Couch to Dublin

Couch to Dublin

I hope you're all settled into your favourite chair and have some beverages and a few snacks ready as this is going to be a long post. It's about my journey from my first steps out the door in March 2014 until the finish line at the Dublin Marathon... A story I still can't believe I'm writing...

Back in March 2014 I met Laura and she somehow managed to get this lazy old boy off his backside and out the door for a 60 second run and a bit of walk, and she made me repeat it a few times a week. Then she made me run ever so slightly longer until 9 weeks (ish) later I was running for 30 minutes non-stop. I couldn't believe I was doing that and when I did my first Parkrun I was amazed I could run 5k without stopping. I thought to myself it couldn't get much better than that. Oh how wrong I was. You see, Laura had me hooked. I loved running, I loved the freedom it bought me, the respite it gave me from the daily grind. I also found an amazing community in Health Unlocked and later in my Facebook family in C25Kers and Beyond C25K. My virtual cheer squad, the people who "got it", who helped me through my first 10K, my injury lows and the highs of my first half marathon and introduced me to Fartleks, Hill Repeats and Intervals. I loved it; I was fitter than I had ever been; people noticed the difference in my body and my mind felt more free than it had for a long time. I'd found an outlet for the up and downs of life and something that was just for me. Me time - just me and my running. Running started to be a part of who I was, it was what I loved to do. But I'm also someone who likes goals - so I always had a new race to enter, a new distance to reach, a new target to aim for. I enjoyed working towards them and spent hours pounding out many miles to work towards those goals.

In April 2015 I decided - okay maybe I was cajoled into it - to enter the Dublin Marathon. I had a few HMs under my belt and I figured that if I could convince myself to run a marathon that life could pretty much throw anything at me and if I conquered a marathon then I'd push through anything. It was a massive target and I had no idea how I'd achieve it, but I set about planning it out in the same way I'd gone from nothing to 5k and then onwards to 10k, and then to HM. It was all about incremental improvement and keeping the end goal in sight. It was also about remembering the lessons from C25K, helping others on their journey and allowing yourself to learn from others.

I told my family I'd entered and had a great conversation with my Grandad about how I'd decided to do it and that it was being run on his 92nd birthday and he was awfully excited about it and told me about his days as a high school sprinter. I didn't even know this about him until I talked about my running - amazing what we don't know about those so close to us. Unfortunately, my Grandfather passed away on the 4th July this year and it hit me pretty hard. I really wanted him to see me finish the marathon and now it wasn't to be. I went out that day for a run and cried most of the way and when I stopped I had an ice lolly for him. One of my favorite moments in his last days was a photo of him enjoying what was to be his last one. In a amazing show of support, this brilliant community of runners I'd found, completely unprompted, all went out for a run that week and posted dozens of photos of them enjoying an ice lolly after their runs in memory of my Grandad. I was so humbled by this group of people, these runners, most of whom I've never met, supporting me through this tough time. I love you all.

I then spent the next few months training for the marathon, doing many many miles and lots of long runs. I did a few races and met up with fellow forum and Facebook members and had the pleasure of doing my first ever 20 miler with Vicky and Helen. I'll come back to this as that run helped me during my marathon in a way I couldn't have imagined. The long runs were hard at times, keeping to the plan was a mental test - something that would also come in handy on the day.

Fast forward to October and I flew out to Dublin with my family on the Saturday as the marathon was on a Monday (a bank holiday in Ireland). The hotel was a stone's throw from the marathon expo, so I headed down on the Saturday to collect my race pack and to explore the expo. It was surreal being at a "proper" marathon expo and after I got my race number, my baggage bag and all the bits of advertising, I was able to sit down and listen to the race director giving the low down on the race logistics and they did a video run through of the course. It seemed like the time lapse video went forever and I remember thinking "that really does seem like a long way". My family wandered off at some point and when they returned my 5 and 7 year old daughters had made some signs for the big day. "Go Daddy - you rock - we love you". This was real, this was happening and I was going to get in the start line! The hotel was right near the 40km (!) mark so I decided that was where I would meet them on the big day. See you at 40k I said, laughing at how crazy that sounded.

