“Pain and elation,” summed up Stephen Broe, a Maths and French student, speaking of his first-time marathon experience.
Broe was among the 16,825 people who took to the streets of Dublin over the October bank holiday weekend to run the 26.2 miles (42km). With record breaking numbers running the Dublin marathon this year, it seems that the marathon succeeds in attracting even the idlest breed of humans: students. I met with these few, ascetic-loving Trinity students to find out why they would sign up to 26.2 miles of pain – even if elation is served on the side.
Kevin Gildea, studying biomedical engineering, is no stranger to endurance. He completed two triathlons over the summer with hopes to build up to an ironman next summer. The ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride finishing with a marathon. “I thought I should do a marathon before a full ironman,” explained Gildea.
Other Trinity students running on the day included two dentistry students, Robyn Crowley and Rachel Brit, as well as Féidhlim McGowan, Anton Cunning and Rory Burke of Trinity’s athletics club. McGowan, a recent masters graduate in law, was in top form finishing in 29th place and in a spectacular time of 2.34:10.
The not-so-great wall
Maybe it’s because youth is on her side, but the dreaded ‘wall’ (no, not Trump’s one), the one that marathon runners hit typically around mile 20 (32km), didn’t come too hard for fourth year dentistry student Crowley.
“I wouldn’t say I really ‘hit the wall’ but it just got very difficult,” said Crowley, who ran with her sister finishing in a time of 3 hours 30mins. “I’d say it was really fun up until about 30km but then 32km came and it got harder and harder.”
Broe credits the support of the crowds and his family for getting him through the final kilometers of the race.
“You’d be surprised how much the crowds pick you up. It sounds cheesy,” said Broe. “Everyone hits the wall around Milltown, they say. I was fine, my hamstring seized up and I was kind of terrified about that but I saw my family at Nutley Lane and you see them and you get a boost for about 10 minutes. And then you’re in pain but it doesn’t matter because you’re almost home.”
Signs of support
Supportive crowds lined the route, holding homemade signs or boxes of jellies or energy gels for the runners. “It makes such a difference,” said Crowley.
“There were some brilliant signs. So many people had posters saying ‘Touch here for power’ so I was hitting every single one of those on the way! And there were other posters saying ‘Pain now, beer later’ and there were kids out with boxes of sweets saying ‘Eat these to go faster’.”
“Dublin is special in that way because you’re passing through little towns along the way and each little community rallies together and makes their own signs,” said Broe.
Rachel Birt, 3rd year dentistry student and second time marathon runner, completely missed her whole family supporting her as she thought they were screaming for another Rachel. Birt, keen to improve her time from last year finished in an impressive time of 3hrs 15mins.
DUHAC, Trinity’s athletics club were also out in force on the day, not to run themselves but to steward part of the marathon route between mile 23 and 24 – well placed for a front row seat to the elite race. “Dublin was alive on Marathon Sunday,” said cross country women’s captain Bláthín Sheil. “You can’t help but come away with that runner’s ‘high’ after spectating.”
The technicalities of a marathon are not to be underestimated. Preparation and routine is vital, they say. Gildea, an avid cyclist, ran a pretty low number of miles in preparation for the marathon, however, training an average of 30km running per week.
“I didn’t do a huge amount of running because I had to do cycling training as well,” explained Gildea. On top of his running training he cycled roughly 150km a week as well, mileage that stood to him on the day. “I didn’t really hit the wall. I think that was to do with the cycling because you’re out for longer when you’re cycling so you build up that endurance a lot easier than you could if you were just doing running.”
Broe’s decision to do the Dublin marathon was a New Year’s resolution or elusive dare with a friend. Broe clocked up the mileage while working in Dublin over the summer and he decided to run for the ‘Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland’, managing to raise €1750 for the charity. “It was nice to have that to run for as well,” said Broe.
Preparation didn’t go too smoothly when two nights before the big day, Broe, who lives on Trinity campus, had his night’s sleep interrupted by a fire alarm.
“I went to bed on the Friday, early enough and about four o’clock in the morning the fire alarm in the building rings, everybody has to evacuate. We’re all standing outside, everybody’s very grumpy and eventually we get told we can go back in. Then at five o’clock the fire alarm rings again!”
When asked what he did to celebrate after the marathon, Gildea replies: “I had an ice bath.”
“As soon as I crossed the line my legs turned to cement and it was like that for the next two days, really.”
“It was like a rollercoaster straight after,” said Broe. “You’re at the top when you finish. Nothing really compares. The day after was agony.”
“I needed Monday just to sit all day,” said Crowley. “I couldn’t even study, I put on Netflix and just sat there. I couldn’t go up and down stairs.”
And would you do another marathon?
“Definitely,” says Gildea.
“Maybe when I finish college,” said Crowley “I’ll be too busy next year.”
“I think I might sign up to Dublin again next year,” said Broe.
So, caveat emptor to the reader; if you ever find yourself doing a marathon, you may actually like it.