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‘The Dublin Marathon hasn’t changed, and neither has my naivety, so what has?’

The 2023 Dublin Marathon will add silence to my mind, putting that worry-churning, anxiety-turning thought machine on ‘sleep’ for a few hours at least

Gong… gong… gong… gong…

A frozen blue sky fizzles on a clear, crisp autumn morning. St Patrick’s bells beckon the reckoning of the 2023 Irish Life Dublin Marathon. Bouncing, rolling rubber from trainers and wheelchair tyres fill the silence the bells leave after nine chimes. Passing St Stephen’s Green – approaching the first complete mile – there is no chatter, there are no cheers, just quietness… and an enchanted march of the marathoners.

The running swarm swerves to the strait of Chesterfield Avenue, a false flat of a bullet track slicing through the mighty Phoenix Park. Runners embark upon the steady rising road, but it seems to curl steeper: the mind bends under a marathon’s physical strain – the enlightened become the frightened.

Fear and screams remain within, the rhythmic stomp of the runners continues as silence seeps through the city – this is not a normal metropolitan marathon. Eyes are drawn to the crystalline sky: clouds of squid ink start to spoil its clarity. What starts as a few patches spreads to drown the whole scene, the runners’ white pupils luminate like fireflies, piercing through the shadows under a now darkened sky.


Then it happens.

First it was a drip, then it becomes a splotch: thick black pools of liquid start to leak from the heavens, hurtling down hard on the runners, so early into their adventure. The force is unstoppable, and soon it becomes floods of brown, black, thick solution, sweeping-up waves of marathoners in its wrath – sliding them back out of Phoenix Park and into the river Liffey, then into the most ghastly of whirlpools…a Domesday sinkhole, with a creamy white top, for all those having the audacity to attempt to complete 26.2 miles around the country’s capital.

Okay, I will confess… there’s some things here that aren’t true.

It’s not October 29th yet, so we’re yet to find out if this weird dream I had the other night is totally fictitious.

One thing’s certain, though – I’ll be there, lining up alongside 20,000 others this Sunday, starting the flat, but unrelenting marathon course around the historic streets – and building sites – of Dublin.

This won’t be my first hack at the Dublin Marathon – I managed to complete it in 2017, but don’t let that form an illusion of braggadocio: I’ve written about how that event sickened me from running a marathon again for a period – yet here I am again.

In six years the Dublin Marathon route hasn’t changed, and neither has my naivety… so what has?

[I have a word limit so I’ve had to be selective here.]

– We’ve mask-worn (or actively not mask-worn) our way through a ginormous global pandemic.

– Earth has started to cook and cool herself a little bit more than normal, a habit she’ll be hard pushed to get rid of.

– Ireland men’s rugby have managed to make it through to a World Cup quarter-final (just kidding, that hasn’t changed…).

But who cares about that? Most importantly, in the last six years… what’s happened to me?

I’ve gotten older, that’s for sure: technology is starting to not make sense to me, and I am regrettably having to listen to children to learn how to use it. Candles have become my friend, and I’ve found there actually is a difference between an “oaky” and “earthy” fragrance. My body is becoming a soundtrack, with more cracks coming from it than our old wooden floor. The weekend of 2017′s Dublin Marathon also happened to be the first time I brought my English girlfriend home to meet my parents. In 2023 we’ve spent the days leading up to the marathon looking at wedding venues as we became an engaged couple in April: time doesn’t settle, St Patrick’s bells clang, in dreams and in reality.

What about reality, though? It seems the younger I was the more I approached things like my life depended on them – which is ironic really, as the ending to my life creeps closer (but hopefully still far away enough)…should that cycle not be better engineered the other way around?

Upsetting others seems to be more of a constant worry in my life than it has ever been… keeping the peace shovels up bucketloads of conscious – anxious – thought. Am I polite enough? Have I done enough? Does it sound like I know what I’m doing? What’s next? And all this whilst one day drips into the next – I sit and stew on escalators, elevators, on trains in aviators, thinking the same banal thoughts about chores, groceries and paint colours.

Who cares about why I’m doing the Dublin Marathon… as we get older, why do we end up doing this? Why am I digesting trade press and typing “email updates” instead of writing Guinness-flood parables in national newspapers and yelling sections of Greek classics from the top of my lungs in the streets?

The 2023 Dublin Marathon will be anything but silent: it will be a cacophony of cheering, positivity and of human achievement. Yet, similarly, it will add silence to my mind, putting that worry-churning, anxiety-turning thought machine on “sleep” for a few hours at least.

I recognise my plight as a privilege: my conundrums of “I am doing this, I should be doing that” are a level higher than so many other parts of the world right now: the simple question they ask themselves, day in, day out, is “how do I survive?”

Many people will run Dublin like me for the therapy running it provides them, whilst many will also be running to raise money for charities in desperate need, aiding those questions of survival. For once I will be too, for Trócaire, who are providing aid against humanitarian issues across the world, including the catastrophic events currently unfolding within Israel and Gaza. (if you’d like to donate you can do so through the website, or through the marathon fundraiser on my Instagram, @danbikestewart).

Good luck to all runners taking part on Sunday, let’s hope the sky stays blue, the Guinness stays in the pub, and doesn’t start falling from the skies.