Ten years ago I ran two marathons on consecutive weekends. I wasn’t sure what would happen to me at the time. Would a leg fall off? Would I grind to a shuddering halt half way ‘round the second marathon? Was it even possible to do this? I wasn’t really sure. At that time I didn’t realise how good these races would prove themselves to be over the following decade. In both cases it was the inaugural running of the event and so there was an extra edge of excitement and freshness about them. Those two races were, of course, the Connemara Marathon and the Longford Marathon and in the intervening years both events have proven themselves to be amongst the very best that Irish road racing can offer. It was a great learning experience for me to run two long races so close together. Principally, I learnt that many things are possible in running that might appear impossible at first sight. Armed with blind confidence I’ve gone on to do many more stupid things since that time.
This year there were also two races that I wanted to do, ‘back-to-back’. The Connemara Ultra and the London Marathon were only a week apart but I hoped I’d be able to run both. I didn’t believe I could actually race both, and so chose to race Connemara and then to run London with anything I had left. Having run well enough in Connemara I had just six days to recover and during that time I didn’t run a step. I nursed my blisters and stretched a little bit towards the end of the week. Mentally, I was back where I was ten years ago. I didn’t know if this was going to work. Would I even make it around? Would the blisters hold up, or would I end up walking a lot of the way on painful feet? I took a chance that it all work out, and thankfully it did.
I started conservatively and it seemed to pay dividends on a sultry day when sizable positive splits were the order of the day for even the very best prepared. I kept my head up and looked around me. I tried to drink the experience in – to relax into the early miles. I ‘high-fived’ as many kids as I could see and waved to anyone who even looked Irish. It was my third ‘London’ and by far the most enjoyable. Because I felt under absolutely no pressure to run well I was able to run unselfconsciously and easily for the first half. My legs did feel a bit stiff and heavy, particularly early on, but as the miles passed I loosened out quite a bit and enjoyed myself more and more.
I finished with 2:48 on the clock, only four minutes outside my personal best, with a smile and some relief that everything had gone so well. Ten years on I’m still re-learning the lesson that just because something makes no sense that it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to do it anyway.