My beautiful balloon; DCM Half Marathon Spectator Report

I was supposed to run the Dublin City Marathon Half yesterday. I didn’t due to injury; but my beautiful balloon did.

After my last race, the Frank Duffy 10 mile, I’ve struggled with tight hamstrings and glutes. I’ve been on ‘rest’ for the past two weeks while trying to find out the problem and better still, a solution.

It turns out I have what’s called anterior pelvic tilt. The gist of it is when I run my glutes aren’t firing so all the strain is being taken on my hamstrings and hip flexors. Eventually they fatigued, and failed. At it’s worst I couldn’t even run for a green man to cross the road without being in agony afterwards. I was waking up in the morning and unable to straighten my legs without agonizing pain. This in the same week as I was due to race the half. There was no way that was going to happen.

The good news is this can be fixed. Between regular sport massage, treatments from my physical therapist (who moonlights as my coach :P) and daily stretching I should be able to get back out running soon.

In fact, today I ran a 20 minute test run after having had a physio session on Thursday (the pain! the relief!).  The run went pretty well, knock on wood! No major pains or pulls and the usual achy tightness I’ve been experiencing the last few weeks had really eased off. So I’m hopeful that I’ll be back on my feet soon and on track for my ultimate goal for the year; a sub 30 5k.

In the meantime I went up to the Phoenix Park yesterday to cheer at the DCM Half. I had a lot of friends running it and wanted to go and show my support. So in the morning, where I would normally be carrying out my pre race routine, I was able to relax and pack a different sort of race bag. With me I had a bunch of polka dotted balloons (so my friends could find me), a tupperware container filled to the brim with homemade flapjacks, and my DCM clappers. I was ready to give everyone a great send off at the race.

I got there early and got to say hi to a few people before they had to go take their places at the start. I stood down the road about 50m from the start, me and my balloons, ready to cheer and clap.

The atmosphere was fantastic, as it always is at a race so I tried very hard to banish my own disappointment and focus on the excitement for my friends. Very soon they were off and I was clapping away with my clappers, shouting at the people I knew and quite a few I didn’t!

Soon after the start, a runner I know who was pacing the 1:50 group came running in my direction and asked me for a balloon as his had burst. My balloon bunch was tied and taped onto a stick so I couldn’t get him one so he carried on. But then I remembered that I had tied the blue balloon on last; with the longest ribbon so if I could get it off the stick and meet him later on the course I could hand it over. Coincidentally, the 1:50 pacers were wearing blue balloons.

Plan in mind I headed off to another section of the course to wait. I managed to get the blue balloon off the stick, and I excitedly waited for signs of the runners approaching.

There were quite a lot of people waiting at the corner for the runners. It did feel pretty epic, waiting and wondering when we’d catch sight of them. It wasn’t long before the pace car appeared in the distance, followed by the front runners.

I made sure to stand where I’d be visible to the pacers so I could hand over my balloon. In the meantime I clapped my clappers like a mad thing, shouting out to the people I knew, getting lots of waves and thanks and smiles from people on the course. Well, I’d smile at someone with a bunch of polka dotted balloons too 😀

Eventually the one remaining blue 1:50 balloon appeared so I stood ready to catch my friend’s attention. It worked. Quick as a flash I handed over my balloon and watched it bob away in the distance.

After that I started for the finish, where I missed the men finishing but got to see the first three women through. After that it was cheering my friends across the line one by one. As happy as I was for everyone crossing the line, my disappointment at not being able to race was most tangible here. I felt near tears a few times but swallowed those down and kept a smile on my face for my friends. They earned that post race rush; those goodie bags and tshirts (those tshirts! and in my favourite shade of blue, too. Sob!) and the really beautiful medals.

I found a spot after the finish and met up with my friends, handing out flapjacks and congratulations and smiles. Even though I hadn’t run the race myself, I felt like part of the spirit of the race and knowing how much a part of the running community I’ve been able to become helped alleviate the disappointment.

In the end, a part of me was on the course anyway. That blue balloon, which I brought as a cheery way to show my friends I was with them, ended up helping bring the 1:50 group home.

I can’t ask for a better finish than that.

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