It is often said that hindsight is a wonderful thing. When it comes to running and injuries however, I have learnt that foresight is the key. The ability to see into the future. To visualise a time when any injury has passed. To see oneself running at top speed, without pain and carefree. Four weeks ago, the pain of my double metatarsal stress fracture was still raw. From running twenty odd miles a day in the build-up to the marathon, I found myself not allowed to even walk. It was tough to keep the focus. To keep the determination and the drive. The hunger is always there but sometimes frustration has the louder voice in my head.
I have had numerous injuries throughout my running career. Whether the pain is in my foot, knee, hip or back, I have been told several times by different medical professionals, that there is a chance that I might not be able to run competitively again. And yet, fortunately, my body has healed. It might only take a few days, other times it has taken months. But it has always healed. So when the injury struck this time, I knew what to expect. I knew where my running fitness was at and I was keen not to lose all that benefit. And so I hit the gym bike. Hard. I was pushing myself to near exhaustion daily, in an attempt to fill the void left by not being able to run. As a result, I believe that this injury period is one of the rare occasions where I have not lost much fitness while not running. Yes, it will take time for my body to become accustomed to the motion of running again, but already, I am beginning to see a time where I can run fast and pain-free once more.
The build-up back to full training has been, and continues to be, gradual. After a solid six mile tempo run last week, I ran my first session yesterday. Eight by three minutes on the grass, with one minute jog recovery. Covering one kilometre in each of the three minute reps, it was a solid session. It was by no means anything special or would set the world alight, but importantly for me, it was painfree. The session marked a change. It is that moment every injured runner dreams of. That moment when they consider themselves no longer injured, and are ‘healthy’ once more. I am still taking each day as it comes, and keeping a close eye on this foot. But also, now, I have one eye on the next target, the European cross country championships. With the Irish trials only eight weeks away, I have a lot of hard work and many miles to cover. But the hunger is there. The determination is there. I have worked hard all year with very little to show for it. I have to believe that the next twelve months will be different. Undoubtedly others will help but ultimately, the only person capable of changing my future will be me.
Finally, with the Dublin marathon only a little over four weeks away, I am getting excited. This will be the first time since I raced the Dublin marathon in 2012, that I will be in the capital city on raceday. However, this year, I will be there not as an athlete but rather, in a coaching capacity. Those who have been following the DreamRunDublin17 project, on nirunning.co.uk, will know that the Dublin marathon is the culmination of this year’s project. Sadly, the ten athletes have been reduced to eight, as a result of injury. At the start of the process, I told all ten athletes that I believed that they were each capable of breaking the three hour mark. Having seen how they have progressed in training, they have all re-enforced my belief. Unfortunately, the recent injuries to Jonathan and Darren will mean that they will not be able to achieve their goal in Dublin this year. For the rest, the final preparations are underway.
Marathon running is as much a mental sport, as it is physical. Nerves are beginning to show. Doubts are beginning to manifest themselves. The reality of what the athletes are going to attempt to do is sinking in. There is no doubt in my mind that they are all capable of breaking the three hour barrier in this year’s Dublin marathon. As coach, no matter what happens on the 29th October, I am proud of each athlete. If they run well, I will share in their enjoyment. If they run poorly, I will share in their disappointment. Regardless, they have hopefully become smarter runners throughout this project. They have hopefully learnt how to train smarter and how to get the best from themselves. I hope that they go back to their own clubs and training partners and share what they know. The world of athletics in Northern Ireland is small but has the potential to grow. With time, I hope the standard of marathon running will continue to rise. So for those racing the Dublin marathon next month, I wish you all the best. Good luck with this final phase of training. Prepare yourselves mentally and remember, if you want to achieve your best, then you must be willing to fight for it. You must be willing to struggle and push yourself to the limit for it. You must be the most stubborn person on the streets of Dublin and then, and only then, can you look back on the race that you have just run, and smile. There is no better feeling than crossing the finish line of a marathon spent and unable to take one more step. Enjoy the experience and good luck in achieving your goal.