A missed marathon

The angry jogger recounts how a night of drinking led to missing the Dublin Marathon 2011 in spectacular fashion.

Tuesday 11 December 2012
Following the death of my father in March 2011 I was in a strange place mentally. I started running in an attempt to try to come to terms with his illness. After he was gone my initial motive for running had vanished.

By July 2011 the future seemed unbelievably bleak. My contract in work was expiring in the next 3 months and nasty weekend hangovers weren't helping my mindset. I realised enough was enough after sleeping in for the Birmingham & Black County Half Marathon in July. I had spent the night raving to 'Duran Duran' in a student dive called Snobs and didn't get back to my hotel until 4am.

Enough was enough!

  I was no longer going to let Simon Le Bon and Jack Daniel's get in the way of my running. I needed to recommit myself to the sport to try to recover from how I was feeling. So I gave up alcohol for the 3 months in preparation for the Dublin Marathon 2011. Training subsequently went extremely well and I got below 14 stone for the first time in adulthood.

By October I knew I was ready for the race. Thinking that I had earned a break on the eve of the marathon, I ventured on a week long holiday to Portugal. The holiday itself was amazing. 7 days of lounging around doing absolutely nothing. But the break was soon over and the thought of coming back to rainy old Belfast left me feeling depressed. So in an act of desperation, I made a plan to fly back to Belfast from Barcelona in 48 hours time.

The journey would be romantic, fun and I'd find myself.

I couldn't have been any more wrong.

I had 2 days to bus it from Faro in the Algarve to Barcelona. My voyage started successfully enough with a cab to Ayamonte on the Spanish border. From there I had a 5 hour stop-over for the Seville Express where the connecting bus to Madrid wasn't for another 7 hours. I arrived in Madrid at 8am the following day and spent the next 8 hours frantically pacing around the station, trying to find a way to Barcelona. Out of desperation I paid £100 for the 3-hour AVE train.

I arrived at Barcelona Sants Station in great spirits celebrating with a Big Mac Meal. I relaxed for an hour and boarded the train to the airport from there. I had made the fatal mistake of thinking that they would be hotels with spare rooms at Barcelona El Prat.

El Prat was apt. There was no room at any of the inns.

The first major sign that something really wasn’t right was when I was travelling down the steps towards the terminal building and on the opposite side was someone who looked identical to me in every way. I stopped to have another glance. The guy had disappeared through a wall. I’d been awake for at least 36 hours by this point and my nerves were shot. And it got steadily worse from there.

Sleep deprivation induced delirium.

I snapped some time between 1am and 2am. Suddenly, I could see dead people everywhere and blood caked on the terminal building floor. I kept encountering friends and family all over the airport but they were horribly disfigured. Iwas terrified of falling asleep in case I didn't wake up. So I went to the airport police and tried to explain to them slowly what was happening.

“The dead live, your airport is swimming in blood and some Irish tosser keeps playing 'Nothing Compares 2 U' at me with a circular saw'.

The airport police heard my accent and immediately came to the conclusion that Guinness was the problem. To this day I cannot watch any of those drunk-Brit-abroad Spanish police documentaries in case I see myself remonstrating with the officers about the dead re-claiming Barcelona as their own.

Fortunately the officers could see that I was distressed and led me to a quiet part of the airport where I caught an hour's sleep. By then I was feeling much better, but still drained.

It didn't end there though. I got the plane back to Belfast and immediately into a taxi where the hallucinations came back with a vengeance. I could see dead cats hanging from the trees by the roadside like Christmas baubles.

I arrived home and slept for 22 hours straight.

By the time I woke up, the Dublin Marathon 2011 had already started. If I've learned anything from that experience it is that I have my limits as a human and as a runner. There is no point losing my mind over anything. I'm here to have fun.  

Paris Marathon 2013


This week I started training for the Paris Marathon 2013 and I'm determined to be ready for it both mentally and physically. I'm making a weekend of it, travelling from Amsterdam to Paris and then onto London for an overnight stay.

In case you're worried, I have all of my hotels and trains planned out.

I won't be having a chance encounter with the dead and Sinead O'Connor at Gatwick.

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