The topic of the Berlin marathon has arisen in most conversations that I have had in the past year. Ever since the major disappointment of withdrawing from the European Championships marathon in Zurich, it has been my goal. The Berlin marathon presents me with the chance of fulfilling a lifelong dream of qualifying for the Olympic Games. Imagine then, my excitement, or should that be my nervousness, that I find myself a mere six days away from the startline. This Friday I depart from my normal life to become immersed in a weekend surrounded by the world’s running elite. If I do not hit it right, all the effort and pain suffered in those many training sessions will have been wasted. All the hard work comes down to a performance lasting little over two hours. With only eleven months until the Olympics, if I had to squeeze in another marathon in six months time, it would leave little opportunity for recovery. Such is the life of a marathon runner. Next weekend is my best chance of qualifying and one that I am keen not to waste.
All the sacrifices I have made are running through my mind. The countless nights out I have declined, the holidays I have skipped and family celebrations that I have missed. The pressure is slowly mounting. Granted it may be pressure that I am voluntarily placing on myself but pressure none the less. I often feel that in order to produce my best race, I need that pressure. That risk of disappointment, of perceived possible failure. I find that whenever I reach that stage in the race where my head drops and thoughts of succumbing to the pain dominate, the pressure keeps me going. There are so many people I do not want to let down. People who have invested so much time and effort into what is essentially my own selfish dream. The list of people who I am indebted to is longer than I could ever have imagined and I am eternally grateful for their continued support and help.
Training for the past number of weeks has not been smooth, far from it. That, however, is the inevitability of marathon training, of pushing the body to its absolute limit and attempting to maintain it there. In terms of fitness, I am ready to perform. With luck next Sunday, my body will be physically ready, rested and prepared for the pain that the roads of Berlin will bring. It has been two years since my last marathon and after the agony of last year, I am already dreaming of the relief that the finish line will bring and the ensuing party afterwards. Before then though, I have a job to do. It is time to get my mental attitude right. It is time to prepare my body for the challenge that next week’s race presents. It is time to rest up and eat well. The game plan for the race will be decided next Saturday. After the recent, near dream-ending hurdle, my coach and I are hesitant to plan things too far in advance. The primary aim is to get to Berlin in one piece, capable of racing. The goal is quite clear, qualification. Anything less will be a great disappointment. Anything more will be an unexpected but very welcome bonus. Thoughts of records and exceptionally fast times have evaporated. The quote ‘sometimes you must retreat from a battle to win the war’ springs to mind. All I have to do is qualify. Next year is the time to go for the win. For now though, it is time to be sensible. It is time to be smart. It is time to go to work.
The Berlin marathon is at 9am next Sunday 27th September (8am Irish and UK time) but unfortunately it is only shown on German television. However, I am number 52 and my Irish training partner Kevin Seaward is number 82 for anyone who wants to track us on the app (http://www.bmw-berlin-marathon.com/en/service/bmw-berlinmarathon-app.html). Thank you to everyone who is making this journey with me, especially the medical support team of Noel, Tom, Rich, Eva and Jo for all the hard work that they have put in recently. Let’s hope it all pays off!