#DreamRunDublin17 – Just over 6 weeks to race day! We catch up with Tara Malone as part of a special feature…

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Special Feature:  #DreamRunDublin17 countdown to race day!

There are just over 6 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 three interviews (all available within our ‘News’ section) have featured male athletes, now it’s time for the first of our ladies, Tara Malone from Enniskillen.  Let’s see how Tara is getting on!

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

One word – HARD.  I have found it very challenging so far and there have been several moments of self-doubt, but I have to say Paul has been encouraging and that coupled with very good running friends who also encourage me in relation to the programme, has enabled me to stick with it – now there are only 6 weeks remaining, I am very glad I have.

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

Well, it is harder in every way.  I actually run less weekly miles now but they are harder miles.  Usually in the lead up to a marathon that I am targeting for a personal best I do a lot more mileage and racing so I have missed that, not just for the racing element but the social side of it too.  Also, my long run is the biggest change.

The long slow run has been a thing of the past during this programme! Whereas before I always ran longer miles at a conversational pace, now it is a much tougher day for me and probably has been the biggest challenge to get used to. Having said that, I haven’t been too far off the paces set for me and there is a great feeling of achievement after completing them.

Again, I am lucky to live in an area where there is a strong running community with people from various local running groups running some of those miles with me and that has been a massive help.

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?

My recent race times would indicate to me that I don’t think I will achieve the sub 3, however my training miles would suggest there is another marathon PB for me this year and I am very hopeful and positive about that and will certainly be aiming high.

Paul had said at the start, that this was an experiment and he hoped he could help us all break sub 3, but I have felt very tired during recent races and not sharp at all and I believe that may be from how hard I have pushed myself in training. I had also just run the London Marathon in a PB time after months of hard training when this training started.  In June I took part in an endurance event that had been pre-planned (100 miles in 3 days) and I have thought maybe I didn’t recover properly from those two events so close together.

However, I am hoping with a good taper before the big day, things will come together for me. It is strange, I feel fitter in training than I have ever felt before and running paces in training that I wouldn’t have thought I would have been able for before, but in the last three races I have felt flat and a real energy drain!  So the progression is there for sure in training, I just have to hope it filters through in the marathon.

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

That would have to be in training. Paul sets us various sessions every week. They have all been different and challenging. But there was a 20 mile run set for me several weeks ago and I remember thinking the night before there was no way I would be able to run at the speeds he had directed.

In fact, I was dreading it but I did manage it in the end.  It didn’t feel easy but I actually ran only one second slower overall average pace that he had asked and I really felt at that time that something had changed in a positive way for me, not just being physically able to run it but mentally as well, I really went for it and I felt great (and also very weary!) for days after. I had never run 20 miles as fast ever, including in previous marathons so it was a great feeling.

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

One session that sticks in my mind is the 8 x 1 mile session Paul set for us all a few weeks ago, with 80secs recovery at a pretty steady pace in between and the miles were progressive, so getting faster each time. I ended up doing that session on my own and it was a pretty dreadful Fermanagh night, lashing rain, very windy. I wasn’t sure again I could complete it especially on my own but despite the conditions I managed to do it.

Now the last maybe 3 miles were a wee bit off pace wise but I stuck with it and completed it as best I could. At the time it probably felt like the worst session but again a great feeling in completing it after has made it now probably my favourite session and one I would use again in future training. Although I will hopefully have some company and better weather the next time!

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

I have Dublin City Half Marathon coming up. I actually have my half marathon PB here from 2015, a 1:27. I would love to break that; however, I am cautious now of races because of the previous races recently where I have literally blown up and felt awful during them. So, I really don’t know how it will go for me. I have a particularly challenging double day session to run tomorrow and I think once we see how that goes (if I survive!!!) we will see what is best to aim for in the half next week.

Of course, the main race is the marathon and they are my favourite races to do and always have been. So, my expectation there is at least a decent marathon PB.

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

I really am. Unfortunately, due to work commitments I have been unable to make the last two meet ups but there is a great laugh and banter on the groups social forum. It is a wee bit reassuring for me also to see that sometimes others in the group find sessions challenging too and we all seem to encourage each other. It has been a great way of meeting new running buddies, you can never have enough of them. I am going to make the next one I believe planned for the 30th September and it will be good to meet everyone again in person with only a few weeks out from the big day. There will be plenty of excitement no doubt.

To finish, I want to thank Paul and NI Running for selecting me for this programme.  I did tell Paul several weeks ago that I half loved and half hated this programme and that is the truth.

There have been several times when I wanted to quit but Paul has been extremely encouraging and helped me stick with it and I am glad he did.  I want to thank my running friends too who have braved all kinds of elements and sessions and ran with me and helped me. It shows you how great the NI running community is as there has been support everywhere.

Finally, I want to wish my dream run team buddies the very best of luck on marathon day. I know how hard they have all trained too and I am hopeful of lots of celebrations after.

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

Tara, is one of only two female athletes in this year’s DreamRun team. A quick glance at any of the conversion charts reveals that a sub three hour marathon for a female equates to approximately a 2:28 marathon for a male.  In that regard, Tara and Denise are operating on a completely different level to their male team mates. Sub three hours is a goal, however, that they are both more than capable of achieving.

Tara’s determination and talent was obvious from the very beginning of the project. Despite her training progressing well, Tara’s positive attitude and motivation took a big hit after a disappointing race at the Fingal 10k, in July. Most of the DreamRun crew have voiced doubts at some stage throughout the plan, indeed, they are all trying to achieve something that they have previously been unable to do. Without the security of having yet posted a good race time, Tara’s doubts were more prolonged than most.

There is no question in my mind that Tara will be physically ready to break three hours, in six weeks time. There is also no question that she is already, currently very fit. Right now, the biggest challenge for Tara and me is to make sure that she is mentally ready to race the marathon. Now is the time for her to believe in herself once more. With the Dublin half marathon next weekend, it is the perfect opportunity for Tara to find her groove again. Marathon training is undoubtedly tough.

No marathon build up is ever completely perfect. Tara has to trust in her training and trust in herself and if she does that, I believe the 29th October will bring us both a day to remember.