“Well, at least you finished,” was a sympathetic response I got from several runners when I told them I did the Connemarathon last Sunday in 5hours 20mins. Most of these people had done sub 4 hours.
To this sympathetic tone and sincere look of pity, I felt the need to defend my manhood.
“I was wearing these barefoot shoes, see,” said I, showing them my VFFs as proof, “I’m doing Limerick in two weeks in ‘normal’ shoes and expect I’ll do sub 4 hours.”
“Are you crazy?” was the response I got from one or two people, “how can you do another marathon again so soon?”
My sense of manhood flooded back after my initial sense of emasculation towards the matter of my rubbish time.
I used to think a marathon was a big distance but it’s not really. I used to run like someone was chasing me with a chainsaw and was obsessed with knocking minutes and seconds off my PB (Personal Best) as if it was something important.
I’ve since learned that nobody gives a shit about your PB apart from yourself. Perhaps people will say “wow, good man, you must be fit” and that feels great but being in pain for days afterwards is not so great. Worse still, is not being able to run for weeks or even months afterwards. I don’t really even know what it means “to be fit” anyway since I pretty much feel tired most of the time whether I run or don’t run.
The difference between how I used to run and how I ran in Connemara on Sunday is that my legs felt fresh the next day and I felt I could easily run another marathon.
The last time I ran in Connemara was about 3 years ago and I came about 17th in the half marathon in a time of 1hr 28minutes. I didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t know anyone, and felt pretty terrible for days afterwards. And that was the last race I entered for about 2.5 years and I didn’t run a single mile for about two of those before starting back with a big fat belly by doing a very slow full marathon last August (5hours 7minutes).
The difference between the last time I ran in Connemara and this time is that I really enjoyed the experience. I had an extended chat with several ladies called Jane, Reba, Daria, and Una respectively.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this lad likes to talk to the lay-days and while that’s true it wasn’t that I didn’t try and strike up conversations with men too because I did, but men are often kind of stupid.
When you go to the gym you’ll always see men lifting weights as if they think they are Arnold Schwarzenegger, even though they are skinny girly men, and the same attitude often prevails with running and I think men are far more obsessed with their PB than women are.
Regardless of all the above I have always enjoyed talking to women more than men and I expect that’s some kind of Freudian thing that goes beyond the scope of this text, which presently leads me to hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream.
My plan from the outset of my marathon in Connemara was to stop halfway in Leenane and have a hot chocolate and a bit of a picnic.
People were laughing at me a bit when I disclosed my plan. “Oh, if I stopped there I wouldn’t be able to start again,” was the response I got, but it could be that they were sick of my jibber jabber and saw it as a good opportunity to be free of my gum flapping.
Anyway, I stopped in Leenane and had a rather wonderful hot chocolate upon which the lovely young lady behind the counter piled cream and marshmallows and it was rather heavenly.
Strolling along again all on my tod, I then ate a penguin bar, a banana, and a bag of fruit and nuts. Several runners passing exclaimed something like, “Jaysus, are you having a picnic?” to which I replied, “Yes, but my name is not Jesus” though I do sometimes consider myself the born again messiah of barefoot running.
Upon finishing my little picnic I plodded on a bit more, sometimes walking, sometimes jogging, but never once remotely out of breath.
Even though it was the slowest time in which I have done this distance it kind of felt like the fastest and, rather than feeling relieved to see the finish line, as I always was in the past, I was actually kind of disappointed and half sorry I hadn’t entered the ultra.
This marathon was the first time I ran barefoot on the road for such a distance. It was also the slowest marathon I have done so far, and also the most enjoyable and least fatiguing.
Apart from the guy in front who gets the cheque at the end of the race, we are all technically losers. But if one is going to lose, one might as well lose with style.
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