On Sunday after a decent night's sleep and a sports massage, I met up with Sheralee and Lauren, my fellow Beyonders who had been crazy enough to try a marathon on for size. The expo was really busy so we enjoyed a brief catch up and a quick (non-alcoholic of course) drink before bidding each other good night as we had a marathon to run in the morning. The weather forecast was looking decidely "wet and miserable" but I went to bed after laying out all my gear thinking "it's just another long run". This one has a decent medal at the end of it and happens to be the longest run you've ever done, but don't panic!

Morning came quickly and I stuck to my normal long run routine. Breakfast was porridge I'd bought over from home, a banana, some water and then on with the race gear. Nothing new on race day! An hour or so later and I got a cab to the start line and made my way to the baggage drop to drop off my warm clothes and dry shoes for after the race. There was a light drizzle and it was pretty cold at the start and I had a good 80 minutes or so to kill before my wave started off. I bumped into Sheralee not long after I arrived. This was great as it meant that we had a chance to have a chat and try our best to ignore the task ahead of us ("just another run", "this rain will be cooling us down soon enough", etc). I wandered off to find a bathroom before we kicked off and lost Sheralee as the wave moved to the start line but I got lined up in good time and had a bit of banter with a few of the boys before the start which had us all in good spirits.

Before I knew it, we were off. Here I was, crossing the start line of my first marathon. I had no idea what lay ahead, but knew I'd done all I could to deserve to finish it somehow. The first few miles were pretty congested but the Great North Run taught me to just kick back and enjoy it and not worry about trying to get around people. I had many miles ahead of me so no point in expending energy now. The first 5k kicked over in about 35 minutes and I felt really good. The crowd had thinned enough to get a decent rythm going in my run and I found this pace pretty comfortable. Somewhere around here I think I caught Sheralee and we had a quick hello and then we both got back into the rythym of our own runs. We stuck together for quite a few miles, sitting in nicely behind the 5 hour pace team who were doing an amazing job of keeping us to 35 minute 5K pace. 10K came up as we exited Phoenix Park (glorious place for a run) and by 10 miles we were back into the park for the second time and I was still right beside the pace team. I'd lost Sheralee somewhere but I wasn't sure if she was ahead of me or not as we'd been together for a while but we were each running our own race and our own pace. The crowd support was amazing with loads of people out at almost every corner and at least every 800m cheering us all on. My favorite signs were "Chuck Norris still hasn't run a marathon", "Go random stranger", "Motivational Sign" and "Push here for power". I was having a blast. I hadn't even really noticed that 12 miles had gone past... this was awesome!

Then I came around a corner and a bit of an incline. Not a big hill you see, but one of those long undulating inclines. It was also as we got back into the more residential/industrial areas so the scenery changed which I'm not sure helped. That's when I saw the big old gantry over the road that proclaimed "HALF WAY". One would think this was helpful. I can tell you, my dear friends, that this was NOT helpful. The rain started at this point and the wind picked right up and almost pushed me back to mile 10. There was a water station at the half way point and as I picked up my bottle of water I felt the back of my knee start to complain. This had happened in training and I was worried about it and I knew I couldn't keep this pace up and expect to still be upright by 26.2 miles... This was where having a Plan B helped. I wanted to stay with the pace team, but I knew my leg wouldn't have it (and if it did I'd risk a long term injury) so I reverted to my backup plan. Remember I said that I did my first 20 miler with Vicky and Helen? Well, my friends, that run taught me that I could walk/run in 500m intervals and I clearly remember Vicky telling me that what I needed to do was "keep your pace up while walking" and "stride out long when you walk". So, that's what I did... I walked 500m really briskly and then ran 500m until Mr Garmin buzzed out the kilometer... after 2 of those I realised my pace was still sub 40 minute 5K pace and I simply reset my goal to sub 5:30... simple as that... it was wet, it was windy and I was carrying a niggle behind my knee... all I had to do was continue what I was doing, trust my training and carry on... just 20 more 500m runs and 20 more 500m walks and I'd be home...

This was all working well and I called my wife at 30km to let her know I'd be at 40km in "about 75-80 minutes". Happy days - let's push on then. All going well, I can get this done, all is not lost and I'll run all of it one day. Still smiling, not even disappointed with myself at this stage as just getting this thing done is going to be awesome. Until mile 21 that is. At mile 21 there's another hill, not a long hill, not even a steep hill really, but it's a hill. I hate this hill, I hate this race, I hate this marathon, I hate my knee, I hate the rain, I hate the whole stupid thing. I want to go home now - this is stupid. I mean, I'm not even running it anyway, what's the point?

