Among the runners who lined up on the morning of 7th October 2019 for the 2019 KBC Dublin Marathon was Sports Tours International’s own CEO, Chris Bird. Chris had first been inspired to run, when his father Paddy (who himself hailed from Crumlin) called him a ‘lazy little bugger’. Only a matter of weeks later, he completed his first marathon, in Stockport, in 4 hours 25 minutes. Chris says to this day, that one line, delivered so casually by his father changed his life forever.
When I look back to that evening, in 1981, when my dad said I was lazy, I think of how that moment ignited something in me to run a marathon. I also remember my dad always saying to me, no matter what I had achieved, that he thought I could do even better. Those words and that marathon set me up for life.
So, it seemed obvious to Chris, when he decided to once again don his trainers, and after a break of 30 years, to run a marathon. As he would be doing it to raise money for the Alzheimer Society in the UK and Ireland, in memory of his father and in honour of his father’s own battle with dementia; it HAD to be Dublin.
The day was glorious, and got off to a perfect start. As Chris recounts;
My marathon preparation had been a bit stop start due to work, injuries, and the depression that consumes me all too often. Still, no matter what, I wanted to do the marathon, to celebrate my dad’s life, in his hometown. and run through the streets of Crumlin where he played as a kid. This was where he introduced me to my roots and the heritage of which i am so proud.
I had breakfast with my greatest friend, supporter and my ‘oxygen’ Natalie ( my daughter ) and 3 of the most significant treasures in my life, my grandson Ciaran, and Granddaughters Leonie and the one and only Emily!
Once breakfast was over, I realised it was now just me, my memories and my determination. I was about to head out on the 26 mile journey that I had built myself up for. I had scripted the outcome and anticipated all the emotions I would encounter along the way.
But, especially in the world of sports, things don’t always go to plan.
Yes, Dublin is amazing. Yes the marathon is incredible. Yes the crowds were fantastic. And, yes there were lots of memories made along the way (especially the elephant sounds in Phoenix Park – surreal). But, the day was never to be what I expected, at no point during the 26 miles did I get emotional or reflective. It just became a run. A run that hurt and a run that made me feel numb inside. The post marathon feeling hit me like a train from halfway, and I became totally empty.
I sat down to write this blog at 04:16 on Tuesday morning, October 29th 2019. I just couldn’t bring myself to post it until now. St Patrick’s Day 2020.
At the end of the marathon there is sometimes a long and lonely walk (especially if you finish in 6 hours and 20 mins) to reach the meeting point, where I met up with my daughter and grandchildren. Their support and love was, as always amazing, but I felt cheated by the marathon, or like I had cheated it, because it gave me nothing other than a medal and a T-shirt. Maybe it was me who had cheated because I expected more, but perhaps I had simply expected too much?
I hope with all my heart that your marathon experiences are always wonderful and bring something to your life that you can embrace and hold onto, as my first marathon, back in ’81 did for me.
But, there is always something to be taken, something to learn, and something to gain from any situation.
For now, I will learn from the experience. Things do not always go to plan, but even at the toughest of times it is important to keep going. Next October I will return to Dublin and run the marathon again. Why? Because my Dad instilled in me at an early age that I can always do better, and I will.