down the magic carpet on Merrion Square - well, they make it all worthwhile. The tear in your eye tells its own story, and the sense of achievement will linger for a long time.
One more thing: be proud of yourself when you pass beneath that clock; be proud of the time you run... it's OK to be proud of yourself. I know I will be. The 26 miles is your victory lap: the marathon began months ago.