Muhammed Ali said: “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses. Behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”
October 27, 2019 – this is the day when you will dance under the lights but by then, you’ll have read the books, seen the social media memes, followed the experts and you’ll know exactly what to do. The fight has already been won.
But as you stand in your corral, being among 22,500 fellow runners can feel like a very lonely place. What’s important to remember now is that you are where you are, the work has been done and you can’t get any fitter. Regardless of how your training went, the good runs and the bad runs are in the past. The wind, the rain, the heat, and the cold are all outside of your control. You’ve prepared meticulously for what lies ahead and the only battle now is the one between your head and your feet.
The Dublin Marathon is known as the ‘friendly marathon’ for a reason. Dubliners flock to support the race each year – you could be forgiven for thinking that every single runner passing them is their first-born child, such is the love and encouragement they display. Dublin marathon supporters take pride in the belief that their section of the course, right outside their homes, is one of the toughest and they see it as their duty to get you through it – and get you through it they will. If they see your name, they’ll call to you like a long-lost friend and if you need a boost, then find someone on the other side of the barrier, look them in the eye and they’ll give you a boost like you’ve never known before.
The runners around you, the pacing teams, the volunteers and the marshals are all there to get you around the 42km through Dublin’s historic streets. Feed off them, thank them and appreciate them because they’ve a long day ahead too. Buddy up with other runners around you, encourage each other. If you have the energy, share stories, a nod, a smile, or a wink – it could just be the difference between someone finishing or not. Marathon day is a day of celebration – of sport, fitness, friendship, and our city, but most of all, a celebration of effort.
The children supporting parents, the parents supporting children, the families with signs, the spouses straining their eyes to see their loved one as they turn the corner – they are all part of the day and, while they may be looking for their someone special, they’re also out to support everyone else – they are there for you. Injured runners who couldn’t make it to the start line look on with both envy and regret. They bring boxes of jellies, slices of orange and spare gels because they know what it’s like. They can’t run but they want you to have the best run ever.
You’ll wear the t-shirt!
People talk about ‘mental toughness’ like it’s the holy grail of performance. I’m not so sure that’s true. Be tough, of course, but if you hit the wall and start to walk, are you weak? If you miss your ‘A’ goal, have you lost the battle? If the 4:15 pacers move ahead down Fosters Avenue while you suck in air to calm your burning lungs, are you a loser? Absolutely not! You’re running a marathon, it’s supposed to be difficult but what makes you strong isn’t about what happens on the day, its about how you handle what happens on the day. There is little difference between a three-hour finisher and six-hour finisher, after all, you both ran 42km.
Muhammad Ali is right; the battle is won far from the start line. It has been won on long runs, short runs, runs on holiday and before school, work or college; on late-night runs because you wanted to wait for your dinner to settle; through cross training, swimming, cycling, gym work, pilates, yoga or the dreaded foam rolling. You’ve battled niggles and managed injuries, physio bills and massage appointments – you have been there, done that and soon, you’ll wear that t-shirt!
The day has dawned and you are in control of your own destiny, be brave but most importantly be you. Your marathon time, place or finish won’t define you because the only battle you will face on October 27 is with yourself. You’re there because you’re ready.
Good luck from us, make sure you start with pride and finish with a smile.