Two Toddlers & A PB Make The Headlines

Two Toddlers & A PB Make The Headlines

By Kevin Clancy

I knew 10 meters into the marathon that this was going to be a strange one. This was a marathon that a few questions would be answered. Would I PB, how will I cope with the Berlin 2 and will Donal tell Alan he loves him.

In the weeks building up to the marathon I had many conflicting thoughts as to my marathon race plan. My previous best was 2 years ago in a very tough race where I came in at 3:35 which was way outside my target. That was in my mind for weeks but I was told to forget that and focus on my training but the doubt were always there. Originally I aspired for a 3:20 marathon but following my half marathon, I was convinced I was capable of better. I was working off a plan devised by Alan who presented it to me during lunch post a bout of injury a few months ago. Once I observed the colour co-ordinated days, paces and sessions I knew I was in for it. This combined with Tony’s Hanson plan was going to have me very dedicated for the summer which it did as I ensured mileage not seen by me before.

I would not be alone for my marathon adventure as I would have 2 of The Berlin 4 with me in Donal Cashin and Alan McKernan. Both these guys as Alan tells me daily ran a sub 2:50 in Berlin.  Donal actually running a sub 2:45 but Alan does not mention that too much.

Myself, Donal and Alan set off for the 26.2miles. There were thousands of fellow runners nervously setting off on their first steps of the marathon. I took in a deep breath and slowly exhaled trying to hide my slightly nervous anticipation from the lads. This nervousness was visously removed from me as very soon I realised I was not running a marathon but minding two immature toddlers.

We were only meters over the start line and Alan asked us ” what was our favourite thing about him”. Donal replied the fact Alan was going to London for a few days after the marathon was top of his list. Alan did not look impressed. I knew I was in for a long 3 plus hours. The lads had ran Berlin only a few weeks ago and told me they would be keeping me company for the marathon. Alan says we asked could they join me but I must have missed that. The two were like an old married couple bickering. At Mile 1 Alan asked Donal to tell him he loved him. This was to become a theme for the marathon. Yes!! I’m sure you would agree this was not typical behaviour or what most would endure during a marathon but I did. Every mile Donal for asked. At mile 19 a fellow runner got side by side as the lads were having a heated discussion over love. The lad looked perplexed and soon was brought into the conversation as Alan sought an ally as he explained why Donal should tell him he loved him  To be fair the guy looked amused and did state that this was the first for a marathon from him.

To be fair the two bickering toddlers was a distraction for me as were the thousands of supporters aligning the streets. This is known as the friendly marathon and I could see why as embraced encouragement was omitted from friends, families and complete strangers over the marathon duration. I had my wife Jennifer at mile 6 along with my 2 daughters Amy & Anna and indeed Jennifer popped up many other times which provided me with a nice break from Dora and Elmo. She gave much needed electrolyte drinks unlike on my last marathon when she never appeared at the spot we had planned to meet.

As per the plan we sat back behind the 3:10 pacers but could feel us gradually being pulled into them and by mile 8 we were amongst them only to witness the balloon of the pacer bursting. There was no panic though. I knew I was in good hands as despite  the lads having the mentality of a new born lamb blindfolded and drip fed poteen – pacing and race strategy was their forte so if help was needed – I knew I had it. I was hoping Donal would tell him he loved him soon though.

