Six Hours And Seventeen Minutes

“I already know that I don’t already know
You are the sunlight
I don’t really care if you don’t understand
You are the moonlight

And that’s alright
Alright with me
Oh, that’s alright”

Manchester Orchestra ‘The Sunshine’

The day before was a great day. Ger and Eimear were home from Belfast and Llandrillo, Jake was home from Galway, Robyn from Edinburgh, and Elliott from Maynooth. Gareth and Angie called to wish me well. Ray , my running buddy, called out to collect his racepack and casually announced that he was heading into McDermotts, Irelands friendliest sports shop, to get new runners for the marathon.

“Are you mad !” Gareth and I screamed at him together. “You never wear new runners in a marathon !”

“But you told me that you bought new runners this week !” Ray countered.

“Yes , but they’re my ‘town runners’ for looking cool in, I wouldn’t run in them, and I got them to wear home after the marathon.”

“OK OK !” he sniggered back.

After he left I said to Gareth “It’s like looking after a toddler. New runners the day before a marathon ??? What the hell is he thinking ?!? “

Gareth nodded sagely.

I slept poorly that night, nervous with anticipation about the race. I’d set my alarm for 5.45am, but was awake from 4.30am, so got up before the alarm and quietly made myself a cup of tea, poached an egg, and buttered some toast , and then got my gear together.

My Soulmate left with the kids just before I did, and then I said goodbye to Tuna and headed off to collect Ray. He was almost ready when I got there, and I helped him carry his gear out to the car.

“Are you wearing new runners ???” he asked me.

“These are my new ‘town runners’, I’m just wearing them up in the car and they’ll be nice to change into after the marathon.”

We drove off.

All went well until we got to Castleblayney. Ray started playing his songs on my Spotify account.

But something else was bugging me….I couldn’t put my finger on it.

As we drove past Carrickmacross it struck me.

“I’ve left my runner runners in the kitchen.”

“WHAT ?!?”

“I know….”

“You never wear new runners in a marathon !” Ray said in a whiney voice.

“I know.”

“What was it Gareth said yesterday ? Oh yes ‘You never wear new runners in a marathon !”

You’re not helping.

Ray laughed the whole way past Ardee.

We stopped at the Applegreen before the airport to use the loo and get a coffee. My Soulmate grabbed me from behind when I was coming back from the toilet. “Not now Ray !” I snapped and then smiled when I saw it was her. I hadn’t even time to say ‘Hello’ before Ray blurted out “He forgot his runners !”.

Then he went to join the rest of the gang and told all of them as well.

This was going to be a long day.

We had our coffee and headed off again, listening to my playlist for a bit, eventually got parked, changed into our running gear, our tee shirts with Denise’s ‘Sunshine & Lollipops’ print, Tadhg’s cap, and my new “town runners”, and left our bags off in Merrion Square, and made our way to the starting line.

This was it.

Was this it ?

What is this ?

Now we’re running. We’ve done two miles before we’ve even realised it. A lady in an inflatable unicorn costume…”Ray ! Selfie “… Four miles , we’re in the Park, Gardai, …”Ray ! Selfie “… a man in a rhinoceros suit outside the zoo …”Ray ! Selfie “…We see Brenda, Margaret and Dominic , our local Parkrun superheroes …”Ray ! Selfie “…

And then we leave the Park, go through Castleknock, back into the Park and I see my family for the first time, I hug my Soulmate, high five everyone else and am quite shocked that I don’t get emotional and cry.

We’re enjoying ourselves.

It’s going well.

And then it isn’t.

Then it is again.

I fucking hate this.

Oh look there’s Miriam !

Is that Noelle ? It is !

God I love this.

“RAY ! There’s something wrong with my knee.”

“Take it easy for a moment, no rush.”

“PAUL ! LEGEND !” Colm shouts, running into the road and giving Ray and I a big hug.

We are legends.

Then we’re not.

Well Ray is. He’s skipping and thanking all the Hit FM DJ’s that we pass.

I’m sore.

What the hell was I thinking taking this on.

“Look Ray, there’s Gareth.”

“He better have StarBars !”

He does.

Gareth and Des run alongside us from mile 23 the whole way to the finish line.

We see Ger Bear, our friend and fellow Monaghan Town Runner. She has her younger sister and Stephanie keeping her company. We all join up.

Might make it yet, physically and emotionally.

We see the Phoenix tent , Una and Brian , superheroes, providing flat Coke, Voltoral, peanuts, jellies to one and all. Una gives me a hug and I start crying. She didn’t even say anything. I could just see in her eyes that she was concerned /proud/happy/sad for me.

Ray slapped me on the shoulder “C’mon, nearly there.”

I run ahead a little, cry a little.

There’s the Molloys !

My lower back is sore.

My right hip is sore.

My left knee is sore.

I have blisters on the ball of my right foot.

This was such a stupid fucking idea. I can’t believe Ray let me talk the two of us into it.

Last mile.

I can see my SoulMate ahead with the kids, my evil goddottir, her boyfriend and my best friends.

This was a brilliant idea.

Ray , Ger Bear and I hold hands and cross the line together.

Nothing hurts.

This was epic.

“I finished a second ahead of you.” Ray says.

“That’s only because your belly is bigger than mine.

He laughs.

We collect our gear and go to meet our friends and family.

We all walk back to our cars together, chatting, swapping stories of our day.

Our wonderful day.

Our fantastic glorious day !

That was four days ago.

Since then I watched the brilliant ‘The Electrical Life of Louis Wain’,  went for a wee run with Ray to loosen out our legs, had two Epsom salt baths, met Freddie for lunch, and went to a poetry evening with a brilliant friend Colm Keegan, made a new friend Kerrie O’Brien, and stayed up until 2.30am in a bar listening to great stories.

Colm wrote a poem about Monaghan and me. ( See below).

And we installed a new Giant in Rossmore Park.

But I keep coming back to the marathon in quiet moments.

It was awful.

It was brilliant.

Why do we do it ?

Why the hell wouldn’t we do it ??

I can recall every second of it.

Miles and miles of it are a blank.

Was it a stupid idea ?

Was it the best idea I ever had ?

I have a medal.

I had a medal.

I sent it to someone.

I sent this note with it.

Dear Ms.Little,

I ran the Dublin City Marathon last Sunday, taking lots of selfies with inflatable unicorns, Gardai, a rhinoceros, bands, and other runners.

I’ve raised almost €7,000 for our local cancer support group, Crocus Monaghan.

And I had a great day.

As soon as they gave me the medal I knew who I wanted to have it.

Thanks again for everything.

Paul Bond

I posted it to Beaumont Hospital.

Toodles ,


P.S. Thank you all again so very, very much for all of your donations to our Crocus Cancer Care fundraiser. We’ll close the page next week. You are all LEGENDS !

P.P.S This is Colm’s poem

This Place

Like all the other places with the cars, rain, faces

The man at the door of the B&B pointing the way

Into The Squealing Pig, and a meal with a friend,

A middle aged cliché that isn’t a cliché because

This man should have died , but made it.

And now he plants heads in fields.

Giant heads sculpted from wood, in tribute to myth,

and he teaches kids how to  build them and believe in themselves

which sounds hard but is actually easy

after long conversations with death

And easy for the kids too because they haven’t met it yet,

But were excited today because my friend is a man from outside

With his freedom the teacher doesn’t have to make

Fart noises, or be unpredictable, like this life we’re in now,

Having dinner together in a restaurant

With a name that hides inside itself the delight

Of not being at the slaughterhouse, at least for a while.

Author: paul

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