"Well Done!"
The adidas Dublin Marathon
October 30, 2006, Dublin, Ireland
November 6, 2006
Let me say at the beginning that of the three marathons I have run outside the United States, the spectators at last week’s adidas Dublin Marathon were by far the best. Buenos Aires in 2004 had a few cheering spectators and tons of irate drivers honking their horns. The denizens of Amsterdam in 1999 couldn’t care less about the goings-on of the marathon.
By contrast Dublin, a city of about half a million people, did its best to put out the welcome mat for its marathoners. From start to finish there were people standing alongside the race course giving that most superlative of Irish cheers - “Well done!” – along with all of its variants –“Well done going this far!” “Well done making it up that hill!” And they would give a personal shout-out to anyone who had written their name on their singlet. I heard “Well done, Les” many times during the race.
And the support didn’t just come from the spectators. For example, you can’t really appreciate the boost you can get from hearing James Brown’s I Feel Good until you have heard it sung by a couple of Irish lads who are running a marathon, with all of the runners around them singing backup. “So good! So nice!”
Dublin was my first and only marathon in 2006. Training for the Hike for Discovery had meant cutting back on my running mileage, which kept me from doing a spring or summer marathon. Once I got back into running, I had to gradually get back into doing the longer mileage. I didn't run a distance greater than a half marathon this year until the end of August.
My training was hampered a little by the problem with my hip, which never had recovered completely from the ding it got last fall. The soreness would go away at times, but it would always come back. I finally went to a chiropractor to see if he could help. Dr. Kris Peterson of the Virginia-Hill Chiropractic clinic took some x-rays of my hips and determined that they were out of line. My right hip was higher than my left, which made my right leg act as if it were shorter than my left leg, which in turn caused all sorts of little aggravations. I went through a series of chiropractic adjustments to try to get my hips back in line.
After several weeks of not holding my adjustments, Dr. Kris determined that the reason my right leg acted as it were shorter than my left leg was because it really is shorter than my left leg. So it was out with the orthotics and in with a heel lift; out with my Nike Air Pegasus and in with a more stable Air Triax. Those changes did the trick, and I started holding my adjustments. The soreness didn’t go completely away, but it did subside quite a bit.
One other bit of training that I did to help prepare for Dublin was to increase my consumption of Guinness. While this may have helped me prepare for the post-race celebration, it wasn’t good for the race itself. The day before I flew to Dublin, I stepped on the bathroom scale and discovered that my weight was one pound away from its all-time high. I mentioned this to my friend Sandy Geisel, who used to be a personal trainer. Sandy told me that the rule of thumb for marathons is that 5 pounds equals 5 minutes. Great – I would be starting the race 20 minutes in the hole.
A cold rain was pouring down the morning I arrived in Dublin. I had been hesitant to sign up for this race because previous years’ participants had come back with tales of running through horizontal rain in 30 degree temperatures. This weather was feeding my worst fears - if it didn't clear up, the race was going to be a very miserable experience.
But then came the morning of the Breakfast Run - sunny and brisk. The Breakfast Run is an “Irish 2-Miler” (3K) fun run that the Dublin Marathon organizers put on the day before the marathon for its overseas participants. There is no registration required, no race numbers, just a jaunt around the neighborhood surrounding the Westwood Fitness Centre, with t-shirts and brown bag breakfasts handed out at the end. The Westwood complex includes the Barcode pub, which opened its doors to give the runners a place to sit and eat breakfast. The Barcode looked like a good place to have a pint or two sometime.
The Dublin Marathon is always run on the last Monday in October, which is an Irish bank holiday, and starts at a very sensible 9 am. This gave me plenty of time on race morning to try to forecast the weather and dress appropriately. Was it going to pour like the first morning or be brisk and sunny like the Breakfast Run? It looked like it was going to be brisk and cloudy. I decided to wear my shorts and singlet with a throwaway long sleeve t-shirt over it. But to be on the safe side, I loaded up my checked gear bag with all sorts of foul-weather gear – tights, wind shirt, gloves, cap, and extra t-shirts. I was prepared for anything, as long as it happened before the race started.
The starting line was on Nassau Street, next to Trinity College. The runners who had predicted a finishing time of less than four hours had been given white bibs; the rest of us were sporting green bibs. Everyone wearing a green bib was shunted around some side
streets to make sure the white-bibbed runners got to line up towards the front of the pack.

The race was supposed to be limited to 10,000 participants, although there were rumors that it had been oversold. A large number of these runners were running for charity. Team in Training had 222 participants who had raised over $1.1 million ($166,000 of that total came from the Georgia chapter). Other runners were raising money for just about every major disease, body organ, or cause imaginable – cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, hearts, lungs, kidneys, brains, hospice, child abuse, you name it.

The green bibs head for the start

The gun went off on time at 9:00, and it was about 9:10 when I crossed the start line. The temperature was warm enough that I took off my throwaway shirt and tied it around my waist before starting. I had gone less than a mile when I decided I would not be needing it, and tossed it at a trash can along the side of the road.
The course soon left the heart of the city and went into the 1750+ acres of Phoenix Park.  (By comparison, Atlanta’s Piedmont Park is 185 acres.) There was a group of about 10 or 12 teammates from the Georgia chapter who ran near me, but I didn’t join them. I wasn’t being anti-social. I knew from training with them that we paced ourselves differently and it would be best for me to run the race at my own pace. We passed each other a few times in the park, and then I went on ahead.
I settled into a routine during the early miles, finishing 7 miles in 68 minutes, 8 miles in 78 minutes, and 9 miles in 88 minutes. My mathematically challenged brain was beginning to detect a pattern. The pattern didn’t last long, though. Georgia Head Coach Tommy Owens was waiting beside the road in the middle of the tenth mile, warning us that when we turned the next corner we would be running into fierce headwinds.

