What I told my buddies on the weight loss forum…
So, third marathon in four weeks. And this was promising to be the hardest. My friend Kate (late of this parish) has run it more than once and described the first half as basically being all uphill. So, I was in several minds about tactics as I chatted with other experienced runners at the start line. I thought Belfast was going to be small, but the organisers said 3,000+ marathon runners and 14,000 relay runners. But the start area at City Hall didn’t seem crowded. The organisers warnings about using the loo before you got to the start was good advice as I didn’t see any. And the bag drop was a smallish lorry rather than the fleet of trucks that I’m used to at things like Edinburgh or Brighton.
We were off. I decided on a no guts no glory approach, found the 3:15 pacers and stuck with them. They were obviously banking some time, because we were well in advance of that pace for the first few miles. The first section takes you out along the motorway to the airport. Not very pretty and since it was only partially closed, noisy and smelly as well.
It had been up and down as predicted. But the real hill started at about 7 miles in. A long drag up the Falls Road, past places and murals familiar from years of news reports, across the peace line and then up some more. I remembered seeing mountains from the hotel room, now I realised that we were going up one of them. Ok, perhaps an exaggeration, but we climbed and climbed. Somewhere along the way, I realised that the pacers weren’t going to slow, so I let them go. Mile 14 turned a corner and started heading back, losing all the height we had gained as we descended a long switch back. And then we were on the coast along a cycle path back into town. It may have been on the level, but oh the wind, always in your face, cooling but hard work. A cut through town, where I was able to wave at my wife – “running well,” she lied. And then along the river. At this point, I could hear the crowds at the finish on the other bank. I managed to convince myself that we would just go along the flat, cross a small bridge and then flat home. Yeah, right. We left the river and straight onto another hill. Seriously, who plots a marathon course with an uphill that lasts all of mile 24!
On the last stretch, chatted encouragingly to a runner who was not doing well and kept with him. I had no idea about times at that stage. I knew the 3:30 pacer had gone past me some time back, but the Garmin said I wouldn’t be far off that. The last corner, a 200 metre straight lined on both sides with spectators. “Come on,” I said to the other runner, “let’s give them a show.” I HAMMERED down that last bit, a roar from the crowd carrying me along. I glanced up at the big clock. One last effort and I could…
Cross the line at 3:30:59
Toughest of the three by a long chalk, both the course and the conditions. The winner came in at 2:20 ish, 10 mins outside his pb, that might give some idea of how things were. My time placed me at 268th overall and if my counting is correct, about 4th in my class.