James Dean achieved his running goal at this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon

My Race

On Monday 4th August, my partner and I joined 7,500 other runners on the streets of Dublin to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon 2014.  After a weekend of rain and wind, it was a pleasant surprise to be on the starting line under blue skies and bright sunshine!  Running this race last year got me hooked on to long distance running and since then, I have completed three marathons and I’m currently training for my fourth, Munich in October.

James Dean
James Dean

My goal for this year’s race was to finish under two hours.  I knew that I would have to push the pace from the start and keep it going until 10 or 11 miles in order to put myself in a position to break that 2-hour mark.  Here’s how it went:

3 Miles: The run felt really good for the first three miles.  The pace was around 9:10 and I could see the 2-hour pacer about 50 yards ahead of me. I knew that if I kept this distance, I’d meet my goal.

4 miles: My better half took a short break, while I carried on.  I kept the pace steady over the next two miles, trying not to get too excited by the couple of short downhill sections on the course.  I knew that I was approaching Phoenix Park and that I would be going uphill again soon enough.  Just before I entered the park, the better half was back with me; we both felt good and the pace was still ticking along!

7.5 miles: At half way we hit one hour; exactly where we wanted to be. We had the opportunity to break two hours if we kept this.  If we had any doubts about how tough the second half of the race was going to be, these were quickly wiped from our minds when we took the left turn into the park and we were welcomed by the sight of the first hill that we would have to get over.  In the race in 2013, I suffered massively from a long steep hill at nine miles. At that time, I had done little or no hill training and had no plan of how to deal with this hurdle in a race situation.  However, in this year’s race, I had more knowledge and more experience.  Earlier this year, I had attended a running workshop where one the presenters was 3-time marathon winner and running legend Catherina McKiernan.  Her strategy for running hills is to drive your arms; it is time for legs to rest.  She told us to keep our form and drive our arms, as if we were punching ourselves in the face, so this is how I ran the hills in Phoenix Park.

9 miles: The fabulous sunshine that made us all smile at the starting line was beginning to take its toll.  It was now hot and breezeless and now was also the time to push on through. Mile 9 to 10 was tough and not just because of the heat. As I turned onto Chesterfield Avenue, the main road in the park, I realised that road was not closed and we were made to run on the footpath, which was not ideal. The path was too narrow for the number of people running and this came at the time of the race when some runners were starting to slow down or stop and others, like us, were trying to pick up the pace!  I had to stay very aware of my surroundings to make sure that I did not trip up or run into the back of someone.

10 miles: At this point, the road widened again, my partner looked at her watch, called out “it’s on!” meaning that a sub 2-hour half marathon was there for the taking.  We had the chance, but we still had three miles to go.

12 miles: I was starting to feel the pace, but I knew that I still had time on my side if I held it together and I could still see the 2-hour pacer just ahead of me. My partner, knowing that we were into the final mile, sped up and pushed ahead of me. I knew that there was one more incline to come, so I did not try to keep up as I was still on time.  As I turned into the final straight, I could see the finish line and took another look at my watch – I had two minutes to finish under two hours.  It was a long run in to the line, but I got a huge boost when I saw the 2-hour pacer had stopped about halfway up the straight.  He was holding his ground as he was a bit ahead of time and I ran past him as he jogged on the spot.  As I reached the tunnel of spectators the spaced narrowed.  With 30 seconds left on my watch, the tunnel was full of runners and there was not much space to manoeuvre, when suddenly I spotted a gap.  I moved over, put in a kick and sprinted for the finish line.  I crossed the line and stopped my watch at 01:59:51.  I had done it! A sub 2-hour half marathon!

Finish Time 1:59:51
James met his sub 2-hour goal

It is an awesome feeling to cross the line in any race, but when you cross it and achieve the goal you set yourself it is even better.  This is why YiRun!!!! To push myself, to challenge myself, to set a goal and put in every effort to achieve it.

Race Review

The organisation of this race was well structured.  The bag drop at the start was easy to find and well set out and there were plenty of toilets.  The course was a challenge, but overall very good.  The section on footpath in the park was frustrating and the number of people running made it a bit dangerous but manageable.  The big selling point of the race series was the live bands along the course and they do give you a buzz along the way!  

The big negative for me in this race were the water stops.  Cups!  Why, oh why, give out cups of water?! You cannot drink out of a cup and run; you just throw water at your face and hope some falls into your mouth!  We don’t need large bottles of water but in the Dublin, Barcelona and Waterford marathons, we were given small bottles of water at each stop.  They were easy to carry and produced less waste.  I also couldn’t believe that during this run, full bottles of Powerade were provided at the Powerade station. It’s crazy and I couldn’t imagine anyone drinking a full bottle of an energy drink at five miles!  

If the water stops were a negative, then the finish line was a huge positive for this race. A fantastic medal, loads of water, Powerade, fruit, powerbars, crisps and sweets! Brilliant!! The t-shirt provided was cool and I have already used it in since the race.

There was a lot more coverage of the race this year, with a highlights programme aired on Setanta Sports TV channel.  It was also used for the Irish Championships, so hopefully it will get bigger again next year. If I can, I will run it again in 2015, but I’ll have to request that the cups are changed to bottles at the water stations!