Michael Dolan tells us how he got on when he decided to complete the Abbott Marathon Majors.
London Marathon – April 2016
My first – I was lucky enough to get a place through Phab Kids. I got my sponsorship going and my training was on target. Then 9 weeks before, I slipped down a couple of steps and hurt my knee. Not the best preparation!
Cortisone injections seemed to work and I was committed to run as I didn’t want to let anyone down and I was really starting to get into this running. On the day of the race, my knee held up ok and I was focused on just finishing and getting that medal.
I then got chatting to a fellow runner at the end (Stephen Lewis, who I’m now good friends with – amazing that you can turn those chance meetings into friendships through Facebook), who turned to me and said “Are you tempted to do the Majors?” Being ex-forces the only Majors I knew were those I had to salute. Back home, once I googled it I was sold. I’d attempt to complete the Abbott World Marathon Majors.
Berlin – September 2016
So I found Sports Tours and gave the sales line a call. Simon Monks and I hit if off straight away and I booked Berlin. Once I knew my training was going well and I was feeling good for Berlin – I booked Chicago and New York too. My wife (Catherine) came with me to Berlin and we stayed in an absolutely stunning hotel (Arcotel). As Catherine was good enough to come with me on my first overseas marathon as she didn’t particularly want to watch the race I’d promised her she could go shopping while I was running. Sounding like a fair deal Catherine was excited to hit the shops in Berlin, however unfortunately all the shops where shut in Berlin on marathon race day (Sunday) and she only managed to spend 4 euros! I still haven’t made this up to her! My race went without incident and I was gaining in confidence with my training and racing.
Chicago – October 2016
On returning from Berlin I called Simon again and booked Tokyo – can you tell I was hooked? At Chicago the hotel (Virgin Hotel) was also fantastic and so was the Sports Tours Rep, Ed Nicol. Ed is not only ex-forces but ex-Royal Engineers, exactly like me! On this Chicago trip I meet Sarah Hamilton who is someone who has become a life long friend. This is something that I wasn’t expecting when I decided to travel to an overseas marathon alone. You never end up being alone, as there are many other runners are in the same situation as you. As a result I’ve made friends at every marathon (some will be life long friends). Chicago was another great experience and the finish is particularly lovely.
New York – November 2016
I found New York really hard especially as a diabetic. You have to get up really early, which was about 4.30am so I could have a good breakfast. It’s then on the bus at 7am, but my start wasn’t until 11.35am. Maybe it was my nutrition plan? I’d taken this massive shortbread covered in icing for the race. But as my sugar level dropped I’d already polished it off by half ten. As I result I didn’t feel the love that day, I found New York really hard.
Also security is mega tight for this event. Once off the bus you pass through several security cordons and there are armed police and National Guard everywhere. I just wish that Ed the Sport Tours Rep had told us about the enormous cannon they fire to start each wave! First time it went off, I dived to the floor!
By Central Park, I was really struggling. I was ready to pack it in. At that moment I caught a lady who’d had lost one of her legs and was using a blade. She was gritting her teeth and getting on with it. She inspired me to stop feeling sorry for myself and tough it out! I eventually finished, I did it! Although I was happy to get that one out of the way!
Tokyo – February 2017
For me Tokyo is the most difficult to describe. It’s the hardest, the strangest but also the easiest and the most relaxed. Going to the Expo to pick up your race number was a very different experience. Everyone is so happy to see you. They are so grateful that you had come to run their marathon. The organisation clap when you arrive and they bow when they hand over your number – a strange but delightful experience.
I had a great experience at Tokyo, and built friendships with another runners that I’d met previously and made many new ones. Also I’d really recommend running the friendship run the day before the marathon, what a fantastic atmosphere. Sarah, Steven and I had a fabulous time.
On race day, we were all in different corrals, so I’d decided I’d try for a PB as I thought I’d be running on my own. Then all of a sudden, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was a Helen Garcia, a runner that I’d met in Chicago and she admitted quickly that she wasn’t in the best shape for this race. She had a shin bone stress fracture and a torn ligament! She was going to run as much as she could, then walk if the pain got too much! She then asked me if I’d run with her for the first 10k. I accepted and decided that if I could distract her from her pain she might even be able to complete the race running the whole way! The race started so we began chatting about allsorts. Once we’d run out of things to chat about (around mile 21) I managed to get hold of a bell. I then rang this constantly to continue to distract her. We reached mile 25 and the by now very annoying ringing had worked. She was in pain but would definitely be able to finish! We’d helped each other to a Tokyo finish and we were both winners – my proudest result so far.
Boston – April 2017
I was almost there! Only Boston and probably the toughest marathon left. I seriously upped the training after Tokyo but all this led too was a painful and very swollen knee! I tried everything to keep it under control which meant lots of Physio and painkillers. I was going to Boston whatever! Best tip I could give is to join the Boston Road Runners bus trip the day before which drives around the entire course. Heartbreak hill which I was really worried about, is a slope at best, so I was feeling more confident after the recce.
Come race day I started at the very back. I enjoyed this experience as I ran my own race and I just kept going. Thankfully the knee survived and I knew I’d finish. The finish itself at Boston is brilliant, the best so far. However as soon as I crossed the line, I felt completely empty. Not empty on energy, but empty emotionally. During the last year, everything was geared towards the Majors. Once I’d crossed the Boston finish line, I realised that my amazing journey was over and it was like a massive anti-climax!
Since becoming a Six Star finisher.
I never thought my Six Star journey would be so amazing – not only the races, the countries and the cultures but mainly because of the number of amazing runners and friends I’ve met alone the way.
I must thank three people who helped me massively.
Firstly my Wife Catherine – thank you for all your support and for coming with me to my first couple of Marathons. Also thank you for your understanding for when I wasn’t around training and racing abroad.
Secondly, Stephen Lewis for mentioning the Majors in the first place and for giving me the inspiration to give it a go.
And finally Sarah Hamilton for all the laughs and great company at 4 out of the 6 marathons. I now consider you one of my closest friends.
My knee has been still causing me problems. I’m seeing a specialist this weekend, so hopefully I’ll be back running soon. Next project for me is the Marathon des Sables 2018 and the 7 marathon 7 days 7 continents is definitely on my bucket list too.
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