The 2013 Airtricity Dublin Marathon is on Monday 28th October. The course is fairly flat but there are a few hills: a short up after O’Connell Street, down the Upper Glen Road in the Phoenix Park, down through Chapelizod and then a steep up after Chapelizod at around 9 miles, a down and up under a bridge before the Inchicore Road, down and up after Kilmainham Gaol, down the Dartry Road to the Dropping Well pub and then steeply up to Milltown, then a steep up Foster’s Avenue and down onto the Stillorgan dual carriageway. I find the Milltown and Foster’s Avenue hills the toughest as they’re after the 18 mile mark. Drop your pace a bit as you go up the hills otherwise you can feel a loss of energy when you go over the top.
This will be my 6th marathon (5 in Dublin and one in Buenos Aires). So far I’ve managed to improve my time in each marathon, starting with 5 hours 5 minutes in my first marathon to 2 hours 59 minutes in last year’s Dublin Marathon. I’m looking forward to it now although I don’t feel quite as fully trained as last year. I’ll set out at aiming for under 3 hours again but will see how I go. Below are my top tips for a successful (any marathon you finish is a success!) marathon.
10 – Relax the Day Before
Take it easy the day before, don’t plan any major hikes up the Dublin mountains. If you feel you haven’t trained enough there is zero point doing anything today (although some runners feel the psychological need to do a very light jog for a mile or so). Doing any serious running will only risk wasting energy you need during the marathon. Don’t drink alcohol and avoid eating slabs of cake, save these for after the race. Carbo-loading is useful too. For my main meal I’ll have tuna and pasta to get a balance of protein and carbs. Go to bed early if you can although some people might find it hard to sleep. Set at least one alarm clock, you don’t want to oversleep. If you wake during the night drink some water just to keep yourself hydrated.
9 – Be Prepared in the Morning
Have everything you need laid out from the day before, shorts, socks, singlet, gloves, tracksuit, bag with water and post-race food, mobile phone, bag for leaving in the left luggage area, watch. You don’t want to be rushing around looking for your socks on the morning of the race. Have your race number attached to your singlet from the day before too, you don’t want to be fiddling around with safety pins on the morning. Lubricate anything that you find prone to bleeding or irritation after a long run. Parts of your body that give you now problems when running 15 miles can be sore after 26 miles. This sentence is going to be a little gross but I use Vaseline to lubricate my nipples, and calluses on my feet and around the groin area where they might be friction from my underwear/shorts. Watching a man in a white singlet with bleeding nipples is unpleasant for all concerned!
8 – Eat Breakfast
I usually get up at about 6am and eat breakfast. I might go to bed after eating for another 45 minutes or so. It’s vital that you eat something on the morning so you don’t run out of energy and hit the dreaded Wall during the race. I usually eat a bowl of museli, 2-3 slices of brown toast (with marmalade one 1 slice), a banana, and maybe some yogurt or an orange too. Don’t try anything too wacky unless you’ve tried it before. Drink something too. It’s never going to be hot during the Dublin Marathon so hydration can be exaggerated slightly but it is important that you don’t underdrink out of a fear of having to use the toilet during the race.
7 – Arrive on Time
The first wave is due to start at 9am. Many of the streets will be closed so give plenty of time to walk to the start area, use the toilet, leave your back in the left luggage area, warm-up, and get yourself as relaxed as you can. I usually cycle the couple of miles into town as it warms me up and I can lock my bike at a suitable place for me to cycle, very slowly, home after. It’s also a great time to soak up the atmosphere. Now is not the time for any negative thoughts, you’re about to run a marathon, it will be a great day and a few hours from now you’ll be sitting someplace nice and warm savouring your achievement!
6 – Use the Toliet
After your hydration you’ll probabaly need to use the toilet. The organisation is a lot better than a few years ago and there are a lot more toilets but there will always be big queues before the start. My advice is to try and use toilets in fast food restaurants (McDonald’s on Grafton Street is where I usually go) or cafés if you can. Also bring some of your own toilet paper as that is sometimes in short supply before a race. For guys things are considerably easier as there are urinals and lanes around the place. This is another reason why it’s important to be on time. Once the race is in progress guys will use any bit of green space but there are toilets around the route too. Alternatively most pubs open at 11am so you can run into one along the route without too much hassle.
