Waterford Marathon – 30th June 2012

[Report by John Dempsey]

The Waterford marathon was excellently organised, no shortage of water on route, very well marshalled and supported, no unnecessary fuss at any stage, I had collected my number the day before and was in and out in 60 seconds flat, with small talk. The race started only a few minutes late, and with a nice relaxed atmosphere on the street beforehand it seemed like a good start. I had been chatting with another runner over breakfast at our hotel and he was also aiming sub 3 so when I met him again at the start and spotted Myles Gibbons and Eugene Doherty of SBR in the row ahead I was settled quick enough. Fell in behind the sub 3 pacer and we shot up the quays clocking a slightly faster than required speed but no worries. The first several km’s wound through the streets and passed quick enough, but even in the town we could feel the effects of the strong winds that had been promised all week. Started heading out the town then and the sub 3 group was starting to bunch up a bit and things were feeling easy, after a while I copped that we were going slow but sure this pacer knows what he’s at and we ran the first bit too fast so I’ll stick in the group, I’ll need it for the wind. After turning back into town we hit a climb at about 9k, got to the top, decided we were still too slow and went off the front of the group myself. Donal from the hotel, the lead lady and another two lads came with me, all agreeing we were going too slow so far. A sub 3 marathon requires 4:15 per km average.
Splits per km to 10k: 4:04/4:06/4:13/4:18/4:21/4:23/4:30/4:33/4:35/4:25

Our little group ploughed along into the wind, with the lead lady going ahead after a few k. We used each other for a bit of shelter and wound our way through suburbs and industrial areas. The support was great and we got great encouragement all along. Things started to slow down a little again battling the wind on a long straight, and seemingly none of us willing to do an extended shift of work out the front. At about 14k the pacer caught up with us again and everyone gratefully tucked into the group. It was soon obvious that the pacer had a worry on his head, both the atmosphere and the pace had changed, speed was suddenly up. heading out the long stretch of the cork road we were flying along at a fair clip but battling hard into the wind to do it. From about 14.5k to 17k was straight into the wind. The objective was to have about 30 seconds in the bag before hitting the bottom of the most significant climb on the course at about 18k. We passed a large number of people on this stretch of road including Eugene Doherty. When we hit the bottom of the climb the group splintered, with me being shelled out the back along with Donal and Eugene. Heading up the climb Eugene pulled up beside me and after a quick chat we settled into getting to the top not too far behind the pace group. It was a tough climb and took a fair bit out of hard worked legs. We crested the top together, and picking up a runner in a red top ahead of us, we 3 set off to catch the group again.
Splits 11k to 20k: 4:06/4:15/4:30/4:06/4:10/4:00/4:02/4:074:44/4:55

Down the hill and through the start area for the half marathon I got a great boost. They were waiting another 30 mins to start and they gave our little group a great cheer. We were flying down the hill at sub 4:00/k. The sub 3 pacing duties had been split in half, and we soon met the first pacer running back towards us returning the shuttle bus at the halfway mark. The flat bit of road that followed the descent was tough. Not too long later Donal and a runner in yellow caught up. The guy in yellow seemed strong, not sure if he was full or relay. He pulled off ahead a little with Eugene and the guy in red following, Donal and I worked away only 15/20 feet behind. Hit the roundabout in Tramore with a marshal calling positions – 27th!! Not long after this Donal started pulling away but the guy in red started coming back to me. Took a little walk at one of the water stations to try swallow a decent gulp of water and set off again without too much bother. Through the streets of Tramore and the 2nd placed lady passes before we get to the beach. It was at about 27k that I started to struggle. Running down the prom I spot Jason Kenny and Alan McGrath who I often run with on the side supporting two other lads behind me. They were standing just after a water station, again I had slowed to a short walk, “how are you feeling?”, “*$%&ed”, “do you want a can of coke”, “no”, dump the bottle of water and start running again. 300 meters up the road all I could think of was how nice a can of coke would be and I started scanning the crowds for anyone else who might be offering some!! By this stage the 3rd placed lady had gone past too.
Splits 21k to 30k: 3:57/4:11/4:13/4:18/4:07/4:17/5:15/4:38/4:55/5:07

