Crossing the Finish Line

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There is no app for this, the banner read as I ran past.  Ain’t that the truth!  I guess that’s what appeals to me about the marathon distance.  There are no shortcuts, you must respect the distance and put the work in, at least if you want it to be rewarding and as pain free an experience as possible.

The day had finally arrived, the day I hoped to run my first marathon.  I slept well in the circumstances.  I felt surprisingly calm and relaxed and a lot better than the night before thankfully. Despite the weather forecasters doing their best to unsettle us in the preceding days, the storm never materialised and in its place some wind and believe it or not no rain!.  After a very small breakfast, I took a short walk to meet fellow ChiRunning Instructor Mary Jennings and her training group.  Mary has the inside knowledge on marathons in general and the Dublin Marathon in particular.  There was an excited buzz in the hotel and we were all fired up about the day ahead.

My sister and my eldest daughter were also with me as we all walked the short distance to the start chatting and laughing. When we arrived at the start area, I said my goodbyes and for the first time felt overwhelmed with emotion and very alone although I was surrounded by thousands of runners.  Rather than stand around waiting, I went for a 10 minute run to settle my nerves and loosen up.  It was a little chilly and I didn’t want to seize up while standing around.  I did the ChiRunning body looseners as I waited a short time in my start area. I heard the national anthem in the distance and in no time we were off.

I planned to run the first 5 miles slower than race pace   Mile 6 to 25 would be at race pace and then whatever I had left in the last mile. I loved those early miles, I didn’t get carried away by the other runners.  It gave me a chance to let the run come to me, to settle down and stay relaxed.   The atmosphere was fantastic, lots of spectators and support on route.  I was thoroughly enjoying running through my home town.  The course takes a lot of twists and turns as it crosses the city of Dublin.  It is not what I would call a flat course and there are some inclines especially in the first two thirds of the race and an unmistakable hill at mile 20 thrown in for good measure known locally as heartbreak hill!  Now hills are subjective aren’t they?  One person’s steep hill is another person’s bump in the road.   When you live and train where I do, trust me, Dublin is not flat.

I was carrying my own fuel and had practised what I planned to eat and drink during the race.  Early on, I had some stomach cramps, something I had never experienced in training and it threw me.  These stayed with me on and off through the race and made it difficult for me to take on the small amount of food I wanted.  At mile 8, I felt uncomfortable enough to contemplate that I might not actually finish the race.  I tried to relax and ran on.

The sun broke through and the temperature rose enough for me to consider seeking some shade, I know seriously, this is Dublin at the end of October!  The support on the course was amazing, I’m not sure how many times people shouted my name and words of encouragement. Dublin city and its people at their finest. Reading the many banners on the course provided plenty of laughs.

My family and friends were at mile 4, 6 and then not until mile 18.  I was running well noticing the inclines and thinking these might come back to bite me later.  At around 17 miles I was mentally beginning to fatigue and could no longer fight the voice in my head which was telling me to walk, “just for a bit”, at around mile 18.  I really didn’t want to do that as I knew if I gave in once, I probably would again.   So when I took a walk break, I walked with purpose, putting all my ChiWalking focuses to good use.  I heard Danny’s words in my head, if you need to walk, “walk until you feel guilty” so that is what I did.  I ran as much as I could and walked until I felt guilty for the remainder of the race.  Mile 22 was actually my fastest of the race, downhill of course.

It is said for your first marathon that you shouldn’t have a time goal but deep down I wanted to complete the marathon in 4.30.  I had to let that goal go and I felt surprisingly OK about that.  Out there on the course, I knew to finish injury free would be good enough.  I had gotten to the start line and I knew now I would get to the finish line. The ChiRunning beginner training plan I had followed was written to get the first time marathoner around the course pain free.

More family and friends to cheer me on at mile 18, 22 and 25.  What a joy to see them there and a much needed energy boost. I had thought of writing some ChiRunning focuses on my hand but to be honest, I didn’t need to.  So many hours of practise, my body knew what I needed to do at various points in the race when I found it hard.  Amongst them, stay tall, lean, pick up your feet, let go of your legs, cadence and mostly relax, relax, relax.

No records were broken!  I crossed the finish line in 4.43 (26.42 miles on my Garmin) and let the emotion and the tears wash over me.  I had done it.  The seed planted in my mind so very long ago had finally become a reality.  I was given my medal and as I walked through the finish area I heard my family call my name.  What a wonderful sight to see them all buried deep in the crowd.

I was fortunate to be able to take the short walk back to my sister’s house pain free and moving well.  I did some leg drains, stretched, showered and headed out for a small celebration with family and friends.  Life was good, and in my head I was already planning my next marathon.

Happy running.

Michelle Muldoon
Senior ChiRunning Instructor
London, UK

Posted in Beginners

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