5 – Keep Warm
Dublin at the end of October is never going to be hot. This is good for running but not so good for trying to get warmed-up in. Always wear at least an old long-sleeve t-short over your singlet while you stand in the starting area. Just before the race starts you will see a shower of clothes being lobbed towards the side as people strip down to their running gear. You might notice some Roma people waiting at the edge. They’re usually there to catch some of the clothes for recycling so feel free to hand your top to them! I always wear a cheap pair of gloves (Penneys sell two pairs for €1.50) for the first few miles and then throw them away when I start to get too hot. Last year was exceptionally cold (under 5 degrees celsius) so I pocketed my gloves and put them on again later. I also wore a layer under my singlet that I planned to dump but never did as it was so cold. This year the temperature is predicted to be over 10 degrees (maybe as high as 15 degrees), possibly with showers, and possibly slightly humid so it’s hard to know if that’s better or worse. Make sure you’ve a change of clothes in your bag as once you stop running you will get cold very quickly, I’m usually shivering after about 5 minutes.
4 – Don’t Start Too Fast
The adrenaline will be flowing when the starting gun goes. Resist the temptation to set off too quickly unless you know what you’re doing. The Dublin Marathon has 3 waves with chip timing and pacers (with ballons or flags to identify them) so, if you have time you’re aiming for position yourself near the appropriate pacer. I’ve a Garmin running watch which tells me my pace and time so I use that to make sure I’m not going too quickly (it’s a 6:52 mile pace needed for a sub-3 hour marathon). If you set off too fast you can’t regain the energy you’ve wasted. It’s much better to speed up later in the race if you’ve the energy for it. Having said that, if you are aiming for a fast time then be as close to the front as possible. Some runners feel the need to get right at the front when they’re running significantly slower than those around them. This can lead to collisions and faster runners being delayed at the start. Be honest about your time, if you spend the first mile being overtaken by 90% of the runners then you probably placed yourself too far towards the front of the field.
3 – Hydrate
It’s important to drink during the race. There are plenty of water and isotonic points during the race. You don’t need to go wild but try and take a few gulps at each hydration point. Also take the gels when they are offered too. Apparently it’s best to take gels with some water (as opposed to isotonic drinks) but I’ve used gels with no liquid without major problems. Some runners carry a virtual ammo belt for gels but the received wisdom seems to be to take one every 30-45 minutes or so. So I carry about 4 with me. Having said that gels won’t make up for a lack of training and while useful, if you’re not aiming for a time, they’re not essential. This is a link to the Course Map showing all the hydration and gel points. Have a couple of bottles of liquid in your post-race bag too. I like chocolate milk and cola after a race.
2 – Pace Yourself
Don’t start to fast but it’s also vital not to increase your pace too recklessly during a race. A marathon is completely different from a half-marathon or even a 20 mile run. If you have a Garmin or a similar watch which tells you your pace then use it or else check your watch as you pass the mile markers. You should have an idea of a comfortable marathon pace from your training, great as the marathon day is you’re not going to miracuously lop 15 minutes off the times you’ve been running in training. If you begin to feel tired then try running at a slower pace for a while. If you’re feeling bad then stop for a couple of minutes and do some stretches, try not to stop for too long as you’ll begin to get cold. Obviously, if you injure yourself or seriously faint then it’s best to seek some assistance. In the unlikely event that you’re feeling strong with a couple of miles to go then that’s the time to increase your pace. Usually I manage to do the last mile at around 6:20 pace.
1 – Enjoy Yourself!
You’ve been training for this for months so enjoy the race! Savour the Christmas morning feel of waking up on race day. It’s great to see the city centre filling with runners as you make your way to the start. Soak up the positive vibes and friendliness at the start line. Organisation has improved and crowds have increased over the last few years so bask in the adulation, high-five kids with their hands out, and thank those supporters that offer food and encouragement. You will go through tough times during a marathon but you have the mental and physical strength to overcome any obstacles. The last mile will be the hardest but also one of the best experiences of your running life. The crowds will be three deep in places, there’ll be noise, and colour, it’s the closest you’ll get to experiencing what it’s like to enter a packed Olympic stadium on the final lap of the marathon. Enjoy the day and relish reliving it afterwards someplace warm with a hot drink.