It was now a long way home, and several times I thought about quitting. All thoughts of sub 3 were well gone, hadn’t got the capacity to figure what pace was likely, just knew I was very very slow. I ripped off the sub 3 pace band I had printed and balled it into my fist. Plodding through a residential area a lady offers sweets, I do nothing for a moment and then nod as I go past on the opposite side of the road. Fair play to her she turns to collect a fist full of jellies and sprints up the road after me and me with my hand held out behind, she slaps them into my hand and roars “good luck”. I pull my hand round to see what I had got and smiled to see a jelly cola bottle in the middle :) That was first in the gob but was hard to chew when running. Very soon after another water station, grab a bottle, throw in my pace band, and slow to a walk to eat my sweets. full fist of sweets get shoved in, chew chew chew, drink, chew chew chew, taking too long, spit out what I hadn’t swallowed and keep going. I was now on the main road out of Tramore heading for Waterford, familiar enough as its part of the Waterford half which I ran in Dec ’09. really struggling with pace now and getting attacks of cramp every 5 minutes. I surely stopped 15/20 times on that final stretch from 30-40k to relieve painful cramps, mainly hamstrings but also quads. Also got passed by a fair few. Hit a water station giving out lucozade sport, grabbed 2 cups of lucozade and a bottle of water just as my legs ceased up again. Stopped to stretch and down the luco. At this stage I was yo-yoing with several runners. I was running faster than them, but they’d pass as I stopped with cramp, then I’d set off again passing them out before the process repeated itself, again & again & again. It was along here somewhere that I spotted Donal struggling up ahead and I was slowing catching up, when I wasn’t stretching. Got to the final water station accompanied by huge noise. We were sent off right on an out&back before repassing the same water station and onto the home stretch. On the out bit I notice something over my shoulder and my heart sank, it was the 3:15 pacers!! I’d ran 3:14 2 years ago in Cork, what was going on? They slowly caught and passed me and I had nothing in the legs to stick with them. They were also on their absolute tod, not a single person running with them.
Splits 31k to 40k: 5:11/5:22/5:29/5:53/5:00/6:31/5:03/5:21/5:08/5:34

The final straight, I felt so good running this in Cork, just desperate and drained yesterday in Waterford. I remember trying to pick up the pace a little, not that I had any goals at all left by this stage, I just wanted it to be over as soon as possible. Got a little nearer to Donal but never caught him, and he started to pull away slightly in the final kilometre. legs were screaming with pain and threatening to cramp, but I was not going to stop and thankfully the cramp held off. The crowds again were great, shouting encouragement but I couldn’t enjoy it. I knew I was over 15 minutes late and that Mag was waiting for me at the finish, I just hoped she wasn’t too worried. Into the RSC and onto the running track, the sensor at 42k picked me up and the guy on the mic called my name. I crossed the line exhausted and a 6 foot 6 medic (male) wrapped his arms around me and asked was I alright, grand, then sit over there. I wasn’t ever going to fall over but I looked like crap by all accounts. met Donal and Eugene in seats beside me. Donal, who had ran a 3:01 in Blackpool 12 weeks earlier finished 20 seconds ahead, Eugene, who had started ahead of the 3:00 pace group finished with the 3:15 fellas.
Splits 41k to finish: 5:40/5:26/1:38 (last 200m 5:15 avg)

Finished in 3:18

Mag is still keen for me to run another marathon soon and have a proper shot at the sub 3. Today my legs are a little sore, but nothing like they were after Cork, the recovery seems to be quick for me this time which is encouraging me to go ahead and run Longford. In the run up to and the aftermath of Cork I didn’t want to see my runners again, this time I’m still really enjoying the running and bursting to get back at it which is also encouraging. I reckon I’ll not run until Tuesday or Wednesday, and only run 3 times this week, but will try mix in a bit of swimming and maybe one cycle, then a bit more running next week before starting to lash the miles out of it again. Plan at the moment so is to live like a monk the next two months and try burst through the 3:00 mark 26th August.

Longford seems to have a small field with no pacers and I expect that if I do it I’ll be running large parts of it on my own, pro: I’ll be in charge of my own pace, con: I’ll have to be more aware mentally of my pace (& disciplined) and will be isolated and alone on the back roads of Longford, Roscommon & Leitrim. It is also about as flat as they come, with no significant hills and just a small climb towards the end. It’s also apparently poorly supported which is no surprise given that it passes through so few built up areas. I’ll see how the next few weeks go before I book anything.

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