And fierce was a good word to describe the winds. “Gale force” was another good description. I kept looking up to make sure Dorothy and Toto weren’t about to fall on me. I tried tucking in and drafting behind a couple of different runners, but the winds shifted just enough to keep that from
Corner

"Around this corner thar be winds!"

being effective. While I was fighting the wind and trying to draft, Amy Roberts ran past me on her way to setting a marathon PR. Well done, Amy!
After a half mile of struggling against the winds, the course turned left. The winds were now coming at the runners from the right. It was here that the aforementioned Irish lads broke into song, helping everyone forget about the winds – at least until the next right turn.
At the water station at mile 15 I had my first energy gel. I tore open the foil packet with my teeth, and the aroma of the vanilla PowerGel wafted up into my nostrils. It almost made me gag. My stomach and vanilla PowerGel have not been playing nice together during my last few marathons, but I was too lazy to experiment with different flavors and brands to find something I could tolerate. I was carrying four PowerGels for this race, and promised myself that they would be the last four vanilla PowerGels I would ever take.
Completing the 18th mile seemed to take forever for the simple reason that I never saw the sign for mile 19. I kept looking and looking, but never saw it. My sense of time was all messed up, and by the time I decided that I must have missed the sign, I saw the sign for mile 20.
I ran the 21st mile with Jen Shirey, our coaching assistant. She didn’t overtly push me to run harder, but her presence was enough to keep me from slacking off. We ran a mile together and then she left me to go back and look for the next Georgia runner. I then came upon the newly engaged Ron Sklamm, who was running the race in a Cat-in-the-Hat sized Guinness cap.
Ron and his hat After leaving Ron (by the way, well done on the marriage proposal, Ron!), I saw Brian Monk. Two years ago in Phoenix, I ran Brian to the finish of his first marathon while he was deep in the Bite Me Zone. I had been keeping up a peppy chatter for him, describing the finish area up ahead, until he turned to me and said, “Les, I really appreciate you running with me, but will you please shut the hell up?” Now it was Brian’s turn to be peppy, and I – while not quite in the Bite Me Zone – was not in the mood to chat. Brian stopped to take a breather and I went on without him.
The Ron in the Hat
Mile 23 went down Merrion Road, past the RDS Hall where the race expo had been held. Across the street from the RDS Hall was the Horseshow House, and I fondly remembered the pints of Guinness we had consumed there after picking up our race packets. The memories inspired me to make up a little poem (with apologies to Robert Frost):

            Guinness is lovely, dark and dear,
            But the finish line is nowhere near,
            And I have miles to go before I beer,
            Miles to go before I beer.

Three miles, to be exact…
Horseshow House
The Horseshow - so near, yet so far
I then saw Tommy Owens, who had hitched a ride to mile 24. He told me that I was coming up on the last hill (which fortunately turned out to be not much of a hill at all) and the last water station. The last water station meant the last chance to have a PowerGel (you don’t ever want to take PowerGel without water). I washed the gel down with one of the quarter-liter bottles of Tipperary water that they were passing out at the water stations, and this time it did make me gag. It was like trying to puke up toothpaste, though – it just wasn’t going to happen. That stuff was down there to stay. After coughing for a minute or two, my stomach finally settled down and I started running again. I have got to find a new flavor!
As I passed the mile 25 marker, I could hear the loudspeakers from the finish area to my left. Unfortunately, the course turned right for a final loop around Trinity College before heading towards the finish. The sound of the loudspeakers faded away and was replaced by the sound of footsteps as teammates Jason Heslep and Kim Andrews went flying by me.
Those damn balloons I made a series of left turns, and saw balloons up ahead. The finish line at last! I kicked my pace up a notch. But something wasn’t right. Where were those loudspeakers I had heard before? And where were the timing mats and the chutes? And the sign for mile 26? Surely I hadn’t missed another mile marker. And why did those balloons look so familiar? Then I realized that the balloons were not marking the finish, but rather the start. (Note to race organizers: A couple of kids with BB guns could take care of those balloons after the race has started, sparing everyone a lot of confusion at the finish.)

Those damn balloons
I resumed my plodding shuffle, passed the balloons, passed the mile 26 marker (yes, it really was there), made a right turn and saw the real finish line up ahead. I had a little kick left in me, and soon it was all over.

I finished in 4:40 – not my best time, not my worst. My next marathon will be the inaugural ING Georgia Marathon next March. This is what I’m thinking: Start with the 4:40 Dublin time. Lose 20 pounds (or a portion thereof), lose 20 minutes (or a portion thereof). Lose the gale force headwinds, lose another 10 minutes. Add a few minutes for the hills of Atlanta, but subtract more than a few minutes for home field advantage. If my hip behaves as well as it did in Dublin, the Georgia Marathon should be a pretty good one!
Heading to the real finish line