We'd already run a good half a kilometer before the race start, after 'nipping' to the loo (i.e. queueing for half an hour) and then realising we were still a 10 minute walk from the start line and our wave had just left. Not to matter. We passed the start line only a couple of minutes after we should have.
3 Miles in
If you like personal space, then the first three miles of a marathon are not pleasant. It made me think of motorway driving at that time of day when there's not so much traffic that everything's crawling, but enough to make overtaking hairy. At least the time past relatively quickly, as we were too focused on not getting trampled to worry about time or distance. My knees were aching, but I put this down to the mad side-to-side dashes.
5 miles in
On the flat and straight and there was no denying it - my knees were hurting. Hahaha. At least when I ran my 18 mile training run they had the decency to hold out for 10km. Luckily, we had a beautiful stretch through Phoenix Park to keep us going. The jelly babies came out.
10 miles in
"The race doesn't start until we're past the half-marathon point" was Catie's mantra at this point, as if we were currently just out taking a stroll. By this point the sharp pains in my knees were shooting up to my hips. I probably should have stopped, but Walkers don't quit (or walk for that matter).
We enjoyed a mini celebration as we crossed through the half way point (as much as you can enjoy anything whilst running on aching legs and sore joints). More downhill. Pretty much everything had been downhill at this point. When was the uphill going to come back to bite us?
14 miles in
Crashing down from the half way high. Maybe this was 'the wall'? It was certainly a wall (spoiler: we met several more later on). The 14-15 mile stretch epitomised misery for me. Luckily I had Catie to feed me jelly babies and keep me motivated.
16 miles in
10 miles to go. "We can definitely do this now" I remember saying. I regretted that almost immediately, as I'd reached the point where one of my legs would sort of give way every few minutes. I wasn't about to collapse, but it knocked my stride as well as bringing a fresh wave of pain. Still, the crowds were amazing, there was more downhill, and we were doing good splits, and we were counting down the miles.
18 miles in
Wall number 2. We'd broken the 'don't drink Lucozade in the race if you didn't drink it during training' rule and the stomach pains were kicking in. Luckily they passed within a few miles, and the lingering sickness was at least a distraction from the pain everywhere else.
20 miles in
Just six miles to go and we were still on target for sub 4 hours. Finally, a bit of uphill! Child's play really though, and then we were back to more downhill. It was around this point that we realised why we hadn't caught up the 4 minute pacer yet - because the 4 minute pacer had gone off in the wave before us, crossing the start line a good 12 minutes before we did. Doh.
21 miles in
Another wall? From this point it was a continual cycle of highs and lows. Or lows and super lows. 5 miles - 8km - sounds like nothing, but it seemed to drag (apart from the fact that the 22 mile marker seemed suspiciously close to the 21 mile marker). My knees hurt. My hips hurt. My leg muscles hurt. Even my arms hurt. And my chest was sore too. Every time we passed through a cheering area Catie would speed up, and several times I was close to begging her to slow down.
23 miles in
The end really did seem near now. We were on for a good time, and there was more downhill. The pain was indescribable, but we were so close that we could surely make it. A minor panic ensued when my Fitbit told us that our pace had gone down to nearly 7 minutes per km, but Catie checked on her phone and we concluded that the GPS on the Fitbit was screwed up.
25 miles in
The best marker. We were numbed from the pain and surrounded by crowds cheering us on. Emotions were running high. I almost had a fit when, 200m past the mile-to-go marker someone shouted "only one mile to go!" I'm sure they meant well, but at that point in a marathon the difference between 'one mile to go' and '1400m to go' is significant.
The final half mile
We could see the finish. It just wasn't getting any closer. I can't describe the feeling of those last 800m. I remember coming pretty much to a halt with around 400m to go, as my legs seemed to shut down, and Catie grabbing me and practically dragging me along until I snapped out of it. With what was the most effort I've put into anything in my life, we made it to 200m to go, and the finish line did actually start to get closer. And then suddenly it was there.
We did it. 3:54:34. Never. Again.