Then the weirdest thing happens - there is a DJ playing music to the runners. I hate him right now too. Right up until he says "and here's Andrew from Australia and he looks like he needs a big Dublin cheer!". The crowd all cheered, people were screaming out my name and calling me a superhero and shouting "fair play Andrew, you got this 5 miles to go!". You know what? I ran up that bloody hill... and I punched the air... and then I walked again once I was out of sight! But, I got through that dark bit of the day and all thanks to that DJ who won't have any idea how much he helped. If you're ever watching a race, cheer people on.. encourage them, give them a bit of a pat on the back. Sometimes that's all they need...

I'm now back in a good mood despite the rubbish weather and the walk/run strategy is working for me. Lots of other people are doing the same now and the walk breaks give me a chance to chat to my fellow runners, joke about how ridiculous this all is and convince ourselves that we only have a Parkrun to go. By now I know I'm going to finish it - I just don't know how broken I'll be by the time we get there! The weather gets worse and it's pouring down with rain so the walk breaks mean I'm also getting pretty cold too... keep smiling though - this is meant to be fun remember... onwards we go...

The next thing I remember is passing a hotel that looks a lot like the one I'm staying in. I'm a bit delirous by this point and then I hear my kids screaming out to me... they are standing out in the pouring rain with my wife and with their handwritten signs cheering me on. My wife is in tears, my daughters are beaming with pride. I stop, right there, have a bit of a cry myself, hug my wife, kiss my kids and tell them how much I love them and that this is the hardest thing I've ever done and how I don't know if I can carry on... my daughter says "it's just like a junior parkrun from here Daddy.. you can do that..." <sniff>

I hand over my haul of jelly babies and sweets to my kids that have been handed out to me along the way (I never want to see another jelly baby again for the record) and shuffle on towards the finish line. It's hard, really hard, I know I have less than a mile to go but my legs don't work... I'm going to walk it home... I'll finish it, my time will be good enough for me today but I'm done... I'm spent... I'll limp in...

And then someone grabs my hand and says "let's finish this". I turn to my right and there's the lovely Sheralee.. I pick up my legs and run a little bit until she says "you might need to slow down though"... we're both tired, we're both walking and running a bit... but we're together, and we're going to bloody finish this together! Then we see the Finish Line and it says "Marathon Finish Line" and we can see it, and we are going to run to it! I always love to see the finish line at a race but words cannot describe how much I loved seeing this one and how badly I wanted this to be over... We ran with everything we had left... I was running on empty but we gave it our all...

We crossed the line hand in hand and had a huge hug and told each other "we just finished a bloody marathon". Words cannot describe the feeling of accomplishment I felt as I crossed that line. I did it, the bloke who couldn't run for a bus 2 years ago, the bloke who was 22kg heavier and in hospital 3 years ago with a suspected heart problem. The guy everyone picked last for the sports teams at school. I am a marathoner! 43 years young...

Will I do it again? You bet! Brighton - I'm coming to get you! Will I train differently? You bet - I need to get more miles under my belt and more strength training to go the distance non-stop. You need to really respect that sort of distance. It's not to be trifled with!

That's why you need to run your first one with the only objective being to finish. Never worry about your time. I learned so much about myself and about my body through all that training and on the day. On the day, I was my best. No one can take that away from me... I'd also like to say a big thanks to my Grandad for watching over me and matching my stride. I know he helped me through the tough miles.

And to all of you for cheering us on... you're bloody amazing! All of you!

Never stop believing in yourself and what you can do. You don't have to run a marathon, but stretch yourself a little and you'll find you may not break after all.

And to my fellow Dubliner marathoners Lauren and Sheralee - it was a pleasure to have run with you in this amazing event! Hats off to you both - you're awesome!

52 Replies

  • Brilliant write up, well done Andrew

  • Wonderful write up of an awesome day and achievement. Big respect to you sir, well done!

  • Congratulations, and well done. Not sure I could do a full marathon myself, but I might pluck up the courage for a half at some point in the future.

    And that bling looks awesome !!

  • Such a bloody great write up - I almost feel like I ran the mara with you. Amazing achievement! Some very wise words there too that all prospective mara runners need to take to heart as well.

    Has the achievement sunk in yet?

