It was virtually a race? Dublin Virtual Marathon

By Maurice McCrohan: October 25th 2020: Autumn marathons for many of us and for differing reasons are just part of what do. The summer long runs in sun protected hats, shades and singlets give way to autumn leaves, darker mornings, extra layers and the latest bobble hat fad!

The covid pandemic has taken away the activities of many, but runners are lucky in many ways in that we kept going through training pods and club closed races etc.

The Dublin virtual marathon was a partial solution to the problem. The training continued; at least until Level 5 kicked it, but there were no proper build up races to test race conditions, (bar the virtual app races!).

So would it be a race, a tempo run, something in between?

Up to a week ago, running in a pod of 15 with back up in a designated route in Phoenix Park was on. Until the Level 5 restriction of running with one other person was imposed.

Thank the modern tech for the 5k from home radius app, which gave degree of flexibility for those who know their maths, physics and orienteering? Imagine, if it was restricted to as the crow flies 5k?

I downloaded the app with Luddite scepticism from a lifetime of Casio stopwatches, got my daughter to help me upload a Garmin app on to a spare Garmin generously denoted by a fellow runner. (Spoiler alert! Do you think both worked on the day?)

My running partner and I mapped our route the night before, dropping bottles of water at various boreens, hedges and shores along the route.

Would we remember where to find them when the fog of running war descends?

So, my alarm clock went off without GMT hitch at oh my god its early time? Was this a race or a tempo training run?

Not your actual race conditions, did I need the “Dumbo with the feather” porridge clutch on Sunday, the banana and bagel or would it be my standard training run prep of a strong barista and a bottle of water?

I chose the former when maybe the latter would have been better as I felt bloated early on .Maybe I am not just what I used to be. Terrys Saturdays and Eugene’s Tuesdays had brought me so far, but.

We headed from Seabury to country roads around Swords. It was like a tempo training run. Just us, a few walkers and a few curious guard dogs on the back roads. No crowds No Motivational music or groups of drummers banging out a rhythm.

The tracker app and Garmin watch seemed to ping. The Dublin marathon app was working as it kept telling me about the race and pointed out landmarks as if I was running the route! It gave me a time at each mile then around 6 miles it went quiet.

I Thought maybe it had ran out of things to say? The phone was strapped on to my left arm so I did not want to stop in full flow until the next water drop.

We got to the pit stop just after 10 miles .I got the phone out of the holder and yes the app had stopped measuring the miles, but the clock was still running.

I switched play again; the mileage turned on but had lost 4 miles…

But, of course, I had the Garmin. That hadn’t kicked off either… Luckily, Stephen had a Garmin strava. I was left to follow his mileage and his instructions. He’s a bit quicker than me so I had to hang on to him.

I struggled for the next 3 miles distracted by the “appastrophe “of my tech! We were joined at that stage by Stephens’s son Tighes on his bike with water bottles in case we missed our drop zones.

We headed into Malahide where there were lots of people out on a cold sunny morning. This was the virtual crowd section, where many cheered us and many other runners on.

I got into a rhythm, felt better and started to speed up. I hung in there and closed the gap to Stephen. My Dublin Mara app had kicked on and was giving me mile splits; I was speeding up even if the app was averaging the miles to include the lost miles!

The paths were busier. I nearly ran into one not socially distanced family who had stopped to chat and blocked the whole path. Stephen added two hills to our route to keep us keen.

This did lead to a descent over the last 2 miles (method in his madness!) and one hairy road stretch where the path disappeared and we were on the road edge running against the Sunday morning drivers! We hit Seabury with a mile to go. Again, it was a virtual Dublin crowd with lots of people out and about cheering us on.

I had no finishing line to visualise other than Stephen’s watch so that was mentally hard. When he stopped abruptly 5 yards ahead of me that was all folks! No tape. No digital clock! The End! No Mobot, No fists pumps, No volunteer with bacofoil sheet..!

My daughter Sinead and Stephens’s family were there by the Centra shops, ready with a latte, socially distanced greetings and a photo shot! In the unique circumstances of 2020, this was as much as I could expect, (apart from my tracker app failure!)

I was able to load a manual time from the 3.33 showing on the tracker app clock which was accepted by the organisers. The post run whatspp messages from all the marathoners and wellwishers were as heartfelt as any other marathon.

In summary, we were able to run and finish a marathon in a pandemic. That was enough.

Maurice “Mo”McCrohan