#DreamRunDublin17 – Just over 4 weeks to race day! We chat to David Conliffe about his journey towards Dublin Marathon 2017!

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Special Feature:  #DreamRunDublin17 countdown to race day!

There are just over 4 weeks until one of the biggest races on the European race calendar, an epic race in terms of Northern Ireland participation – that is of course the SSE Dublin City Marathon, which incorporates the AAI National Marathon Championships.

You’ll hopefully have been keeping up to date with the #DreamRunDublin17 project which we are involved in within Rio Olympian Paul Pollock? Paul is taking his first steps into coaching and has chosen a group of 10 athletes who he will help towards a sub 3-hour finish at the Dublin Marathon.

We decided – 10 weeks to go, 10 athletes in the group… so we’ll feature one athlete each week and ask them questions about the project, their training and their hopes and expectations going forward.

Our interviews so far have proved popular – they have provided an excellent insight into how the athletes have progressed; their open and honest answers have also allowed us to experience the up and downs which have occurred throughout the process.  There has been a mixture of fantastic news and positive stories, and just last week we learnt of the unfortunate withdrawal of Darren Wallace, a popular member of the group, through injury.

This week, we will speak to Dave Conliffe from PACE Running Club in Antrim.

How do you feel training has been going since you joined the #DreamRunDublin17 team?

Things got off to a rocky start as I came down with a pretty bad case of the flu (definitely not man flu!) a couple of days after the first meet up and was out of action for over a week. Talk about getting off on the wrong foot; it was a bit embarrassing having to hand in a sick note in to an Olympic athlete right off the bat. But since then I’ve luckily pretty much remained injury free and have been able to follow the plan without too many tweaks. Some of the training has been tough but there is a good sense of achievement from coming through that.

How has your training changed since joining the #DreamRunDublin17 team?

Quite radically I would say. I am a notoriously bad trainer and would rather race a couple of times a week than put in the background hours on the road or the track. I suppose that of I am going to “lace up” I would rather have a tangible result that I can point to for my efforts. I have had to hold back in that regard and just do those few races that fit into Paul P’s programme.

I don’t have too much in the way of marathon experience and on the couple of occasions when I have run one I have really just winged the training, taking a bit from one plan and a bit from another that I came across on the internet. Therefore I don’t really have any preconceived ideas of what marathon training should be like and am more than happy to follow Paul’s expert advice. It has been a new experience having someone tell me how far and how fast to run every week but it does becomes strangely addictive waiting for the weekly plan to come through – I don’t know how I will cope with that aspect once it’s all over.

Paul’s plan seems to emphasise quality over quantity. We are not out running 100+ miles a week but rather basing the training around 3 key session a week; those sessions are pacier than anything I would have done in the past.

The focus is of course on getting that sub 3 hour finish time at the Dublin Marathon 2017, do you believe you can achieve this? Have things progressed the way you’d hoped?

I have achieved PBs at every other distance this year so I know that I am in decent form and this is probably going to be my only shot at achieving a time like this in the marathon, so I am going to make sure that it is a good one. I have never come close to a sub 3 hour marathon in the past, although in fairness I have never tried. My times at other distances indicate that it should be doable, but that in itself brings a sense of pressure in that there are expectations that because I ran a certain time in a 10k or half that going sub 3 should be no problem. However, we are all good runners in the group and if sub 3 was that easy then one of us would all have done it by now. It’s about putting the work in to translate the speed at shorter distances into a good time over the 26.2 miles.

Regardless of what happens, I have already achieved more than I once thought possible in terms of running times and even contemplating 3 hours wouldn’t have crossed my mind just a couple of years ago.

What has been your highlight in terms of your own personal favourite performance since joining the #DreamRunDublin17 team?

While I have enjoyed being let loose on a few races, I have to give parkrun a lot credit for getting me back into a running a few years ago. Before this training programme a rarely missed a Saturday morning, so the parkrun incorporating session we did back at the end of August sticks out for me. I was only off the plane from the States the day before and Paul had us doing a sharp 3 x 5ks on the Saturday morning, the middle one of which was a “flat out” parkrun. Finally going sub 17 at parkrun after 168 previous attempts was a great feeling – it probably means as much to me as a sub 3 hour marathon if I’m honest…..I certainly won’t be having 169 attempts at breaking that barrier though.

What has been your favourite training session since commencing training with the Paul Pollock and the #DreamRunDublin17 team?

Never thought I would say this but the thing that sticks out is first 20 miler we did! It ended with the last 5 miles at a fairly quick pace and although it was obviously tough and I maybe didn’t enjoy it at the time, the sense of accomplishment at the finish was a real confidence booster.

Have you got any races coming up?  What are your expectations for these?

We have done a couple of 10ks and a half marathon but that is it now until the Dublin Marathon. I am already looking ahead at the racing calendar for the rest of the year though.

The atmosphere and camaraderie at the group training days is very clear – are you enjoying being part of the team?

We are all already in other running clubs but I think there is a sense of coming together as a team for this one off event. I think it helps to know that you are not following some lone plan and that there are 9 others out there doing similar sessions each week or available to meet up for the longer runs.

There is also plenty of banter and ‘slagging’ on the What’s App group alright but in amongst that I have managed to pick up some good race day advice from some of the more experienced marathoners.

I am confident that we will all give a good account of ourselves in Dublin and repay the faith shown in us by Paul P and Ryan at NiRunning.

What does the coach say!? … enter Paul Pollock:

It is fair to say that David is the Chris Froome of the group. Having joined the project with a marathon personal best of 3:17:39, I was not expecting to have discovered an athlete of David’s calibre. Within the first few weeks of training, it became apparent that he was capable of operating at a level above the other DreamRun athletes. While he has been fortunate to have not picked up any serious injury throughout the process, there is no taking away from the dedication and hard work that he has put in to every session.

David is a coach’s dream athlete, as there is never any fuss and he quite simply gets the training done. Behind his understated outward manner however, it is clear that there is an underlying steely hard determination and competitive streak. It is a quality I admire in a runner. The biggest challenge that I have found with David, is getting him to believe how good and talented he actually is.  In the past few months he has set personal bests over a wide range of distances. I fully expect this trend to continue on marathon day. If he runs to form, he is in with a very good chance of having to buy the first round of post-race drinks, as the athlete setting the biggest PB time.