Af­ter the emo­tional roller­coaster of the marathon you de­serve a pat on the back

Parts played by ev­ery­one work­ing to­gether cre­ate a mes­meris­ing event for the run­ner and non-run­ner alike

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health Fitness - Mary Jennings

Iwas ex­hausted and I wasn’t even run­ning. I spent last Sun­day – along with thou­sands of oth­ers – en­cour­ag­ing friends and strangers around the 26.2-mile course of the Dublin Marathon. The city feels dif­fer­ent on Marathon Day. The com­bi­na­tion of nerves, an­tic­i­pa­tion and jit­ters builds an elec­tric at­mos­phere long be­fore the ath­letes even cross the start line. Ev­ery­one wants the marathon to be a suc­cess and there is friendly ca­ma­raderie along the streets as the city comes alive on a bank hol­i­day morn­ing.

The faces of the marathon

No mat­ter what role you played on marathon Sun­day, give your­self a pat on the back. You were part of an in­cred­i­ble day and a won­der­ful team in Dublin city. The sun shone, the long au­tum­nal shad­ows led the run­ners along the streets and the en­thu­si­asm of vol­un­teers, sup­port­ers, or­gan­is­ers and gen­eral well-wish­ers gave the ath­letes a day to re­mem­ber and an ex­tra pep in their step.

The Ex­pe­ri­enced Run­ner

For the ath­lete, marathon day is the pin­na­cle of the sea­son. All the miles of train­ing are fo­cused on this one day. Many sac­ri­fices have been made over the months and pres­sure looms large as all eyes are on the clock. Even with an ideal sum­mer of train­ing be­hind them, the ex­pe­ri­enced marathoner knows that there is al­ways a pos­si­bil­ity that an un­ex­pected stom­ach is­sue or cramp could come be­tween them and their race goal. This un­cer­tainty is etched in the faces of these run­ners as they lim­ber up.

The First Timer

Never hav­ing com­pleted the dis­tance be­fore, the marathon vir­gin won­ders what the fi­nal six miles might bring. Gen­er­ally cau­tious, anx­ious, yet qui­etly op­ti­mistic, the first-timer is more likely than the ex­pe­ri­enced marathoner to get ab­sorbed and dis­tracted by the sights, sounds and sup­port along the route. There is more time to soak up the at­mos­phere and en­joy the sup­port of friends and fam­ily as there is gen­er­ally less pres­sure on the clock as there is no pre­vi­ous marathon time to beat.

The Cheer­leader

Lin­ing the pave­ments are ner­vous par­ents, sib­lings, and chil­dren who are anx­ious to see their beloved cross the fin­ish­ing line in one piece. With posters, bal­loons and sup­plies of jelly ba­bies and ba­nanas, many first-time cheer­lead­ers are mes­merised by the end­less flow of run­ners. They have limited time for dis­trac­tions how­ever as they take se­ri­ous their re­spon­si­bil­ity of mak­ing sure their ath­lete is spot­ted in good time amidst a sea of colour­ful run­ners. The Coach As a coach there is a dif­fer­ent sense of ap­pre­hen­sion on marathon day. We know the ef­fort and ded­i­ca­tion ath­letes have in­vested but also are well aware of the un­pre­dictabil­ity of marathon day. We know each of our ath­letes’ per­sonal sto­ries, their fears, their nig­gles and what the marathon means to them. We carry the weight of their marathon on your shoul­ders un­til they cross the fin­ish line. Some­times you share their dis­ap­point­ment, other times it’s tears of joy.

The Vol­un­teers Keep­ing every­thing calm and con­trolled be­hind the scenes are hun­dreds of vol­un­teers. An in­cred­i­ble amount of time and ef­fort goes into the event to make it look seam­less. So many gen­er­ous peo­ple give up their time to help make the day as spe­cial as it can be for the ath­letes and the city. Many vol­un­teers have their own run­ning his­tory while oth­ers are friends and fam­ily of run­ners who want to be part of this ex­tra­or­di­nary day.

Ad­dic­tive View­ing All these play­ers in the marathon com­bine to cre­ate an event that is mes­meris­ing for the run­ner and non-run­ner alike. From the pace of the front run­ners to the nov­elty of the fancy dress and char­ity T-shirts fur­ther back, there is some­thing ad­dic­tive about watch­ing the marathon. We are en­thralled by the colours, the sound of the feet, the fa­cial ex­pres­sions, and the va­ri­ety in build, age and tech­nique of the ath­letes. Strangers in­spire each other to keep mov­ing, send­ing en­cour­age­ment and be­lief to tired legs and minds. We feel a kin­ship with the ath­letes and want ev­ery­one to suc­ceed.

Bot­tle the feel­ing

Noth­ing beats the feel­ing for an ath­lete of see­ing their fam­ily and friends en route. When you spot your sup­port­ers on the pave­ment ahead, scanning the crowd for you, the emo­tion can be over­whelm­ing. We run faster, smile wider but most of­ten our throat tight­ens, our breath­ing strug­gles and tears well up. It may sound a lit­tle dra­matic to a non-run­ner, but it is a feel­ing in­de­scrib­able in words. A com­bi­na­tion of pride, awe and gen­eral ex­cite­ment leads to many a scream or tear of joy on the marathon course. If only we could bot­tle this marathon emo­tion, we would save our­selves many miles of train­ing.

Take it all in

It’s very easy to get car­ried away by the emo­tion of the day. As an ath­lete, whether your day was a suc­cess or if you felt the marathon didn’t go as well as planned, give your head and the body time to process what has hap­pened. Don’t rush into any more races or re­tire from run­ning just yet. Your body

Noth­ing beats the feel­ing for an ath­lete of see­ing their fam­ily and friends en route. We run faster, smile wider but most of­ten our throat tight­ens, our breath­ing strug­gles and tears well up

needs time to di­gest all it has been though. As a sup­porter, if you are in­spired by the ath­letes, start by build­ing your mileage grad­u­ally and sen­si­bly. There are many run­ning mile­stones to achieve be­fore a marathon and each should be re­spected. One day you can be the run­ner with the race num­ber and the marathon medal in sight but don’t rush into long dis­tance with­out a sen­si­ble train­ing plan.

Emo­tional Roller­coaster The whole event is an emo­tional roller­coaster for ev­ery­one in­volved. Mem­o­ries have been made which will last a life­time and will dic­tate fu­ture run­ning plans. Ath­letes will for­get the tough miles, tired legs and blis­ters in time but the at­mos­phere and en­ergy of the day will stay with us all for much longer. It’s a truly a day to re­mem­ber. Thank you to ev­ery­one who helped make it so spe­cial. See you all next year, I cer­tainly won’t miss it.

Mary Jennings is founder and run­ning coach with For­getTheGym.ie. Mary is also the cre­ator of all our Ir­ish Times Get Run­ning pro­grammes

PHO­TO­GRAPH: CYRIL BYRNE

Some of the Dublin Marathon’s 20,000 com­peti­tors set off on Fitzwilliam Street for their 26.2-mile chal­lenge last Sun­day.

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