Finishing on The Mall(s)

The Mall in London, 1960s, with Buckingham Palace in the background. (Photo: Irish Memory)

It’s spring marathon season, and for us here in the English-speaking corner of Europe that means one race. Many runners are training hard and visualising intently for their glorious finish down The Mall. That includes me.

Yes, in a few days time, current illness notwithstanding, I’ll be blasting out a glorious run at the Tralee Marathon in Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Oh, there’s the London Marathon too, and that also finishes on The Mall.

If you know London, then you’ll know The Mall is the long, wide boulevard of red tarmac that sweeps from Trafalgar Square up the the gates of Buckingham Palace. Apart from London Marathon day, our British friends can be found on The Mall waving their Union Jacks on the occasion of some royal good news.

The Mall in Tralee is less spectacular; it’s the main shopping street in the heart of town. Back in the 1980s, when I was in shorts, it was a bustling two-way thoroughfare. Fast forward to today, when I’m still in shorts, and it’s a slightly quieter one-way street; an out-of-town shopping mall has hit The Mall. But the bustle will be back on Sunday morning.

The Tralee Marathon wasn’t due to finish there. On last year’s course and this year’s intended course, The Mall was the second-last street before a right turn onto the finishing straight down the wide Georgian thoroughfare of Denny Street. I had been visualising this finish since Christmas – in fact, during my Christmas morning run in Tralee I took the opportunity of a practice finish down a deserted Denny Street, to help me visualise it all the better.

But then in February, just a few weeks before the race, the Tralee Marathon organisers announced a change to the finish. The gaelic football match between Kerry and Donegal is scheduled to take place in Tralee on the same day as the marathon, and with extra traffic expected in town for both events, the local authorities need Denny Street to stay open and allow traffic to flow through town. And so the race will finish just before Denny Street, on The Mall. (The start line has been moved back the same distance.)

“Ha! So much for your visualisation!” says you. Well, as it happens, I had already practised my 2015 spring marathon finish on The Mall – the London version.

Regular readers will remember that I took a long run in London one sunny Saturday morning last September. At that stage I had entered the ballot for London Marathon places and was awaiting the result. Well, on that London run I made sure to get in some practical research – heading back from Tower Bridge and along the Victoria Embankment, I hung a right at Big Ben and followed the last couple of miles of the London Marathon course.

Even after 16 miles I got a tremendous shot of adrenaline from turning right in front of Buck House and kicking down The Mall. (The four miles after that to finish my long run were a bit tough, but there you go.)

Now, it mightn’t be apparent to you why practising the finishing straight of one marathon can help with the finish of a different marathon just because they finish on streets of the same name. All I can say to that is: if you’ve got to ask, then you’ll never need to know.

Enjoy your spring marathon finishing kick down The Mall, wherever it may be. And one reminder to anyone doing the Waterford Viking Marathon in Ireland in June: you’re starting on The Mall, not finishing there. Waterford is an odd place.

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