Thirteen years ago I had the pleasure of lining up for the first ever Longford Marathon and tomorrow I’m hoping to repeat the process.
Since 2002 I’ve grown tremendously fond of this race. This is an event organised with the interests of the participants foremost in mind. It’s not a fund-raiser, a private-profit-maker or a tourism gimmick; it’s a marathon race. From the outset, the Longford organisers have had a single straightforward objective, that being, to put on the best race possible. Of course, no race is perfect and there have doubtless been some mistakes over the years but it’s always been clear that the Longford race organisers will go to great lengths to cater for the athletes who show up year after year.
Keeping a race like this going year after year is of course no small achievement in itself. There was even a time when the race came under direct threat from some less well-motivated individuals. Through it all they kept their heads, even when some of our athletic leaders who should have known better were losing theirs. For this achievement alone they deserve great credit.
The sport of road racing has changed so much in the intervening years that it’s difficult to imagine how exciting it was back in 2002 to have a new marathon on the calendar. Marathon races were rare and exotic animals at that stage and many marathon runners had to travel abroad if they wanted to to race regularly.
The Longford marathon organisers blazed a trail that others were soon to follow. Nowadays it seems that almost every medium-sized town in the country hosts a marathon annually. In breaking up the Dublin/Belfast marathon monopoly that had been in place up to that point, Longford did all Irish marathon runners a great service – and continues to do so – setting organisational standards that other races often fail to match.
In terms of my own targets for tomorrow, I’m hoping for a decent run. It’d be nice to get around the course a little faster than I did in 2002 (3:10) and even nicer to better my 2:57 from Portumna in June.
I’m hoping to run by feel rather than by the the watch. I’ll set out at what feels right and see how long my luck holds.
Just standing at the start line will feel good, fourteen years on, and many miles, later.
Wish me luck!