Last month’s blog was written soon after I returned from the Commonwealth Games dejected and frustrated. Injuries are a part of running, as well I know, but to pick up a stress fracture in my talus bone eight days before the Commonwealth marathon seemed particularly cruel timing. There were no forewarnings. Nothing to make me say wait a moment, something is not right. One day I was tapering and dreaming of what I might achieve in the marathon, the next day I was lying in an MRI scanner. There are only so many hits that one person’s body can take. Running can be as much mentally draining as it is physical, believe me. Maybe I should have gambled and run the race. I, however, decided to play it safe, to wait and bide my time. I am not at the gambling stage just yet and still believe that I have much more to achieve in this sport. Only time will tell.
Today marks a turning point. Today, for the first time in over a month, I was allowed to go for a run. Not 30 second reps at 8minute mile pace. Not even 1 minute reps. No today, I managed to go for a run. It was not fast or long and the simple motion of running felt completely alien to me, as it always does returning from injury. I am not quite at the moment when I am no longer ‘injured’ and able to declare that I am back training. Yet, after today, I am much more confident that that day is not far away. For any runner who has suffered a serious injury, they will realise what a significant occasion this can be. The rehab programme is ongoing, but with each week, I am a step closer to my goal of returning to full training.
There is never a good time for getting injured. However, my recent injury has given me the opportunity to concentrate more fully on the start-up of this year’s #DreamRunDublin18 project. For anyone who followed last year’s group, the process this year is similar. Once more, I am replacing my athlete vest in favour of a coaching cap, and taking on the enjoyable challenge of coaching ten Northern Irish athletes up until the Dublin marathon this October. Like last year, none of the chosen ten have broken the magical sub three hour barrier. With personal bests ranging from 3.07 to 3.58 it is going to be a challenge, but it is a goal which is both realistic and possible for each athlete. I told each athlete when we first met last weekend, that I believe that they each have the talent to break three hours. I would not have chosen them otherwise.
For those who have never heard of the project, it was set up last year between myself and Ryan Maxwell of www.nirunning.co.uk. A friend of mine from Belfast was competing in the London marathon 2017 and aiming for a sub 2.45 clocking. This led to an inevitable analysis of the Northern Irish marathon rankings. What we saw was interesting, if not surprising. Every year fewer than a hundred athletes from Northern Ireland break the 3 hour barrier. However, several hundred are able to break 1.26 for the half marathon, a time most conversion charts agree equates to a 3 hour marathon time. Why for the sudden drop off over the marathon distance? Yes, undoubtedly there are umpteen reasons for these half marathon runners not being able or not attempting to produce a similar standard of race in a marathon. However, what is in no doubt, is that the talent is there.
I discussed these findings with Ryan and, almost in passing, stated that I would be willing to coach a number of athletes and see if I could get them under that magical barrier. Ryan, in his true unassuming, yet charismatic way, jumped on the idea and pushed it through to reality. And so, the #DreamrunDublin project was born. I would coach the athletes and Ryan would publicise the group’s progress through www.nirunning.co.uk. We opened up the application process for a single week in Apil 2017 and was amazed to find email after email arriving in the inbox. Twenty six weeks later, I sat with ten of those applicants at the finish line of the Dublin marathon. Four had run personal bests, three had broken the 3 hour barrier. But beyond that, I believe that they each had formed friendships and enjoyed the process. That essentially, is why we run, and for me as coach, the formation of those friendships was as enjoyable to watch as the coaching itself.
The chosen ten athletes this year are:
Conor Hogarth 22 3.07
Peter Thompson 27 3.42
Adam Ferguson 27 3.25
Liosa McKeown 31 3.13
Michael Broadhead 35 3.12
Tracey Atkinson 39 First timer
Wesley McDowell 40 3.39
Peter Morrison 42 3.14
Philip McBride 43 3.58
Eamonn O’Reilly 47 3.07
Over the next few months, I hope that all of the ten enjoy the training and run the times that I believe they are capable of. The first group race outing will be at the Lisburn 10k on 20th June, followed by the South Dublin 10k towards the end of July. I would like to thank the organisers of both the Lisburn 10k as well as the Dublin marathon for supporting the project. The Dublin marathon is a fantastic race and rightly stands as one of the most popular throughout Europe. For anyone yet to experience running the course I would encourage you to enter. Failing that, I would encourage you to come down and support all runners and the #DreamrunDublin18 ten on Sunday 28th October. Good luck to you all. Remember, the more work you do in the next two months, the easier the following months will be.