Home News My Marathon Prep and Race…Dublin ’08, by Paul Hickey

My Marathon Prep and Race…Dublin ’08, by Paul Hickey


From Eagle AC Written by John Quigley
Monday, 03 November 2008
Well what about my first marathon experience…I must say I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. I have raced in big events before, the Bupa 10K in the Phoenix Park, the Ballycotton 10, to name a few. It wasn’t that I particularly wanted to do Dublin either, the timing suited after the triathlon season had ended. For these reasons I approached the marathon to some extent like just another road race…how wrong I was!

I could throw out all the clichés you have heard about the marathon (yes there are a few that the GAA have loaned to other sports), but the fact is they are all true…20 miles IS halfway, nutrition IS key, your legs ARE feather-light for the last km and the buzz off the crowd IS fantastic!!

Of all the races I have competed in the last 2 years, and there have been many, this was up there with the best. A key reason for this is the scale of the race; the circuit was one loop taking in a huge chunk of the city. In addition as we made our way through the course the runners were met with supporters on every corner before entering the home strait after Trinity College to be met with a sea of people cheering you home, this is what made it all so amazing!
Another reason I was happy with the whole thing was that my own race went well, selfish I know but its true! As I said earlier my tri season ended in August with me badly needing a rest. I took 3 weeks where I did very little and thought about leaving it at that till next year. Anyway I got back on track and after a few weeks training I felt like I was getting back to form. I think the break was key, even though I felt terrible for the first 2 weeks. When I eventually got going again I felt strong and ready for the tough program I had in front of me. I met up with Cathal Kelly for the tougher sessions like the mile repeats and I am sure that made a huge difference also.

I got to ‘Cork to Cobh’ feeling pretty good but unsure of my potential marathon pace. I decided not to race it hard and just to go a little quicker than what I thought was my marathon pace, about 6.20. It turned out I averaged 6.11 per mile but felt good all the way and was sure I would get another 4 or 5 miles out of it. In hindsight after the race I thought after a long taper, big carbo load and no wine 2 nights before the race that I won’t have to slow down too much from the ‘Cork to Cobh’ pace. You will hear all sorts of opinions on what should be the difference in your splits between different length races. I took some of this on board but I was the one who knew what I was or was not capable of judging by my training and how I felt after the race.

Anyway on to the race….I did a fairly hefty carbo load involving around 700-800grams of carbs based on my body weight (4-5grams per pound body weight for the two days prior and 1-2 grams the morning of the race at least 3.5hrs before the start. This had me tipping the scales at 90.1kg on the Saturday night before!! It’s been a while I must admit!!) and a taper that included around a 35% drop 2 weeks before and an additional 40% in the final week. I felt a little heavy (no surprise) in the first few miles but was not worried as it was early days. There was plenty of undulations and we had a stiff headwind on the way out to the Phoenix Park and up Chesterfield Avenue in the park itself. I think the first half of the course in general was pretty tough with the long drag up Crumlin Road being the place to tuck in and conserve energy. The top of Crumlin Road marked halfway in 1:23:45. I was still well on for sub 2:50 but 2:45 was always my real goal. At this point the road went in our favour and so did the wind. I took some coke (my new favourite race drink) from Mark Risely’s coach and decided to up the pace and see what happened.

Over the next 10 miles I found a great rhythm and was bringing the splits down all the time. It was during this time that the carbo loading kicked in, I was moving through the field all the time as people were starting to suffer. I ended up passing over 25 people in the second half without being overtaken by anybody. I was starting to take in lots of gels and drinking coke and dioralyte that my brother was dishing out from his bike and felt really strong. In total I took on about 7 High5 gels, about 300mls of dioralyte (1 sachet per 250mls water), 400mls of coke and a couple of swigs of water at all the stations during the race. The last three miles were difficult, we were against the wind again going into town by the RDS and well, it was the last 3 miles of a marathon….you’re going to suffer!

The support was a great boost that numbed the pain a bit. Coming up the final strait was a great experience and worth the wait. I came home in 1:22:07 for the 2nd half so that made it even better. So what of my experience for new marathon runners; the key aspects are the carbo loading, the taper, running the race you think you can run, the nutrition in the race and pacing yourself into the race.

There were a lot of people coming back to me during the race rather than me catching them, their problem being one of the above going wrong (assuming they had realistic targets to begin with). I thought this would be useful for people thinking about the marathon, as I would have been interested in reading this before I raced. People may not agree with my approach and I am sure there are plenty of improvements (please feel free to let me know for my next one) but it worked well for my first Marathon. For the record (and because I am proud of it) I finished in 68th place overall, in 2:45:52.