Today I ran a marathon
- The Dublin Marathon took place today with a record entry of 12,000,
amongst them myself and Ambarish. I was hoping to get below 3:10 and
generally avoid a repeat of my marathon experience two months ago
where I was basically running in slow motion from mile 21 onwards. My
two brothers, Colm and Aidan, grabbed their djembes (African drums)
and went to different parts of the course to give moral support to the
runners, plus take a few photos...
The race started by going around Trinity College and heading across
the river Liffey towards the Northside of Dublin. I started off trying
to dodge the slower runners ahead of me and feeling like I was being
held up; it wasn't the case at all, I came throught the first mile in
six and a half minutes, much too fast. For the next few miles I tried
to find some kind of steady pace; however each mile after mile I would
arrive at the marker to find I had run below seven minutes. But I felt
great, and for the first time in a race, I was able to latch on the
the back of some runners and feel like they were doing some of my work
for me. We entered into the Phoenix Park to enjoy a four-mile stretch
through tranquil parkland.
On my way out of the park I was feeling the first aches and pains,
much too early for my liking. Was I going out too fast? Well the
damage was done now, and I would feel it at the 20 mile mark. I began
to feel this great inner resistance gather in the pit of my stomach,
and my mind began casting itself forward to the horrors that lay
ahead. Where the mind goes, the body will follow, and already my
running seemed much more of a labour. At one of the water stations, I
made a mockery of my boast at last night's meditation that I didn't
need gels to finish a marathon and started helping myself to the Gatorade.
All this started inwardly and it had to be stemmed inwardly. It all
seemed so different last August, where I was determinedly telling
myself not to let any thoughts of what was going to happen at mile 20
ruin the joy I was getting right now. Now as I was running, I started
chanting mantras to myself, and tried to just feel grateful for the
opportunity to be out there and transcend my capacities. And it
started working. I had had a very good meditation this morning;
something of that meditations began to visit me now, so that I was
running not from the body, but from the heart and the soul. A hip
strain and a stitch threatened them selves one after another, only to
disappeaar in the wake of my newfound enthusiasm. The half-marathon
stage was crossed at 1:31, and after my slow patch I now seemed to be
running at the same pace as everyone else.
At times during my training runs I had the very nice experience of
feeling that whilst outwardly I was all dynamism and movement, inside
everything was so completely still that a pindrop would have sounded
like an earthquake; runnng down the tree-lined roads to Terenure, I
had the same felling....I think it's an amazing equivalent to what
we're trying to achieve in everyday life.
After the Phoenix Park, Colm and Aidan had made their way across to
Rathgar to entertain all the runners at the 17-mile stage; their
efforts were met with much appreciation and gratitude from the runners
and they enjoyed themselves immensely.
Things started to get a little sticky on the running front; I could
feel the beginning of that tingling sensation in my hands and legs
when my body is starting to run out of energy, and I had to
concentrate to stay in my rhythm. I got a temporary reprieve with
another infusion of Gatorade, but I was well aware that once I started
seriously going down the Gatorade route it was only a matter of time
before the muscles would cramp, and I hoped it would be at around the
27-mile mark (in a 26.2 mile race :) ). And then the uphill section
began, a 2 mile stretch from 19 miles to 21 miles. At this stage, I
was splitting up the race into stages, telling myself that if I got to
21 miles, I was as good as finished the race. But that uphill was
hard, I tell you. And the wind was blowing so hard against me, it felt
I was running to stand still.
At this stage I should point out one of the wonderful things about the
Dublin Marathon, and Dublin people in general; the crowds. They were
out there in their tens of thousands today; at strategic junctions
they would be gathered there in groups of a hundred or more, clapping
and shouting themselves hoarse in support of total strangers. To me it
was worth more than all the Gatorade in the world. When I began racing
I must admit that I had rather a cynical attitude to such support and
actually preferred to shut it out. But when you start meditating, not
only can you feel your heart open out more and more in goodwill to
everybody, you are also better able to recieve the goodwill of others,
and feel more and more tangibly that goodwill has an indescribable
power all of its own.
Passing one of these crowds, I saw a woman holding out what looked
like sweets. Thinking they were for everbody, I grabbed one as I was
going passed only to see a rather confused look on her face. Are they
for me? I hollered back. They are now, a bemused runner exclaimed
behind me. So, removing any remaining trace of professionalism to my
run, I happily spent the next three miles chewing on Maynards Wine Gums.
Mile 21 passed and surprise, surprise, I wasn't dead yet. But at this
stage I was breaking the race down into one mile sections instead of
two. Just get to mile 22. I was running head tilted back looking at
the sky, which is my wont when things get rough during a race, and its
vast expanse seemed such a contrast to my infinitesmal huffling and
shuffling. I was running down the side of the Stillorgan dual
carriageway, cars whizzing up and down, but inside was all silence.
And in that silence, my awareness fell on the inner connection I have
with my meditation teacher, Sri Chinmoy, the inner connection that
over the past few years has served as a source of inspiration and
guidance infinitely more effective than any outer instruction. Mine
and my teacher's physical frames may lie an ocean's width apart, but
in the vastness of the sky I could unmistakeably feel his presence,
and realise that the power of empathy and oneness, lying untapped
inside most of us, laughs at such silly notions as distance and location.
Mile 22 was ok, but mile 23 and 24 were a different story. When were
those accursed mile markers ever going to appear? (It never occured to
me that perhaps I was slowing down). Part of me still didn't think I
had it in me to finish the race out. More mantras; I told myself that
if I just kept saying mantras for 20 minutes, I could look up and
there would be the finish line. For many races, my body senses the end
coming and gets a fresh burst of energy, like an opportunistic
politician jumping on the bandwagon at the last minute; that moment
still wasn't in sight.
However, shortly after mile 24, I turned onto Grand Canal Street; I
had run that street millions of times and knew exactly how long it was
now to finish, and so the opportunistic politician duly jumped aboard.
Onwards I went over the canal bridge, to be met by a ferocious wind
funneled down the street, the last thing I needed. I know you're busy
God, but can you not get onto your people and sort this out?I demanded
testily. Perhaps I should try similar CEO-style orders in future,
because the same wind did a hundred and eighty degree turn and started
blowing at my back.
At mile 25, the crowds really started thickening, it reminded me of a
scene from the Tour De France where the crowd encroach on the road so
that only a narrow path is left for the cyclists. I passed the 25 mile
mark at exactly three hours; one last spurt needed to get me under
3:10. The last mile took me around my old alma mater, Trinity College.
Of course I was going to finish now, I could just enjoy myself. I
rounded the final corner and tried to make a spring to get under 3:09,
narrowly failing be a couple of seconds (It worked for the Dublin
Half-Marathon and the London 10k run, so I cant complain).
Immediately the much anticipated cramping set in. My legs felt like
steel. But I found Colm and Aidan at the finish and asked them to
massage me. I set up an impromptu massage table in a dooreay, and they
both went to work one one each leg. Then putting my feet up to let the
blood flow back down....after that, I could manage something
Ambarish arrived, having done an amazing time of 3:28, considering he
had only one 16-mile run under his belt.
Chatting with my fellow finishers:
"*Every marathon you could write a whole novel about...*" True, as Ive
"*If you could only shut them doors in your head...*" Mentioning that
this was actually one of my primary life goals might have expended
more energy than I had at the time, so I just nodded sagely.
- My (very short) blog entry for the Self-Transcendence Marathon
- My accounts of running marathons in 2004 and 2005
- Dublin City Marathon website <http://www.dublincitymarathon.ie> , if
anybody is thinking of joining us next year...
The above posting can be seen (with pictures) at