'No buzz on the streets or cheering crowd' – it was a marathon, but not as we know it

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They talk about the loneliness of the long-distance runner. It’s unlikely a lockdown marathon in the middle of a pandemic figured in their thinking, however.

This was loneliness like I’d never felt before.

I joined the throngs of people around the country who ran a marathon inside their 5km radius under Covid restrictions.

Yesterday was my eighth marathon in the past five years, and if not the toughest – though it wasn’t far from that either – it was definitely the loneliest.

There was no buzz, no lift from the crowds cheering you around the streets of Dublin, and the energy you draw from that.

Gone were those complete strangers willing you every step of the way, urging you closer and closer to the finish line.

How many minutes and seconds is that worth?

Running 26 miles and 385 yards is not easy.

It’s not meant to be easy.

Running it during a lockdown is harder, but running it when confined to within 5km of your home is harder still.

Earlier last month I completed the virtual London marathon in very difficult conditions on a lovely course which we designed around the Drogheda area.

But the new Level 5 restrictions meant that I could not use that course and, worse still, I had to run on my own without my running buddies.

Finding a route that would comply with the restrictions was a challenge in my area and I had almost given up hope of putting one together when the local GAA club, Slane GFC, stepped in on Saturday and chairman Peter Mooney suggested I try their walking track, which is just over 800 metres long.

The club’s grounds are just inside the 5km limit, so having spent much of the last week being close to abandoning my plans of completing a five in a row of Dublin Marathons I decided on Saturday to give it a go.

And I’m glad I did. But it just wasn’t the same.

Yes, I am proud of the achievement, but I missed the support and energy of the real thing. I missed the pacers. I missed Mount Street, closing in on the finish line, and the hair standing on the back of your neck and a tear forming in your eye.

I missed the genuine elation of seeing my family as I cross the finish line… I missed Dublin.

Slane’s GAA grounds are in a beautifully idyllic location near the Meath/Louth border, along the Mattock River.

It was quiet and eerie as I set off on my own at 7.45 yesterday morning, just me and the rabbits.

It was a hard slog.

My wife and daughter arrived at exactly the right time, as my spirits were flagging and the loneliness was playing tricks with my mind.

My friend and neighbour, John Greene, was next to arrive – and again the timing was right.

I needed company in the closing stretch and John ran the last few kilometres with me.

Peter Mooney cheered me on too.

It wasn’t quite Dublin but it was enough.

Family and friends got me through it.

As the saying goes: forty-two point two will do.

Source: Irish News