Runners run through Dublin's Phoenix Park. Oisin Keniry/INPHO
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'There's something uniquely special about race day in the Park'

Saturday’s Dublin half marathon raised excitement ahead of next month’s main event, writes Ryan Bailey.

THERE’S SOMETHING UNIQUELY special about race day in the Phoenix Park, no more so than on a near-perfect Autumnal Saturday morning in the city, as 9,000 runners begin the final countdown to the 2018 Dublin Marathon.

There must be a race on every weekend of the summer in the Park, yet its beauty and charm is never lost on those competing, organising, volunteering, spectating or cheering. Nothing quite beats it — that feeling, and that atmosphere in that setting.

The Park is a permanent fixture in the running calendar, and for anyone with designs of taking on the Dublin Marathon, serves as a consistent training ground in the weeks and months in advance. 

Starting with the Great Ireland Run in April, right through to yesterday’s Dublin half marathon, and as spring turns to summer, and summer to autumn, the significant training blocks are ticked off in the Park. 10km, 10 miles, half marathon.

Ed Sheeran and the Pope came and went, but the thousands of runners are an ever-present and its only fitting that the Dublin Marathon route should weave its way in and out via the North Circular Road and Castleknock on the final Sunday of October.

It’s just five weeks away, now. 

Saturday served as the final marker for many in their preparations for the 26.2 miles around the capital’s streets, the half marathon traditionally giving the best indication of how they’re fixed for the main event.

For many, the hard work is already done, most of the miles already clocked up, so the half marathon tends to whet the appetite further for what lies ahead, and provide powerful confidence in the training that is behind you.

On a personal level, I got exactly what I wanted from Saturday and the encouragement and confidence it provided has now injected new energy and drive into the final stretch of training before 28 October.

As well as confirming that I’m on the right track in terms of fitness, timing and preparation, the experience and atmosphere further underlined just why running is as special as it is. Yes, we’re in it for times and PBs, but that intoxicating feeling of togetherness, health and gratification is powerful. 

Despite the wild weather conditions in the build-up, the crowds were strong around the course on a perfectly still and tranquil morning in the Park, and it is no surprise that the event was run efficiently smoothly and expertly by the organisers.

Having run my maiden marathon in a time of three hours 36 minutes last year, I’m naturally bidding to improve on that this time around, so finding a good rhythm on Saturday was important.

I positioned myself between the 1 hour 30 minutes and 1 hour 40 minutes pacers, knowing I would have that extra kick in the final few miles to push on if the 7-minute mile pace created that opportunity.

It went perfectly to plan, and I felt encouragingly good throughout before upping the pace around the 9 mile mark as the course headed towards Farmleigh and briefly out of the Park to Castleknock.

I eventually crossed in 94 minutes, a result I was satisfied with and will use to build on further over the coming month, as the serious business begins. 

Overall, it was an incredibly enjoyable and well-run race from start to finish and certainly builds excitement ahead of my second marathon, and I now can’t wait for that pit-of-your-stomach feeling of nerves and anticipation on Bank Holiday Sunday on Fitzwilliam Street Upper.

35 days to go, and it can’t come soon enough. 

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