Four weeks have gone by since my last blog. Over 450 more miles are in my legs and nearly as many bags of pasta eaten. Such is my life, the life of a full time athlete. October is a funny month. It’s a time for preparation, a time for just digging in and getting the training done. There is nothing to be won in October, only hard work that’s required for success in the months ahead. I’ve had the benefit of running with Olympic and world class runners these past few weeks and it amazes me how out of shape they are at the start of October. By this time in November however, they are completely different animals.
In terms of my own training, things are going better than I could ever have anticipated. I am feeling strong, I am feeling fit. And recently I’ve entered that phase where I feel unbeatable, my confidence is higher than it’s ever been and I feel that there’s not a single human being who I can’t compete with and win. In short, I am ready to race.
The past four weeks I’ve been going out for runs every twelve hours, day after day. Sometimes the runs are easy, sometimes they end with me on my knees, retching and not knowing whether I’ll have the energy to get back up again. Somehow I always manage it and stumble through the warm down, bright spots in my eyes and wavering from side to side. That is training. It is neither glamorous nor comfortable and getting funny looks from dogwalkers is normal but it is these sessions that make you strong. It is these sessions that allow you to hit that part of the race with a mile to go and push on through the pain. Looking back over the past four weeks there is not a single thing that I would have done differently. I have done the miles, I have done the gym work, I have eaten right and I have looked after my body. If the next 30 months of training are as good as the past month then I’ll be ready for Rio.
But I get ahead of myself. My first proper race of the season is this weekend in Soria, Spain, a tough race against a strong Spanish and African contingent. A week later, I descend upon Santry Park, Dublin to join the best of Ireland’s cross country runners in racing the Irish European cross country trials. I know I am in great shape and running well but the trials are always tough and you can always guarantee that there will be others who believe that they can win. It should be a good race and hopefully Ireland can put a strong team together for the European XC Championships in December.
I feel as if a November blog from an Irish athlete wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the recent Dublin marathon. Congratulations to Sean Hehir and Maria McCambridge on their great wins and I wish them both all the success for the future. Congratulations also to everyone who managed to complete the course and achieved your own personal goals. Much chat has recently been about whether international invitations should be sent out for future editions of the marathon or whether it should be an Irish only event. My view on this is quite clear. Realistically a runner only has one autumn marathon in them each year. Why would an athlete pick to do an Irish only Dublin when they could do Berlin or one of the bigger city marathons? I know I would rather come 50th in 2.14 than come first in 2.18 and I imagine that most runners would be of the same thought. Granted if Dublin became Irish only, Irish athletes may get good prize money, publicity and sense of national pride but, in terms of advancing athletics in our country, it would definitely be a backward step. Athletes, especially in the marathon, need to compete with better runners to help push them on to times and positions that they want to achieve. I have had the good fortune to be the first Irishman home in a Dublin marathon and while it would have been nice to have been first across that finish line, I would not have had it any other way. I doubt that I would have run as well as I did if I was only competing against the other Irish athletes. Changing the Dublin marathon to be Irish only would most likely be counterproductive in that it would actually mean that the best marathon runners in Ireland would look elsewhere for better times. That is not what I want nor, I presume, the marathon mission or the organisers of the Dublin marathon.
Lastly, I would like to say thank you to the Mary Peters Trust for their recent support in me and my dream. It is a great organisation that does so much in helping Northern Irish athletes excel in sports. Hopefully I can do them proud and follow in Mary Peters’ footsteps by winning gold next year in Glasgow (I somehow doubt it’ll be in the shot put or pentathlon though!).
So until next time, keep that head down, get the miles done and all being well, I’ll see you in December with the Euro XC in Serbia just around the corner.