#DreamRunDublin17 – Just over 5 weeks to race day! We chat to Darren Wallace about the highs and agonising lows of the programme!

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Special Feature:  #DreamRunDublin17 countdown to race day!

There are just over 5 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 first four interviews (all available within our ‘News’ section) 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.

This interview, with Darren Wallace, re-iterates the very fine balance between achieving your running target and the ecstasy of that, and dealing with the disappointment of having that very target ripped away from you in the most unfortunate circumstance!

This is an excellent interview – grab yourself a cuppa and have a read!

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

Upon getting the confirmation email from Paul I was in the middle of block session for the Lifford/Strabane Half Marathon which was three weeks into the Dream Run program. Training was going really well prior Dream Run, but once Paul started the schedule I noticed an immediate improvement, all within the first month.

The training itself is going well – I would love to say I’m getting stronger, but I have been nursing a knee injury since mid-July which is hindering the training at times and knocking the confidence.  Luckily enough, anytime the head goes down, Paul P knows exactly what to say to bring it back up.

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

Like Barry stated in the first week of the special features, I was doing 99% of my training by myself, where before I always trained with my fellow Foyle Valley AC members.  The main difference with training was I no longer just go and do a session. Paul has set out a structure where he dictates the paces and times I run from 400m repeats to 20 mile long runs. At first it felt tough, but over the weeks its became easier, at one stage I was doing 5 mile tempos in 30 minutes which is only 5 seconds slower than my 5 mile PB. And more recently I had a 20 mile run which was quicker than my first 20 mile in the last marathon I done.

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?

Unfortunately, the 10 is now 9 as I have severely damaged my left  knee which  has forced me to withdraw from DreamRunDublin17.  I had an MRI scan on the 8th September 2017, which I got the worst possible news.  I have a significant tear on my medial meniscal (cartilage) there was several other issues but this was the most damning.  My physio has informed me that if I wish to run at the ability I was at before doing my knee in, that I’d need surgery to repair the damage.  Looking back at the 20 miler I done several weeks back, I was well on the way to a sub 3 hour marathon, I would like to add that everyone on the team is more than capable of running sub 3 and I won’t be surprised when they all pass their own and Paul’s expectations. 

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

Unfortunately, I have missed the Lisburn 10k due work commitments, so we decided  week or so later that I should try and find a 10k to try judge where my fitness is, there was few to choose from and I decided to travel Dromore in County Tyrone.  The 10k itself was far from flat and had a serious headwind to boot, it wasn’t my finest hour but I still manage a respectful 37:30 and finish in 4th place overall.

More recently, I travelled to Dublin for the  Frank Duffy 10 miler which was part of the marathon series. This was a real test of my fitness as it was in the middle of a block training.  The week building up to the race I had 8 x 1 mile which I cut short after 6 as my legs where dead and had a 4mile tempo on the Thursday.  Needless to say I was going into the race with tired legs and body. On the morning of the race, Paul P and I thought a 6.15mm pace would be a good solid run, this was not be, the heat on the day near killed me.  At this point I’d like to point out how much I hate racing in anything over 16oc. But even with the tough conditions and tired body I still managed a PB by 2mins 30secs which was a great result for myself.

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

It’s a tough choice between two sessions since the programme commenced, 20 x 400m and more importantly one of the sessions when we met up at Mary Peters Track – on that day we had 2 x 2mile with hill repeats in the middle, I was always fond of hill repeat and even doing my long runs on a hilly course previously.  I have always found great strength from them.

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

This Saturday I was to be racing the Dublin Half Marathon along with some of the DreamRunDublin team, I was going into this race with a PB of 82.30 set in May this year. With all the hard work and sweat over the last few months I was confident that another PB under the direction of Paul.

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

The few times we have meet up the craic was ninety.  At the start of the programme, Paul P set up a group ‘Wats App ‘where we can all keep in contact – I believe Paul set this up so we could compare notes on training and generally get to know each other, but it has evolved into much more.  If you were to look at some of the messages you would assume we were all lifelong friends, that’s how well we are all getting on with each other. I’m really looking forward to meeting up with everyone in Dublin after the marathon to help them all celebrate a successful marathon.

I would also like to add at the beginning Paul did say that we would pick up a few niggles and injuries along the road. I’m gutted that I won’t be joining them at the start line, but if fate has it that I miss this one so the rest can achieve their goals I’m all too happy to sit this out. 

To close, I’d like to thank Paul and Ryan for putting this program together and giving me the opportunity to be coached by a world class athlete, I hope this program will go from strength to strength each year and with the help of god and more importantly a surgeon I will be able to join them again in 2019.

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

Gutted!  That is the only word there is.  As coach to the DreamRunDublin athletes for the past four months, I have had the privilege of sharing in each of their journeys towards the 2017 Dublin Marathon start line. When they have run well, I have felt a glimmer of pride. When things have gone wrong, I have shared in their hurt and disappointment. And when Darren told me about the meniscal tear in his knee, I truly was gutted.

Darren was one of the strongest members of the group. Breaking three hours in the marathon for Darren was, in my eyes, as much of a sure thing as you can get in marathon running. His training had progressed dramatically. He was comfortably doing tempo runs at 6.15 pace and was hitting the times I had set on every long run.

I knew that getting all ten athletes to the start line in one piece, fit and healthy would be a challenge. However, I believed that it was possible. Sadly now it is not to be. It is the sensible decision by Darren. He is still young and once his knee heals, there will be other opportunities in the future to run a marathon. Hopefully the past four months have proved to him, that he is more than capable of breaking the three hour barrier. Hopefully, he is a smarter runner and now knows what training works for him. For all the hard work, time and effort that Darren put in to his training, to not have him stand on the Dublin marathon start line is difficult. I have been in his situation before and there are no words to make up for the feeling. I just hope that with time, his body will allow him to fulfil his very achievable goal.