I ran the Manchester Marathon on the 3rd of April 2022 with a finishing time of 3:00:29. Many runners chasing a sub three marathon time would be gutted with that result. However, I missed nine months of running in 2021 due to having two torn adductor tendons. When I started back to running in mid-December it felt almost like starting from scratch. So to finish so close to three hours was a huge boost to my confidence and I knew with a few more weeks of training, I could break that barrier.
I had a choice to make. Where was I going to run next in order to try to break that barrier? It was a toss up between the Kildare Thoroughbred Run on June 19th or The Waterford Viking Marathon on June 26th. I had a pretty tough experience in Waterford back in 2014, and I definitely want to go back there to exorcise those demons, but I gave Kildare a chance.
I stayed at a friend’s house which gave me the perfect opportunity to relax, eat properly, and get as much sleep as I thought I needed. My friends and I went out for Italian on Saturday night. After a pasta dinner at a local restaurant I was back to the house and in bed early. I slept sound, woke early and ate my usual pre-race breakfast. It consisted of porridge along with toast & peanut butter washed down with water and coffee. I had all my ducks in a row as we left the house to go to the start.
I arrived at the registration early and turned out to be one of the first dozen or so to pick up my bib. This allowed me time to do a short warm up, some dynamics and get to the start line in a relaxed state. I had no real idea of how the course was, but the weather was OK at the start line. However, the forecast was showing some stronger winds as the day went on.
Chasing a Sub Three Hour Marathon Time – The Race
The field was small with only 92 runners taking part in the full marathon distance. I got straight out and into my desired pace with no issues as soon as the gun sounded. Within the first 250 metres, two other runners pulled up alongside me. One of them asked if we were all targeting a sub three hour marathon finish. We both said yes and that was it. We three stuck together all the way until somewhere in the 25th mile.
The course was a rolling course, but nothing overly challenging and we worked together without a lot of chat. We definitely had a sense of shared purpose. All three of us seemed strong as we covered the course at an extremely consistent pace. I kept a close eye on my watch, which is something I don’t normally do. This time, I wanted to make sure my average pace stayed well under 6:51/mile, which it was in Manchester. The other thing I kept a close eye on was staying close to the right side of the road. That is where the course is measured. In order to run a sub three hour marathon, your pace needs to be 6:51/mile or faster. That is if you run 26.2 miles. In Manchester, my 6:51 average pace should have come in under 3-hours. I actually ran a good bit over 26.2. This accounted for the extra seconds. I was determined to come as close to the correct distance as possible here in Kildare.
As promised, the wind did pick up and by mile 17 when we turned a corner it blew directly into us. This certainly made things more difficult and far less enjoyable. The wind would play a factor in our race the rest of the way but we were all in good shape and managed to keep the pace steady.
I took two more gels with me than I did in Manchester. This made the difference in the final four miles. It was actually a mental boost too. I knew that at mile 22, when I took my last gel, I had the energy to finish strong. At mile 25 the three of us started to separate, just a little. John Scott, from Longford AC, pulled ahead during this late stage of the race and finished 26 seconds ahead of me, who finished second overall. The other runner in this trio, Mark Raleigh, from Le Cheile AC was only 27 seconds behind me to take third overall and ensured that all of us finished well under our 3-hour target.
I had my sub three hour marathon and I was absolutely thrilled. To top it off, my son Daniel was at the finish line to greet me. He was home for a visit from Boston at the time and came down to support us at the race. As I crossed the finishing mat I hugged Daniel like I had won the Olympics. I finally had it and what a turn around it was from 2017. My wife ran the 10k and I was overjoyed when she finished the race and I could share my news. To have done it on a day when Roisin, Daniel and my good friend Tara were all there was really special.
I will forever be indebted to the two men who ran with me on the day. We started out as strangers, but over the course of the next 26.2 miles shared an experience that will go down as one of the proudest days of my running life. I have no doubt that without them running such a strong race beside me, it would have been different. But that is what racing is all about. Sharing the pain and joy with fellow runners.