It's Sunday evening, I have a warm seat near the fire, the telly is on, I have a full belly and I have three weeks worth of memories that will stay with me forever.
Today marks the final day of my running holiday in Ireland. We still have another week here but I'd be surprised if I pulled on the running shoes again (although you never know).
We have spent the last few days fundraising at Letterkenny hospital and at the Aura Sports and Leisure centre where the registration for the Donegal Marathon was held yesterday.
Today's marathon is the second ever Donegal marathon and I was lucky enough to also run in the event last year. This years course was to be a little easier for the marathoners as a very hilly section was removed and replaced with a reasonably flat section. Fresh from a physio session yesterday and with four days rest I was hopeful of a good run.
We woke to the sound of rain outside and it rained pretty solidly right up to the start and for about the first half of the race. The course was two laps with the half marathoners competing the first and then leaving the marathoners to it for the second lap.
We lined up at the start and I envied the runners who had enough foresight to bring along a plastic pauncho. As the gun went off I was grateful be out there with the crowd. Something I haven't experienced since the Gold Coast marathon back in early July. I didn't have much of a plan for the run as I had no idea how my legs would feel. I was hoping that I could settle at about 4.50 min per km and see how I went for there. My first km was 5.15, then 4.58, then 5.06. I have to say that it was all an effort. I know it was early days but you do sometimes know pretty early how you are travelling and I knew I was making pretty hard work of it. A few more km in the low 5s and I though that this was about the pace I'd need to stay at and try to maintain. My experience has been that my second halves are at least 3 or 4 minutes slower, so I was looking at 3.40 something. That's ok, I thought, just keep going. The other thing that was on my mind was that I was planning to run all the way, without my 1 minute walk every 10 min. Not sure that I can run without walking anymore! Still, I pressed on and enjoyed the company of the other runners. The marathoner's bib was slightly different and I did notice that there only seemed to be one or two other marathoners in my area. It was going to be a lonely second lap.
Just before halfway, my sister in law Noreen joined me on the course. My 5.05 kms had turned into 5.15s and it was feeling like a long day. i passed through halfway in 1.49. Perhaps low 3.50 something was on the cards. We ran a few km together and I actually started to feel better. We passed a few runners and my splits were down in the low 5 mins again. We passed another couple and I dipped into the 4.50s. After 25km I thought I'd just see if I could run a bit faster and see what happens. We crossed 30km and then 35km and I maintained a pretty solid shuffle. We also had another friend, John Thomas Fealty, following on a bike and between John and Noreen they got me to 38km. We then had two hills to go up and down before the finish. The first hill seemed to take my legs away and the downhill was a killer on the quads. The second hill was shorter and almost at the finish so I seemed to get up that ok. As I ran into the aura complex to complete a final lap of the track before the finish, in my mind I was sprinting. I thought that this was the last 300 meters that I would run for a while so I gave it everything. I was finishing like Mo Farah. (Unfortunately, I have since seen a video of my finish and I looked more like a baby elephant). I crossed the finish line in 3.37. My first ever negative split.
I have quite a few faster times in the marathon but this would have to be one of the most satisfying runs I have done. Symbolic of my whole trip it came with great support. I certainly wouldn't have been able to do it without Noreen and John Thomas and to be able to see Martina, Liam and Grainne on the course no less than 5 times was an absolute bonus.
So, that's it. I have had a huge running holiday, seen so much of this beautiful country, met some fantastic people along the way and got to spend some great quality time with my Irish family. I am a very lucky man!
I've had a huge amount of support via facebook and my website. I have become slifhtly addicted to reading the comments and looking at the likes. Thankyou to each and every one of you. It has meant a hell of a lot.
I'm looking to take it easy for the next week and then we are back to Australia. I couldn't have done any of this without my beautiful wife. I love you darling xx