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Dineen’s Marathon Journey
Sunday was a day of huge emotional contrasts for me. I participated in the London Marathon for the first time and I’m writing this blog, not as a blatant piece of trumpet blowing but to record the new lessons learned in terms of what I unexpectedly managed to achieve through pure mental grit. I now know what is possible for anyone when they dig deep (even a particularly lazy bugger like myself).
Our LinkedIn profiles are designed to project both our professional life and the ethos of the companies we work for. But behind every profile, a real person exists full of passions, imperfections, the history of numerous decisions - not always good, frustrations, regrets and loss. Let’s face it who really “lives and breathes the ongoing development of data driven advertising technology”?
Its often as a result of losing someone close to them that people without any past experience decide to run 26.2 miles and I know many of you that are reading this would have been doing the same thing around London on Sunday.
It’s a fairly obvious equation that if you approach a task with a positive focus it will improve your sense of well-being. Although I have always strived to be a decent person, I hadn’t always looked after myself physically or mentally as well as I should have especially in my 20s. I needed a focus and a target that I had to deliver on. Getting myself fit enough to run in April required a monumental effort and change in my daily habits. Fortunately I was invited by an old colleague and friend to join his running club “Chasing Lights Collective” who were instrumental in giving me the support required to turn things around and really motivated me to pound the pavement as much as possible. The mental barriers were harder than the physical ones to break down but the more you train, the easier it becomes.
I’m digressing here.
There was a lot of preparation leading up to the big day and with record temperatures predicted, it was still always bound to be tough. I told myself that it wasn't about setting a time, I just had to get around the course at a slow and steady pace. 'Slow and steady' is my natural pace in everything I do so, in some respects, conditions were perfect for Mo Dineen.
I got off to a nice start and fell into a comfortable rhythm; in control and feeling good especially after seeing my wife and various groups of friends rooting for me along the way. Everything felt great and I was set not only to finish an event I had previously considered impossible but also at a respectable time.
Then disaster struck.
At the twelfth mile - less than half way round, my left knee gave way. I buckled, putting any pressure on it was excruciating. Limping to the sidelines I thought I might be able to click something back into place but I struggled to hobble in any direction and came to the painful conclusion that my race was probably over. At this stage, you are acutely aware of the pressure you feel to complete the marathon and what it has come to mean to you.
Not completing the course would make me feel I'd let down not just the charity but all the people who generously donated and my friends and family who made the effort to come and support me on the day. I'd spent the past 6 months training for this moment and boring everyone about it. I didn't want to start out a participant and become observer at the same event or let this be the one new thing I'd attempt and fail at already. There was also the substantial emotional investment associated with my late father.
The weight of all these factors took me from my previous euphoria to utter devastation and I don’t mind admitting, self-pity. I will never forget thinking that this was as far as I was ever going to get.
You can either sit at the St John's Ambulance point clutching a couple of paracetamol and thinking about the 6 months preparation down the pan and wonder how you are going to find your loved ones in the crowds and go home. OR you can stop feeling sorry for yourself and... just carry on. So I decided I was going to finish this thing even if it took me until Monday.
I was handed a leg support from some friends which allowed me to get to back to a snail's pace but 13 miles is a long way. The advantage of going so slowly is that I was able to take in the sights and sounds of an incredible event and appreciate what a great city I live in. London is full of amazing people both competing and supporting and in many cases both, there was a real sense of 'everyone in this together'.
Six and a half hours after I set off, I finally made it to the finishing line.
Of course I'll always wonder what time I would have been capable of if it hadn't been for injury but I doubt it would have felt as big an achievement as actually making it to the end when the end felt like a painful impossibility. I have always been able to find an excuse for not pushing myself physically and instead go for the easy option sitting in the pub garden “having to take a client or candidate for a few beers” and this could have been one of those situations. Just because you have been that person in the past, doesn’t mean that defines you going forward.
Don't give up because you don't think you have the ability or because you've tried and failed in the past. You may just surprise yourself.
(From what I understand, spectating was equally tiring so you could do that instead.)
Managing Consultant – Ad Tech | Programmatic | Agency Sales