  • Aww. What a great read Aussie. I've missed your posts here - this one brought a tear to my eye. Sounds like a real journey. It's very inspirational to read.

  • Really enjoyed your account Aussie and felt as if I'd made the journey with you. Very well done on completing your goal. Your emotional descriptions brought tears to my eyes in places. What a great achievement!

  • Andrew you are a bloody legend !

  • Great post, good on ya Andrew

  • Wow, that was amazing, well done to you and thankfully only my cat can witness my tears at this time of the morning.

    Anyone doing this should read this post

  • Amazing write up. Well done, what an adventure you are having.

  • welling up reading your journey in full, marathoner. Well done and we are all so proud of you. c u in London!!

  • Amazing !!!! Congratulations, and what an inspirational post, thank you !!!

  • Wow, wow, wow, well done Andrew! What a brilliant achievement and such an emotional write up (crying here). I have only just graduated and it is inspiring to read about your journey; our bodies (and us) are amazing.

  • A wonderful read Andrew, thanks. This is inspirational, you are inspirational! Enjoy your recovery time, wallow in the love and hugs (real family ones and virtual ones from here and FB) and as life returns to a new 'normal' for you, enjoy your planning for the next big one. (((xxx))) 😃🍾

  • Wow Aussie what a brilliant post, I could feel all that emotion pouring out and especially loved it when the DJ put that spring in your step! What a fantastic achievement! 😆lovely to read, can you pop back more often we miss your posts!

  • What a fantastic post! How amazing is it to be able to say "I ran the Dublin Marathon". What an inspiration you are to the rest of us - I have only managed to get up to 10k so far! A brilliant post - many many congratulations. :)

  • I started C25K within a week of you and I am absolutely in AWE of what you have achieved. I have loved following your progress both here and on beyonders. I am so glad you completed the marathon and I suspect it will not be the last one you do. You have fantastic family support and are setting your daughters a fabulous example. Your Grandpa would have been rightly proud of your amazing running. Many congratulations !!

  • Auss, you bloody legend, you've made me cry into my cup of tea! What a fantastic achievement! What a race report! What a celebration of the highs, the lows and the rewards that running gives us. Massive respect to you for all the hard work you put in before and during the race. No matter what, this is something that no one can ever take away from you.

    It's been a long time since you've posted on here m'dear. Don't leave it so long until the next time -I've missed reading your training stories and your tales of the little Vegemites. xxx

  • Just popped back to HU and saw your post - this is the fourth time I've been in tears reading about the three of you at Dublin!!! Brilliant account of the experience Andrew x

  • Fantastic race report, Andrew! You did amazing (and so did Sheralee and Lauren!).

  • Big, Big LIKE! Can't imagine doing this myself, but I am gathering so many pearls of wisdom for my first HM! You did so well!

  • Well done you Aussie, I know about 14 runners from here who did the Dublin Marathon on Monday - one of them started the C 2 5K with me in Jan 2014. I was able to track their runs live time online - very exciting - well done you - I have the greatest admiration and respect for anyone who has done a marathon.

  • Congratulations Aussie! What an achievement and a wonderfully inspiring and incredibly emotional account that had me welling up! Your family must all be so proud of you too! :-)

  • Yep - you had me in tears! Amazing achievement :) :) :) Well done :)

  • That is fantastic! And inspirational. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. You're truly hooked!

  • Fabulous report Andrew, although it is making me a tad nervous about Brighton :-)

  • Bloody hell ! Pass the tissues ! * Blow, sniff, snort * Ah that's better ! :-)

    Aussie , I just want to give you a massive proper Bear hug , what an amazing post ! It really felt like I was there with you and I found myself saying " Keep going Aus, keep going "

    You've described everything so perfectly, and I am so glad you have posted this on this forum, as it shows just what can be achieved through starting this programme .

    Massive, massive respect to you , Well done and Congratulations on this magnificent achievement . I am sure your Grandpa would be sooo proud of you , we all are , you are flippin' awesome !

    The bling is fab, love it ! :-) xxxx

  • Well done. Lovely write up, what a journey. Running can be such an emotional journey, I feel so privileged daily to go through everyone's journeys and read these amazing stories of how they turned out. Inspirational. You doing the winter run next year? Happy running.

  • Fabulous post, Andrew. I felt the hoghs and lows. Congratulations. You did amazingly.