The first half went very quick. We had a good comfortable split and were on target. In the initial few miles I was sweating heavily due to the humidity and was slightly concerned. I felt comfortable through but a few miles later I was starting to feel sore and was stiffening up sooner than anticipated. The lads noticed this and told me to ignore and keep going. There were lots of encouraging words but I knew I would have to dig in. As the 3 of us ran together and had the matching singlet’s we received ample chants from the magnificent crowd. Alan appeared to revel in the attention as he spent the last 10 miles applauding the crowds who were cheering us on resulting in an even louder cheer back. At mile 18 the pain in my left hamstring had got severe. Some form of cramp or tightness had set in but it was not affecting my pace as the 3 of us maintained a solid 7:10 pace. I knew Heartbreak Hill at Roebuck was approaching and that was the last tough part before the decent for home commenced. Alan and Donal kept telling me this. Without releasing it at the time, they both formed a shield for me as we went up the hill. They set the pace and had me get in close to provide the illusion that they were dragging me up. Alan subtly asked Donal again but this time in a gentle whispered almost romantic tone as if trying to persuade him that he loved him. Donal’s eyes shrivelled as he gazed sternly towards Alan. The only movement that came out of Donal was a gentle shake of the head as again he dished Alan’s advanced for love. This truly was to become Heartbreak Hill bit not for the reasons known by most marathoners.

The race was now taking its toll or maybe Alan’s crushed heart affected my hamstring but now the pain had exacerbated and my leg fully seized and I could but limp run. It was now I realised this may be The Carlsberg of marathons as the two toddlers I had in my company comprised of a physio and a motivator. We moved over to the side of the road and Donal commenced treatment on my hamstring. He  loosened it up as Alan gazed into my eyes telling me that I was a beautiful woman. Although confused these words did mask the pain and act as a distraction. Donal’s great work on my leg got me going again. Alan was doing time keeper and explained we has lots of time so don’t panic. I had two more occurrences over the next 2 miles where again Donal worked his magic and Alan encouraged me and the passing runners one of which was The Great Don Mahon from Trim who raced by to a comfortable 3:08 PB.

I had 1.5 mile to go. Donal ran adjacent to me talking and coaching me to the line as I tried to block the pain from my mind and Alan managed the clock by stepping in front of us ensuring we were going to stay on target as he soaked up the applauding crowd making them louder and louder. Alan used the emotion of the crowd and the euphoric feeling that surrounds all marathoners as we neared the finish by asking Donal one more time if he loves him. At last we were to have a break through. Donal screamed aggressively at the top of his voice in his thick Cork accent ” Yes I f****n love ya, now shut the f**k up”. Alan had a nice smile on his face, although I think he blanked out after the ‘ya’ bit. This was probably for the best. I’m sure what he heard was ‘ I love you Alan and you complete me. What I knew were these two were completely nuts but two KP nuts I was grateful to have by my side today.

We got to the home straight which was electric. The noise was like something from a 1D concert. At the 400M were Jennifer and my family. I looked over and gave the nod and could see their look of pride as I was about to hit my target. After my last marathon I knew they were concerned so the relief, I’m sure, was plentiful on their parts to see a happy Kevin finish this time. At this stage we have over 30 seconds to spare and myself and the 2 lads lined up side by side as they taunted me to push forward and finish the marathon. I had told myself prior to the race no mater my time or discomfort that I would finish with a smile and I did.  My hands were aloft and my face smiling. As it transpires The Irish Times pictured the 3 of us finishing and had it on their front page of their website that evening. If only they knew the full story of The Dunboyne 3- their search for love and a PB. We finished and there were man hugs all round. Alan took my medal from the volunteer and placed it over my neck calling me a sub 3:10 marathoner which I received proudly. Alan took his medal from the volunteer and commenced telling him about his Berlin sub 2:50J

I would like to thanks the two lads for their unique company and banter for the marathon. They took turns to get me water at every water station so I could maintain momentum and jumped in when mentally and physically I required help. Their help epitomises our club and the desire we have for ourselves and others to succeed. I would also like to mention Mick and Greg who I done a lot of the tough long-runs with which got me to where I needed to be for the marathon. If anyone plans to take on a marathon I would fully recommend finding a training group as it makes it so much easier. These along with Tony, Gary and my fellow club runners are the reason for my great day.

This is a unique club with a unique bond proven by the support on the day and prior to it. The atmosphere in Slevins that evening was sensational. The main thing is we all finished the race safely and in good health- even better was the euphoria felt by all as we celebrated our personal achievements on the day. A day that will remain with us all for a long time.

Kevin Clancy

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