The Challenge...32 Marathons, 32 Counties, 32 Days
Gerry and Ken's Blog...
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Marathon 25 - Armagh
Three men joined Gerry and I today in Portadown Rugby Club for our 25th consecutive marathon. And we were thankful that the three were all planning to run a full marathon.
About 20 minutes before this morning’s run Gerry and I were chatting about how each of us felt after yesterday's marathon (when we both ran a 3:51). I was feeling a little tired and was happy to take it a little easier today. Gerry, though, said that he was feeling great, even stronger than yesterday. His wry smile convinced me that today would be the one day that he'd push the boat out and go for a fast time.
Over our months of training we have sometimes spoken about whether we'd be able to have a real go at one of the marathons, just to see what time we'd be able to do. This is not, though, something we take lightly as we're both acutely aware how many miles are left before we cross the finish line for the last time in Mullingar. To run a fast marathon now would mean the synergy of a number of factors: legs and body feeling fresh, suitable course, agreeable weather and focus of mind. Today these all came together for Gerry and from the gun he was setting a fast pace. Within a mile he was a distant figure along the River Bann, with Thomas at his shoulder.
This is Thomas' 4th marathon with us! But despite his fitness he just couldn't keep with Gerry's pace today and after 6 miles Gerry was on his own. The course was an out-and-back two lap course which meant that Gerry and I passed each other by three times. Each time I could see that he was further and further away from me but also that he continued to look comfortable. Not just comfortable, but he was really enjoying today's run, beaming a smile each time we passed.
I was lucky to have the company of two great guys; Eamonn Sheehan and Laurence Fitzsimmons. Laurence has run a few marathons before but not for a few years. It was only when his friend, who has an autistic boy, told him about this event a few months ago that Laurence decided to get back into training and raise some much needed funds for Autism NI.
Eamonn's younger brother is autistic so he too was running for a reason close to his heart. We met Eamonn last Friday in Tyrone when he helped out with marshalling for the day. He was telling us then that he was more of a 10k / half marathon runner so was quite nervous about tackling the full 26.2 miles. He needn't have worried though, as he cruised through the first 18 or so miles. From here on things did start to get a little interesting as he had to contend with a sore blister on his foot. The pain seemed to get quite bad over the next mile or two but Eamonn didn't let it affect his spirit and resolve to finish. From mile 22 on, he really started to find it tough going - the top of his shoe had started to turn blood red whilst the rest of his legs seemed to be battling for attention. His gutsy determination didn't subside once - I can only say that his battle right to the line made me think twice about the sore calf that I had had for the last few miles. What this man was going through was on a different scale altogether. It was only fitting that his family and girlfriend joined him on the last 400m jog to the line. A finishing time of 4:18 for both of us.
When I had about 8 miles to go I passed Gerry on his way home. By now our friend and man of many talents, Niall Murphy, had come out to run with Gerry as he knew he was on his own. Niall’s plan was to run the second 13 miles with Gerry. It hit me then just how fast Gerry was going as Niall, who is a very capable runner himself, seemed to be struggling a little on Gerry's shoulder! When I had three miles to go I heard word that Gerry had crossed the line in 3:24, an absolutely fantastic time. This time would be an achievement for any once-off marathon let alone on your 25th consecutive one!!
I was chuffed that he had run so well and smiled all the way to the finish thinking about it. Imagine, a 3:24 is only 2 minutes slower than Gerry's marathon PB (Personal Best). It really is amazing that the body can be capable of that this far into our Challenge.
A special thanks to Johnny Davis (a two-time Olympian himself!) and his team for giving us huge help in organising the courses in the 6 counties. His energy and enthusiasm are truly infectious.
I find it hard not to get excited about being on the home straight, particularly when we have so much running left to do. Despite that, though, I feel the finish line is now in sight and, barring accident or injury, we are both going to make it. We are looking forward to the next few days and continue to hope that we can get through each day without incident.
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