    Phoebe Edna Beau xxx

  • Well done, Andrew! That's a great writeup, and the sheer magnitude of the emotions of the day really shine through. I've already said that a marathon isn't something I'd consider, that it's really too far, and that a half is far enough, but you know what? Maybe, one day. You've done a good job of selling it.

    I admire you. Perhaps sometime I can shake your hand.

  • That has brought a tear to my eye, I could feel the emotion all the way through and how much it meant to you. A very powerful post, thank you for sharing your story.

    Running a marathon is truly amazing and it is bl*ody far!! Many congratulations! good luck with Brighton and your new training plan. I am sure you have learnt loads from doing Dublin and no doubt your experience will now put you in a much stronger position.

    Fab bling and very much earned!!

    Congratulations and thank you once again!!

  • Fab post and fabulous achievement. I feel emotional just reading it! Truly inspirational to hear your story. Congratulations and all the best in your future running adventures.

  • Oh wow aussie what a fabulous post! I read it while eating lunch and I had to stop as it was so moving. You've been on an epic journey and it's been a pleasure to read about it here. So many congratulations to you. That is a massive achievement and one that no one can ever take away from you.

    And what a cracking medal! You are an inspiration and a running hero.

  • * PoppyPug wanders through the forum, dispensing tissues * :-) xxx

  • Thanks Pops - I needed that!

  • I know , Blimey what a post !

    Just off to stock up on more tissues :-) xxx

  • Hello Andrew

    Amazing write up, and let me congratulate you on a massive achievement.

    I knew you would do it.

    Wear that medal with pride, an awesome 26.2 Miles.

    I bet you can't believe it??

  • Aussie, that was just amazing - had it all. I'm now crying 😢 into my salad.

    Just well done xz

  • Wow, what a wonderful write up from a wonderful achievement. Well done Aussie, huge congratulations!

  • Well done Aussie, Sheralee and Lauren on your great achievement.

    Also, thanks for the report Aussie. Been in tears here. Bad day for me anyway as its 25 years since I lost my mum. The bit about your Grandad being with you made so much sense. I like to think mum is watching over me too - even if she (and my dad) are having a laugh at times.

    All three of you are an inspiration to us all.

  • Just a fantastic achievement for you, Sheralee and Lauren. AWESOME AUSSIE!!!

  • Awesome Aussie, just awesome. I must say I have absolutely no desire to run a marathon, and I am happy with that, but I am in awe of those that, have the desire to do it, commit to train for it and then actually achieve it. It is an incredible acheivement, huge congratulations, and yes, I needed some of poppypugs tissues too.


  • Fantastic Andrew, read every word, couldn't not! Hope you're having a well earned rest.

  • Absolutely fantastic inspirational account of your marathon run. Well deserved Congratulations.

  • Wow Andrew, what more can I say that hasn't been said already! Have always loved reading about your exploits, but this one pips 'em all. Fantastic running, a great achievement and an inspiration. Your Grandad would be a very proud man indeed.

    How lovely to have run with Lauren & Sheralee, what a fabby forum this is, it's amazing meeting up with others from here. I shall look forward to seeing you in London again next year x :-)

  • OMG! What a post, I am trying to build myself up to run 5k but cannot stop crying. This will stay with me for a long time, amazing achievement, well done. X

  • Amazing Aus! I'm in need of poppy pugs tissues *sniff* Definately an inspiration! Hope you've had fun replenishing all those calories and found a good spot for that bling 🏃🎉

  • Great run report, such a lovely comment from your daughter re 'it's just a junior parkrun, you can do it' ! Well done on your first marathon ! I spent Monday discreetly checking up on our Beyonders progress in Dublin whilst at work !!

  • Well done Aussie! You're the man!!!!!!! I got a fresh cuppa tea for that post, to give it my full attention. Hats off to you for all you've accomplished since those first tentative steps. I'm sure it will inspire more of us to have a bash.

  • I love a good race report and often get very emotional reading the amazing things everyone achieves knowing that we have all gone from the same starting point, through this fantastic program, on to 5K and beyond. I have just sobbed my little heart out reading your awesome report. What an outstanding achievement. You guys are so inspirational! I look forward to reading more on the next stages of your running journey!

  • Beautiful story. Congratumatopns :)

  • Wow an amazing account it makesme want to do it too - it's my home marathon too! I love your outlook too it's the best!!! Happy running

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