After all my humming and hawing and injury concerns during the week, I eventually ran in the Frank Duffy 10 Mile 2013 in Dublin on Saturday 24 August. A light jog on the grass the night before reassured me that my Achilles tendon and associated bits were fine.
And guess what? I ran a new personal best of 1 hour, 12 minutes and 30 seconds!
(You can find all the Frank Duffy 10 Mile results on the Dublin Marathon website right now and in the Irish Independent newspaper on Monday 26 August.)
On my way up to the Phoenix Park that morning I was still wondering how to approach the race. Should I be cautious and treat it as a workout spin, or should I go for it and see how far I would get by running hard, regardless of my disrupted week?
As soon as I got to the start line and felt that familiar surge of race-day adrenaline, the question answered itself – go for it. I didn’t want to finish without having tried my best, and I resolved to be attentive and sensible for any problems from my Achilles during the race.
My original plan was to aim for 70 minutes, meaning an average of 7 minutes per mile. Even in the best of form, this would be the top end of my capabilities for a ten-mile race. My plan B was to beat 74 minutes, because my race number was 7359 and a time of 73:59 would still be a good challenge for me. Finally, my baseline objective was to improve on my previous time for this race, 77 minutes.
Just five minutes before the start there was a moment of light relief and mild worry – the electricity failed at the start area, which meant the inflatable ‘Start’ arch deflated and collapsed onto the start line and timing mats. Would the race be held up?
Fortunately, power was restored quickly and the arch stood proudly again – saving the blushes of the race sponsor, an electricity provider. A couple of minutes later, we were off.
The first mile was straight down the wide Chesterfield Avenue, the central thoroughfare of the park. I covered it in 7:05 and felt comfortable.
The next mile, along the side of Dublin Zoo, was winding and I lost my rhythm slightly, but after that I slipped into a strong and steady pace of around 7:15 per mile, my usual pace for the 4 hard miles of my current threshold runs.
The first half of mile five was along a footpath, as was the middle stretch of mile seven. I was lucky to have plenty of running space on both occasions, with room to overtake a few stragglers and faders. That said, I’m sure it would have been a crowded squeeze for larger groups of runners.
Entering the second half of the race, I began overtaking runners regularly, more because they came back to me than me speeding up to meet them. This gave me a nice boost, my injury worries now long forgotten.
After that second sweep down Chesterfield Avenue we turned just before the 7 mile marker towards the hilly western side of the park. The second and last water station here was meant to be my cue to kick on and close out the race strongly. However, I found the hills tough going and I did well to maintain the pace I had brought with me that far.
The last mile of the race started with a steep half-mile climb which would cause plenty of suffering to the field. But I like the challenge of running up a hill, and so I managed to keep up my pace. To help myself along, I decided to latch on to a runner who had overtaken me and was going quite strongly. He soon disappeared from view but not before he had unwittingly brought me up the worst of the climb. Thanks, pal!
Turning onto the Furze Road for the flat final half-mile, I was driving on fumes and could feel my head going. But I kept the legs turning. Finally, the finishing arch appeared in sight; the fire alarm bells started clanging in my head and I kicked on for the line. (I wonder sometimes if I’d be able to sprint a whole marathon if the finish line was visible from the start.)
I hit the finish line at exactly 1:12:30 – or 72:30, beating my race number by a minute and a half, and my previous time by 5 minutes. This works out as an average of 7:15 per mile – a little slower than I had planned a few weeks earlier, but still a race pace that pleased me greatly. It was a challenging race with some hard hills at the end, so I must be happy with how I fared. (I hear that by the end of the day the finish area was splattered with vomit.)
The race organisation was great, the weather was perfect for hard running (overcast and with a light breeze to cool us down) and altogether I enjoyed the event. My only quibble is that the finisher’s T-shirt is in luminous pink; comfortable as I am in my masculinity, I probably won’t be wearing that one on my training runs any time soon.
Next up for me: the Dublin Half Marathon in September and then the full Dublin Marathon at the end of October. Bring ’em on!