The history of Valencia, one of the oldest cities in Spain, begins over 2100 years ago with its founding as a Roman colony under the name “Valentia Edetanorum” on the site of a former Iberian town, by the river Turia in theprovince of Edetania. Blah, blah, blah. (sorry Jose)

The only thing I cared about one night in September (other than having another glass of wine) was that Valencia is very flat, the weather is usually good in December, and most importantly they had a marathon that was still open for entry through a waiting list. So I stuck my name on the list and was notified I was position 84. No chance I thought. I woke up the next morning and I checked my phone and I was now down to no. 20. Within three days my entry was confirmed, flights and hotel booked. Viva Espagne.

My last marathon was in New York in November 2019 bp (before the pox) where I set my PB of 3.14 which confirmed my place in Boston for April 2020.I started getting notions of myself and started to think that (whisper it) a sub 3 marathon might be on (it really wasn’t). I made the mistake of mentioning my lofty goal to a customer in a meeting who very kindly pointed out that I was probably a bit too old and had left it too late. This is the last thing you should say to a man in the mist of a full on mid life crisis who can’t afford the
traditional route of buying a flash sports car. So I upped the training milage and decided I’d show him.

Now you don’t need me to tell you what has happened over the last two years but suffice to say marathons weren’t the most important thing on peoples minds and we all had to find our own ways to cope. Mine was to try to learn french and up the milage to average 50 miles a week for the year. I had entered the Frankfurt Marathon in 2020 more in hope than expectation but this too was cancelled. So I continued to train (et apprendre le français) awaiting for a chance to race. This summer when a few more races started to open up I managed to get a 5k PB and a new half marathon PB of 1.25. So the dream was alive and I was starting to think what colour paint I would use to decorate the afore mentioned customer’s house with the numbers 2.59, how do you like them apples.

I entered Frankfurt again and started training hard. Once again though, the pox (that’s my wife’s name for it) has taught us not to get our hopes up and the marathon was cancelled again. So this brings me back to the beginning of this report where instead of going training on a Thursday I found myself on the couch at a one man pity party thinking what’s the point. However another thing the pox has taught us is resilience. So after I realised no-one else was coming to my pity party I copped myself on and started looking up other marathons to enter. Et Voila Valencia.

So I had 13 weeks to train and I got stuck in. Training went well and by the time the taper came I was felling pretty fit and optimistic. Then a week before I was due to fly – OMICRON. This time though was different and I found myself on a 7.30am Ryanair flight on 4th December ready to run. Much like the last two years, this report has dragged and I apologise so I’d better get to the race. My schedule was pretty tight due to flights and it meant flying in on Saturday, collecting my bib, racing at 8.30am Sunday and then flying home at 4.30pm after finishing. (throw in a covid test as well) I woke up good and early on Sunday (in truth I never really slept) and had coffee and breakfast checked out of the hotel and walked the 30 minutes to the start.

My plan was to run with the 3 hour pacing group but I arrived a little late and by the time I got into the starting area I was at the back and couldn’t make my way up to the front. No problem I told myself and just go off easy and run within myself. The race started and although the starting area was pretty packed the wide roads meant this wasn’t a problem and I soon found my rhythm. I checked my pace at KM 1 and all was well. So I settled in found a group to run with and turned my brain off. Valencia is a great marathon course for fast times (1847 people went sub 3 on the day). It’s very flat with long straights. The only problem on the day was the stiff breeze (gusts of 60kph) which I often found myself running into. However I maintained my pace and crossed halfway in 1.30.08. I was still feeling good but I just noticed that at the next few 5k checkpoints my pace was just dropping off ever so slightly. By 20 miles I was struggling a little bit and for about 2 miles I really struggled as I saw my goal slipping. The best bit of advice I ever got about the marathon was from Ronan Masterson when I was training for my first Dublin. He told me whatever you do don’t walk. Even if you need to slow your pace right down just keep running (sounds simple doesn’t it – it isn’t). I followed that advice here and dropped the pace a bit and managed to regroup and aim for my B goal which was sub 3.05 and managed to finish strong and cross the line in 3.03.07. The finish line in Valencia is brilliant with a great atmosphere and setting. After regrouping I soaked in the atmosphere and cheered the other runners in. Then it was back to the airport and catch my flight home.

I met a couple of the Irish elites on the flight home. Gary O’Hanlon came second in the O45 category in 2.20. I also got to congratulate Fionnuala McCormack who smashed her PB to run 2.23 and move to 2nd fastest Irish lady ever.

This marathon has made me eager for my next attempt at a sub 3 marathon but more importantly I’ve decided on red paint for your man’s house when it does happen.