Four years and seven days ago I swore “never again”. I’d just completed the Dublin Marathon in 3 hours 51 minutes, and my right leg had swollen to twice the size of my left.

You see, I’d been advised not to take part in intensive physical activities since breaking my leg in four places playing football, which had resulted in nine operations. But I’m stubborn I guess. And I was grand, after a few weeks of soreness and swelling.

Six months ago, I decided that I needed to challenge myself again.

I hate the gym. I’m not a fan of classes where you look steadfastly into your own pained face in the mirror for an hour. And I’m not really allowed to play contact sports with lots of twisting, turning and tackling anymore (see broken leg story above). This really cut down on my keep fit(ish) options.

I’d spent six months training for the 2012 Marathon by running along Fairview, Clontarf, the North Bull Wall, Dollymount, St. Anne’s Park, Sutton and finishing up in Howth. As I lived in Drumcondra, I’d either run home, or DART it back to Clontarf if I was especially drained.

I hate the gym. I’m not a fan of classes where you look steadfastly into your own pained face in the mirror for an hour

I enjoyed every minute of it. I knew every worn down patch of grass on Clontarf promenade, every plank on Bull Wall bridge, the distance between the summer water taps on the beach and the patterns on the kite-surfers on the bay. I got to know this part of the city inside out through sheer repetition. And it was beautiful. The most difficult part was to keep the heart rate up as I stopped to take lots of Instagram snaps of the bay, the Bull Wall itself, Howth harbour and lots more places.

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You see I love Dublin. My friends and family constantly slag me over it. If I can live here forever, and afford to buy a house (wishful thinking), I will do so. That’s not to say Dublin’s perfect: far from it. It’s a complete paradox, and that’s what I love about it.

It’s known throughout the world as the “friendly marathon”. And my abiding memory from four years ago was the support from the public along the entire route

Dublin is beautiful – it has mountains and sea on its doorstep to explore and train on/in, yet it’s gritty and chaotic with people, relationships, creativity and culture all colliding. It’s full of the extraordinary in the everyday. It’s a social city that is vibrant, chaotic, quirky, and full of character and characters.

That excites me. I miss the place, the people, when I’m away.

So back to that time six months ago, when I decided that I needed to “challenge” myself again. The end goal was to complete the Dublin Marathon 2016 on October 30th in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes. I knew that the training was going to involve a lot of long hard slogs in the mornings and evenings. However, I was living in a new part of the city now – Ballsbridge. I didn’t know the area or the coastal areas in South Dublin that well, so I said that I’d again use my training to really get to know this part of the city.

And it’s been fantastic, excluding a pulled calf and a torn hamstring along the way. I’ve got to know every granite block from Dalkey quarry on the South Wall. I’ve snapped the reflection views of Poolbeg towers across water at Sandymount Strand. I’ve begun to name the birds of Booterstown Reserve. I’ve got to know Max, Lola and the many other beautiful dogs of Dun Laoghaire as they lead their Teddy’s ice-cream filled owners down the pier. And when I get my kilometres just right – I’ve ended up finishing 10km, 15km, 20km at the Forty Foot at Sandycove for a late evening bomb into the water. Perfection.

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The training is now done. And the Dublin Marathon is just a few days away. It’s known throughout the world as the “friendly marathon”. And my abiding memory from four years ago was the support from the public along the entire route. All 26.2 miles of it. Many people, including myself, got emotional that day as throngs of people three-deep cheered us home. I simply would not have finished the course without it.

Four years and seven days ago I swore “never again”. Right now, I’m thinking about places that I want to truly get to know in this city… so that I can move there and train for the Dublin Marathon 2017!

Good luck to everyone taking part this year.

The 2017 SSE Airtricity Dublin City Marathon takes place on Sunday 29th October. See www.sseairtricitydublinmarathon.ie for more information.

Andrew Murray

Andrew is a Dub. He’s a writer, planner and sports-nut. And he’s constantly slagged over his pure, unadulterated love of the city.

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