I have never seen so many unflattering, red faced, sweaty pictures of myself as I have in the last few days on facebook. And I love every single one of them.
It was 26.2 miles of endurance, stubbornness and sheer determination as hundreds of us took to the streets of Derry on Sunday to take part in the Walled City marathon.
Each picture tells a story. The excitement of starting off at the Everglades, exhaustion at John Street, battling the Bay Road and the endless torture that is Fahan Street.
Running a marathon is something I never thought I’d be able to do. When I joined Star Running Club ten months ago I couldn’t even run for 60 seconds without gasping for breath. But I had one goal in mind. I wanted to be able to run the Foyle Hospice Female 5k in 2016.
I’d done everything my coach Seamus Crossan (pictured above with me) told me beforehand. Saturday mornings were filled with long runs out ‘The Line’, the back roads of Donegal and an infamous visit to Inch Island where we all got lost and swore we’d never run again.
My first 13 miles on Sunday went according to plan. But at mile 14 I came down with dehydration and was for giving up. A disgusting cocktail of flat coke and salt given to me by running buddy Mickey Curran turned out to be my cure and I managed to keep going.
It was the people of Derry and the marshals who kept the runners going. At every corner people handed us icepops and sponges. Scores of people set up hoses and sprinklers to keep us cool. I met up with my old school friend, Caoimhe Gallagher who I haven’t really seen in the twenty years since we left Thornhill, and we had a blast running through the sprinklers on Limavady Road.
Fahan Street and the Diamond proved to be my toughest test, but the people of Derry were still there cheering us through the pain. That feeling you get when they put that magnificent medal round your neck is something you really can’t describe. I can’t believe I’m now part of the 1% of the population who have run a marathon.
When I started this journey last year, I had only one goal in mind. I wanted to run the 2016 Foyle Hospice Female 5k which I WALK every year. That 5k finally takes place this weekend.
The medal I get this Sunday for finally being able to run it and fulfil my goal will mean every bit as much to me as my WCM medal.