The Dublin City Marathon is akin to childbirth, no two ways about it. The first, five years ago, was a natural delivery, with smelly Jo Malone candles. Ignorance is bliss. The second, you know what lies ahead, was torturous. Tears, snot, pushing, episiotomy, forceps, section, kitchen sink, skin n hair flying, you name it, a war of attrition to delivery. Just like the mid wives down the business end cajole you along, come on, one more push, you’re almost there...the same words are shouted from the enthusiastic crowds lining the streets of Dublin...come on now, one more push, you’re nearly there...liers the lot a yiz! The 4.30 pink pacers were in my sights for 20 miles. I sucked my gels, drank my water, was in the zone. I sang loud with Jerry Fish, raised my hands to Beth Ditto, whaled with The Boss, rocked it out with ACDC, frowned with Radiohead, boogied with the Bee Gees, yeah-yeahed with Willy Moon, rock-a-billyed with Richard Hawley. As you tune in to your rhythm and run your race, surreally around you, all dignity goes out the window, just like the labour ward. Those not wishing to lose time or chance the loos (nightmare!) get down with nature, arses swinging in the wind behind the nearest tree trunk, not a dock leaf in sight.
All was well in the camp till I rendezvoused with the ‘Wall’ at 20. Nay, not only did I hit the wall my friends, I dragged the wall along with me, the rest of the runners sitting on it, for the last 6.2 miles. The chest pain started and the voices in my head out shouted the supporters. Stop, they shouted, just stop here, on the ground, on this bit of an aul footpath, just beside that bin there, see..,you can just curl up and well, die. I dug deep. I hit rock at 22. The Kango Hammer came out, I could dig no more. I counted steps, recited whatever class of poetry I could think of. Our Fathers, Hail Marys, Glory Bes were muttered. Anyone sick, infirm, depressed, under the weather, struggling, the last 3 miles were for them. In the end, I said to myself, over and over, I can, so I will...I can, so I will. I can run, I can finish. There are plenty who cannot. From 23 to 25 was a blur as I weaved my way along, shuffling, inch by inch, noises emanating from me like a cow calvin’ in a field. As I crossed the line the tears flowed, long and hard, and the chest pain continued. The steward put the medal around me, gave me a big hug, asked was it my first. No, I cried, it’s my second. I didn’t say it would be my last. My legs did their own thing, I no longer controlled their movement and the tears continued to flow. This running business brings up stuff, a whole lot of stuff, a release valve for all that emotion we carry around with us. So I let it all go, left it on the streets of Dublin.
So, given the chest pain, disorientation, breathlessness and blurred vision, coupled with the presence of a heart murmur, I was advised get it checked out. I did think, it mightn’t be a bad way to go, marathon delivered and my shorts clean as a whistle! Off to the St John’s Ambulance tent I went, in a wheelchair and as I passed the other veterans just out of their trenches, we exchanged thumbs up. Next of kin?...any medication?...when did it start?....at what mile?...scale of one to ten?...and why didn’t you stop! A whack of an oxygen mask, two ECG’s later, I was given the all clear and off to McGrattans with me to meet with the women for a pint of the black stuff and a feed of fish and chips. Like Manna from heaven. We wore our Finisher t-shirts and medals with pride and regaled each other with our birthing stories. Later, I boarded the bus to Galway, folded my aching limbs into a seat and arrived home to the crew waiting with a welcoming banner ‘Well done, Mum’. The ecstasy, after the agony. To the next one.