Thursday 14 December 2017

FIT Squad

Eoin McGinn

Week 17 of the training plan was to end with participation in the fourth and final race in this year's Marathon Race Series – the Dublin Half-Marathon in the Phoenix Park. Nobody could have foreseen the tragic circumstances for which this race will be eternally remembered.

On Wednesday, we ran 60 minutes to recover from the quality session the previous day. Thursday was a rest day and Friday's target was a 30-minute easy run, including some pick-ups to race pace.

I was hoping to take it nice and easy on the eve of race day, but it was Sam's second birthday and the tea party had me feeling pretty tired by close of play.

I had a solid sleep that night, before getting up early for the now compulsory bowl of porridge. I don't like the stuff, never will, but it's good for me, right?

The Phoenix Park was buzzing as in excess of 5,000 runners got ready for the big day. There was a lot of cloud cover during the warm-up, and we hoped it would stay like that for the race.

The route was similar to that of the 10-mile race, so I decided to approach it with a similar plan. I picked my average target pace and expected to run it a little quicker on the downhills and vice versa on the uphills. There are not many sections of the course that could be described as flat.

Unlike me, there were beads of perspiration running down my face in only the second mile, and I was beginning to regret not carrying my own water for the race. The upside was that the volunteers at the water stops were this time supplying small bottles of water instead of those horribly unfriendly cups.

I made sure to squirt plenty of water at each stop on to my head and down my back. This is a great way to keep cool on a hot day.

I struggled a bit mentally and physically in the third quarter of the race. Having run most of the early stages with fellow club members Pat, Declan and Simon, the field had stretched out by now. But it seemed every time I turned a corner, there was Olwyn or another group of Drogheda & District supporters to cheer us on.

Even though there were several of them there on the day, they made it seem like so many more by the way they raced between various points on the course to give repeated encouragement. They certainly kept many of us going on the day.

I hit the 10-mile mark in a little more than 67 minutes, but then struggled home over that difficult last few miles, as so many did on the day. At the time of finishing, I was happy to have broken the 1:30 barrier, and set a new PB of 1:29.24. This was my fourth PB in the four races of the series.

But before we had arrived home in the afternoon, the horrible news of a fatality was spreading. Race times and PBs weren't so important anymore.

Not long after I had passed the 11-mile mark, an ambulance went tearing down the road past us, and we knew it wasn't good when a garda on motorbike followed soon after. But you still don't expect the worst news.

As it happened, there were several people that required attention on the day, but this was to be the most serious incident.

On Sunday morning, I ditched the Garmin, and brought my music instead on a relaxed 10k recovery run. I needed to take the seriousness out of my running for at least one day.

I offer my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of William Claffey, and ask them to pardon my indulgence in trivial matters such as injuries or running shoes in my final weeks of preparations for October 28.

Irish Independent

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