One of my favourite writers Joan Didion once wrote:
“A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.”
For many of us the Dublin Marathon of 2017 could be that place. It represented a pinnacle of physical effort and emotion from which we have emerged with a great sense of achievement. 2017 had the largest group of Meet & Trainers ever in the race.
The Group met almost 40 of us in luxurious surroundings in Hume Street courtesy of Barry O’Grady –where we made final preparations prior to the final departure for the start.
We headed up to the start and gathered in our various waves, excitement building and then we were off. As we progressed along the course – in perfect autumn conditions, a city bathed in sunshine. Running through Phoenix Park, I was reminded of the words of Walt Whitman “Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you.”
We passed through the tremendous support of Castleknock – before heading down the road where Tom Roche had tried to save the piteous squirrel two weeks previously. A story I recollected to my fellow travellers. I felt bad for not changing the ending.
Back into the Park again – where we came across close to the gate at Chapelizod the illusive Sheridan, a lone DSD supporter on the North Side. We turned back across the river and onwards towards to Kilmainham and Dolphin’s Barn. The noise at Dolphin’s Barn was deafening. As we progressed through half-way and on to Walkinstown - we were now on familiar ground.
Progressing down from Walkinstown into Terenure the DSD support grew with every mile as things got harder. So many familiar faces willing us on. As the legs tired – the Dalai Lama’s words rung loudly in my ear - “the goal is not to be better than the other man, but your previous self.”
Turning Orwell Road – the DSD water-station was like an oasis in the desert. We turned up through Milltown lurching up that hill and into the wilderness of Clonskeagh. I came across young Rian who was cheering loudly – certainly one of DSD’s greatest supporters. Oscar Wilde wrote the heart was made to be broken – but never I am sure did he contemplate that hill at Roebuck Road at 23 miles.
Heading down the hill a high five to our own Dr Donne – the N11 beckoned. Coach Declan roared like a drill sergeant at a fresh recruit as the bridge to optimism that represented the UCD Flyover came into sight – it was almost 24 miles and time to put the hard nose to the high way.
As we headed down onto the Merrion Road and into Ballsbridge – the chorus from George Harrison’s Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp went through my head - Let it roll, let it roll. The legs we’re heavy. The road went on forever before finally we were in Mount Street and across the line. Relieved and battered and ecstatic.
There were some tremendous personal performances amongst the group – and forgive me if I do not mention them all.
Amongst the men Colin Murphy led the DSD squad home in a new pb of 2.49 – relative new boy Fergus Collis a fantastic 2.56 – negative split master Colm Cunningham 2.58 – your loyal correspondent and the wily Jim Quinn slipped across the line in just under the 3 hours – marathon debutante Eoin Fogarty a well run 3.08 – pbs for Barry O’Grady and also Honda model James Berry.
Amongst the ladies – our supreme scientist Lorraine O’Driscoll led the crew home in a perfectly executed 3.30 a top 10 finish in her category – Romain King and Sarah O’Carroll followed in 3.33. Claire McGovern and Cynthia O’Neill-MacAvin, Susan Leyden and Shauna Griffin followed with a number of pbs.
We were inspired all the way this year by our coaches Denise and Declan – and especially Denise’s whose return to running the marathon this year was truly inspiring. For me Denise the 2017 Dublin Marathon is your place as in the words of Joan Didion – you claimed it the hardest.
As ever it has been a privilege to train with the group over the last few months. And a special thank you to everyone on the route for your support and encouragement.