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  • A Marathon Journey

Feel the burn

Running is always hailed as the ‘simple’ sport; it doesn’t require any heavy-duty equipment; you don’t have to sign up to a club or be instructed in how to run; and you can just step outside your front door and do it. That’s all true, but to a point.

Oonagh O'Mahony,
Deputy editor of Irish Runner

Since starting on this marathon journey I’ve began to learn a lot. In some cases, it’s been something new, and in others, it’s relearning how to do things considered ‘natural’. Top of that list – breathing.
From the very beginning, I struggled with breathing. I have sinus issues, which make breathing through my nose difficult and annoying. It also impacts my inner ear and when it gets really bad my ear will pop continuously. I’ll go from being deaf in one ear to it ‘popping’ clear for a moment and then back to deafness. It’s nothing to worry about and not something that can be fixed (I’m told), so I just put up with it. And, to be honest, it’s not an issue really except when it comes to sports.


In the early days of running, when 2 miles felt like an eternity, I was gasping for air, struggling to find a rhythm. As with everything on this journey so far, practice has helped and I’m now breathing far better and going much further. However, breathing still causes some difficulties, particularly in hotter weather. To be honest, I try not to think too much about breathing because, when I do, I begin to worry that I’m not breathing enough and then it progresses to hyperventilating. I’ve also heard that smiling can make it easier to breath. Perhaps it’s because you’re more relaxed. Whatever the reason, I listen to a lot of humorous podcasts, which not only distract me but help keep a smile on my face.

On the other hand, there have been new life lessons, like chaff (insert crying emoji here). Franky, it’s a lesson I could have done without, but here we are. The frustrating thing is, it could be easily solved, but a few busy weeks has meant there’s been no time to shop for wick-friendly clothing so, in the interim, I’m weeding out the offending items one by one, and hoping for the best with the rest. Another frustration though, is when a good guy turns bad and a trusted item of clothing, suddenly, leaves you hurting.

Another valuable lesson in burns came on a particularly sunny day recently – sun cream! I’m a fan of sun protection and fully intended putting it on before leaving the house. It won’t be a mistake I make again. Even on cloudy days in Ireland, our skin is exposed to harmful rays and sun cream should be part and parcel of our kit. We spend hundreds on runners and various bits and pieces we need to get us safely from one mile to the next, so adding a dollop of cream before going outside shouldn’t be an insurmountable challenge.

I’m also learning to listen to my body. While I am following the plan set out in the Irish Runner magazine, and putting in the miles as David Carrie advised, I am also doing it my way. For the most part, running on the days it says run and resting on the days it says rest. However, there are occasions where I’ve missed a day, hitting snooze one too many times and waking up without time to hit the road. And that’s ok. Sleep is hugely important to every aspect of life and I believe on those days, that’s my body telling me to rest. On those days, I will take things very easy, focus on refuelling and giving myself the energy needed to get out the next day and I’ll make up the miles by going out on rest days instead.

We are six weeks into David Carrie’s 20-week plan, which, he said, was the minimum time needed for your average runner. That’s a big commitment. That’s another lesson. I often looked on at the gazelle-like creatures around me, thinking they were the lucky ones. They were built to run, it was in their genes, they had obviously been running since they were kids and were naturally more inclined to be good at running. It’s not the case. Sure, all those things help, but running is about time and commitment. You have to give both to this sport. And, as the saying goes: you get out what you put in.

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Co Dublin
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