In less than 72 hours Dublin's streets will be filled with thousands of runners and a bunch of them are going in without a notion of what they are doing. For first timers it's a real case of flying blind, no amount of 10ks and half-marathons can prep you for the big one. For second timers, it's actually worse: they know what they're getting into. By the time you do your third, you should be fine but there's still plenty you can do to make life easier for yourself.
With that in mind, and having finished eight marathons, including Dublin's course five times, here's some advice for all sorts of runners who need some last-minute tips.
Vaseline up your feet
Oh you thought this was going to be all motivational phrases? Nope, we are getting right to the icky stuff here. Blisters are bad and having one flare up mid race is really bad. Coat the soles of your feet in vaseline before the race and this won't happen. For some context, I once walked 500 miles in 28 days and got a grand total of 1 tiny blister in the course of that by following this approach.
Have the right footwear
I hope I don't need to tell you that a marathon is not the time to break in a new pair of runners. You should have a pair you are comfortable with by now. If not...well good luck on Sunday. As for socks, this is something you can improve between now and the race. Amphibian King in Bray is your best bet.
Put plasters over your nipples
Yes we are back in the icky stuff. Deal with it. You’ve probably heard of athlete’s foot, well athlete’s nipple can be really irritating. Friction is the issue here. If it's cold that will only be worth. Putting plasters on before you start will save you a pair of bloody and painful memories. Just to be clear, I meant regular Band Aids or Elastoplast one, not blister recovery ones like Compeed. The latter would be up there in the list of all-time worst ideas ever.
Sip that bottle
You are not in a pub, well not yet we will get to that, so don't drink like you are in one. Don't take my word for it: Eamon Coghlan (who has a pretty good history as a runner) is the source of this one. Sip water or energy drinks, don't gulp them. Think about how your body is at the time you are ingesting. You are moving about at a lot, gulp is just going to mess with your innards. Sipping is far more sensible.
Dublin's pubs are your toilet
This really needs to be emphasised. Every pub and I mean every pub is your toilet. Don't ask for permission, don't waste time, just run in and go. The bar staff know the deal and will often point the way as soon as they see you go in the door. You might be thinking the portaloos are a good idea but the wait is not only a quick route to frustration, it also means you stop moving for longer which is a bad idea.
Times are important, keeping calm is more important
By this stage a good bunch of you are scared that you aren't going to get to the end. Don't be. In the eight races I've completed I was hilariously unprepared for most of them and if there were weight classes in running I'd be at the higher end of them. If an unfit desk jockey like me can get to the finish line that many times, you should be fine.
Literally put one foot in front of another
Stride is, unquestionably, the most boring thing to discuss with running. Having the right one can make all the difference. As the sub-head suggests, literally put one foot in front of another as you run. Keep that stride tight and you will find your pace is more even, that means you don't waste energy and can go faster for longer. Power walking might sound like a good idea but unless your are Rob Heffernan, the odds are you are doing it wrong and will end up just getting gassed.
Listen to your body
Do you feel sore? Slow down.
Are you struggling to maintain your pace? Slow down.
Almost every issue you have in the race will be solved by slowing down. Yes, I know you want to get a certain time but your body is looking out for you here.
The tough parts of the course
Good news for those of you who have never done a marathon before. Dublin has one of the more forgiving courses amongst marathons. For the most part the course is flat but try to conserve energy at two particularly challenging points.
The hill at Chapelizod: When you come out of the Phoenix and cross a bridge. A short while after that comes the single most energy sapping climb of the race, just shy of the nine-mile mark.
Three miles of torture: While the climb at Chapelizod is steeper, the stretch from the 19-mile mark to the 22 mile mark is the toughest part of the course. It goes from Milltown Road, through Clonskeagh, up Roebuck Road, to Foster’s Avenue. Most of that stretch is uphill and will tire you out. It’s important however not to over-accelerate on Foster’s Avenue. That’s a steep downhill likely to be covered in water bottles from the station nearby, so you need to make sure you don’t trip.
As for you wannabe speed merchants
Most of you don't need to read this part. Most of you have some level of sense and are taking on board what is above. This is for those of you who aren't so sensible and believe all those saccharine motivational slogans you see on Facebook. When you slow down it's because your body isn't able to go fast. You may be worried about your time but speeding up is an awful idea and, if you are lucky, the best case scenario is you will expel demons onto the streets of our nation's capital. A buddy of mine is usually on marathon duty for St John Ambulance and he's seen his fair share of pukers and worse in the latter stages of the course from folks who didn't know when to ease off.
Back in 2011 a friend of mine’s father ended up in an ambulance because he got overly ambitious. She finished a few minutes behind him but in much better shape. Be smart, listen to your body.
The absolute last thing you should do when you cross the finish line is stop. Keep moving until you get into the door of your home or wherever you are staying. In fact, keep moving then. Don't stop moving until you are in a bath. That is the real finish line, that's when you can take some relief. The race is over when you have completed 26 miles and 385 yards but your day isn't until you are soaking that in. If you don't keep moving, you might seize up and that hurts like hell. Believe me, this all comes from experience.
Enjoy the race.