#DreamRunDublin17 – Less than 24 hours to go! We chat to Neil Curran about his journey towards Dublin Marathon 2017!

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Special Feature:  #DreamRunDublin17 countdown to race day!

There is just under 24 hours 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 (except for the final week… when we’ll hear from two!) 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 highs and lows which have occurred throughout the process.  There has been a mixture of fantastic news and positive stories, and of course not avoiding the disappointment of losing two athletes through injury. 8 of the 10 athletes will start the Dublin Marathon this coming Sunday (29th October 2017).

The final athlete we spoke to as part of our feature was Neil Curran – in another open and honest account of the journey towards the start line, Neil talks about dealing with niggles and the confidence provided by the longer runs!  Get yourself a cuppa and have a read…

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

It feels like an eternity since we first met up on the last weekend of April to begin this journey. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I’m sure probably, neither did Paul or the other 9 in the group! I came into this project after coming off a personal best time I ran at the Omagh half a few weeks before so had, what I thought, was some decent fitness.  The majority of the training has gone well, but I have to be honest and say that there have been some moments of self-doubt especially as I have had a couple of niggly injuries, which set me back a bit.  6 weeks into the program, I got an Achilles injury that put me out for about a week and knocked me off my flow a bit and unfortunately, with only 4 weeks out from the marathon I got a foot injury that put me out of action for another 2 weeks. This last injury has been really frustrating as I was feeling that everything was coming at just the right time.

How has your training changed since joining the DreamRunDublin17 team?

With Pauls training, the quantity of miles is no different to what I had previously done. The structure Paul uses is slightly different but what took me by surprise and a while to get my head (and body!) around, was the shear intensity of it! Everyone who has completed a bout of training for any event knows how much you have to commit to it and make sacrifices but this project has consumed me for the last 6 months!  If I had completed my training on my own I may have listened to that demon on my shoulder and talked myself out of missing the odd session here and there but with Pauls eyes looming on my back I have someone to be accountable to and that has given more focus.

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? How things progressed, the way you’d hoped?

I really hope that I can achieve the goal that was set out for this project. After my first injury, I settled into the training and my body started to adapt to the sessions that Paul had laid out (apart from the 800’s, they seem to be my nemesis!).  On the whole, I was completing the sessions allocated. This has given me the belief and confidence that I can do it, especially the long runs. These were done at paces I did not think I would be able to achieve and then recover from in order to start a new fresh block of training.  The body can adapt to things you never thought possible, you just need to move out of the comfort zone every once in a while!

Before my latest setback, I was happy with the way everything was going but marathon training is very rarely all sunshine’s and rainbows and it is important now to try and push out any thoughts of self-doubt out of my mind and trust in Paul’s training, he has given me the belief I can do it.  My main aim is to get to the start line healthy!

You’ve raced a few events whilst being part of the DreamRunDublin team – What was your favourite event and why?

A few of the groups profiles on previous weeks have mentioned Lisburn 10km, all I’ll say on that is the less said about that race the better! I have been fortunate to have ran pb’s in all the distances on this journey (cheers Paul!), but the one that sticks out is Belfast Half Marathon, even though I could feel my legs were tired from the previous few weeks of training I ran a pretty well paced half marathon and pb’d by over two minutes.

But if I’m honest though there is one race left, that’s the one that counts and apart from the opportunity of being coached and getting to know an international athlete, the reason I applied!

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

The session that comes to mind in particular was the 8 mile float with a 400 metre recovery at a set pace, each mile had the paces increase incrementally. When I looked at the session, my eyes nearly popped out but I was surprised how good I felt when I had completed it.  Only afterwards did Paul tell us that we had ran a 1hr04min 10miler in that session!

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

I have a couple of sessions that I really like. The tempos and long runs. They seem to suit me best, I am definitely more of a long endurance athlete than any sort of speed demon!  These sessions are ones that every runner does, but it is the simple tweaks that Paul makes that made them different to me. The long runs where completed at a far quicker pace than I was ever used to, this started right from the first week of training and the tempos were gradually increased on the program from 4 miles to 6 miles, I had only ever done tempos in blocks of 2 or 3 miles at a time. It never ceases to amaze me what the body can get used to, suppose it is the age-old theory of stress and adapt.

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

To be honest the last thing I thought about when applying for this was the actual group (selfish I know!).  I assumed that we would just get together at the meet ups and we would more or less do our own thing – how wrong could I have been. From my point of view the group couldn’t have gelled any better, probably too well! And that has been the glue that kept the whole thing flowing along perfectly. There have been a few ups and downs along this six month process and having the group there for people to bounce things off has been invaluable. It really does help a lot having a group of people that are striving for the same goal and I think the format that Paul and Ryan have setup here is perfect

With this opportunity, I have gotten to know people that I would never have met and I would like to think will continue after this is over, did anyone say the Christmas Cracker………..? I would like to add that I am gutted that Darren and Johnny are going to miss out on the big event as I know how much work they had put in.

I have the honour of being the last person to write my profile. I don’t like to talk too much, but think I have written well over the allotted 5,000 words! So on that note I would like to say cheers to Paul and Ryan for setting this project up and for giving me the opportunity to be part of something I’ll never forget.  I am sure I have tested their resolve somewhere along this journey and for that, I can only say sorry! I know Paul and Ryan are very busy and really appreciate the time and effort they have given to all of us. It has been hard at times both physically and mentally but hope at the end it is all worth it.

Apart from the 10 of us in the group, there have been other people that have taken part on this journey with us and would like to say good luck to them also, they know who they are.

Last thing to say is from everyone @DreamRunDublin2017 – good luck to all 20,000 taking part on Sunday and hope you all get what you’ve trained for!  P.S… the weather is meant to be good!

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

Less than 24 hours to go.  The Dublin marathon, this Sunday, marks the end of this year’s inaugural Dream Run Dublin project. Eight of the ten runners will take to the startline in the hope of achieving a sub three hour clocking.

The excitement is growing. Even though I am only spectating, my nerves are growing too. While the past twenty five weeks have been far from smooth, I truly have enjoyed every moment of it. For Darren and Jonathan, I really am gutted. I began this project by telling all of the athletes that I believed that they could break three hours in the marathon. I still strongly believe that to be the case. There was only one week throughout the whole project where all the athletes were fit and healthy at the same time.

However, I was hopeful that it would all come together in the end. Sadly for Darren and Jonathan this year, it is not to be. It says a lot about the camaraderie in the group, that they are both willing to travel down to Dublin to support and cheer on their fellow Dream Run athletes. For the eight running, I hope that they race to form and achieve their potential. If they do that then I have no doubt that they will achieve their well deserved goal of a sub three hour clocking.

Neil may be the last member of the group to be interviewed but it is by no means a reflection on his fitness or position within the group. Neil has been a pleasure to coach and is another athlete whose fitness has improved remarkably throughout the project. Unfortunately, his training has been interrupted on several occasions due to a recurring foot injury.

Despite this, he has reached a level of fitness that would suggest sub three hours is not only doable but is well within his capabilities. Due to a flare up of this same injury he has required an enforced taper over the past ten days. This should have no impact physically to his fitness on raceday. Mentally, he is strong enough to realise this too. Despite his recent problems, a sub three hour marathon is definitely a very strong possibility.

A final word from Paul Pollock – “I would just like to finish by wishing all runners of the Dublin marathon the very best of luck. Regardless of the time, completing a marathon is an achievement. Good luck and all the best! “