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Gill Takes on Dublin

Keep smiling and ask yourself why not when considering a challenge – there will always be more reasons to do it than not.

On 29th October 2017 twenty-four of us, including myself, represented Walk the Walk in the Dublin Marathon

A quick bit about me: I am an ordinary 41-year-old Highland lady, large in size but motivated and determined. I have completed 3 Edinburgh MoonWalks and this year I caught the walking bug and completed the Three Land Challenge and Thames Path Challenge 50km. They were five very different but amazing experiences!

I was a late comer to Dublin as I am not the fastest walker and my personal best was 7.5 hours. I always knew I could walk faster but there was no way I could shave an hour off my time. I met such special and inspiring people at these events I wanted to see them again so emailed Sam at Walk the Walk to ask about going to Dublin as a supporter. She replied there was one space left in a shared room and asked me to consider walking as she knew the buzz and adrenaline would push me on.

After consulting with my 2 trusted friends I signed up knowing I had a massive challenge ahead. From saying ‘yes’ to Sam, she made me start to believe in myself. We received weekly motivational emails from the Walk the Walk Team, which provided information on walking, nutrition and team tactics. Whether you are completing your first or 20th walk, you are given the same training plan & information. And everyone would agree if you follow the training plan you will complete the marathon.

A very good friend I met in Iceland gave me tips on how to walk faster and I mixed the training with endurance (Thames Path) and speed (Dublin). This helped immensely. The Dublin adventure begins as soon as you sign up. The Facebook page puts you in touch with your fellow walkers, some of them I knew and some knew friends I had made through the Three Land Challenge.

You make your own way to Dublin so on Friday 27th I flew from Edinburgh and met my roommate and one other walker at the airport. Once we landed in Dublin we met up with the others to travel into the City. We were booked into the Conrad Hotel in the centre of the City and more importantly 10 minutes away from the finish line. The hotel was full, mainly with marathon competitors including elite Kenyan athletes, which was surreal thinking how we were about to follow the same route.

We were treated to Afternoon Tea to meet each other and caught up with friends. After such an amazing treat we all felt the need to move so most of us went to the Expo to register for Sunday, there were stalls for everything associated with a marathon. When I went to collect my race number the lady asked if this was my first Dublin Marathon. When I said yes she rang a bell & shouted ‘this is Gill from the Highlands in Scotland. It’s her first time’ and the other staff all stopped and applauded. Wow, that was some attention I didn’t want but loved it all the same.

As I said I am a slower walker and it quickly became apparent I was probably going to be last. I could accept being the last WTW person but did not want to be the very last person in the marathon. Being in the Expo made the whole situation very real and the nerves really kicked in. There was no way I was backing out, but the pressure to finish and not make a fool of myself kicked in. I knew if I could get round in seven hours I would be happy. As I spoke to people who had completed this last year I learnt that one member of staff (it was to be Sam this year) would always walk at the back of the Walk the Walk Team. This caused me more anxiety as it was her first marathon and I wanted her to enjoy it and not have to worry about me.

On Saturday a group of us walked into the city to meet with the two independent walkers. It was also Suzie’s birthday so we had a wee celebration. Three ladies then headed off on a boat trip down the Liffey. The rest of the group were heading to the Guinness Factory but I had bad memories from the last time I was there and I was feeling the need to be alone and calm myself down so I went off to a Wax Work Museum. I had a great hour in there and then a wander round Trinity College on my way back to the hotel.
We all met together again to walk round the corner to Hugo’s Restaurant where we took over the basement and enjoyed a three course meal designed to carb us up ready for tomorrow - the big day.

It’s safe to say I didn’t sleep much on Saturday night and the extra hour did not make a lot of difference to me except to heighten the nerves. After a wonderful breakfast we assembled for the team photo but I was late so didn’t get my photo taken with the others. We walked to our start place and as we walked past the thousands of others taking part the sense of what I was about to do really hit home. After lots of hugs and positive reinforcement from my friend we set off. It is a strange feeling walking while thousands run past but Sam kept me grounded saying ‘just keep walking they will run around us’. Sam and I walked together for 11 miles. She kept making sure I was ok and we talked about many things in those miles.

At 11 miles one of my fellow walkers had to drop back a bit. The sweeper bus was starting to tell us the road was to open shortly so Sam told me not to panic and just to keep walking. At 11.5miles with one tap on my shoulder Sam said to me ‘keep on going you can do this’ as I was starting to get faster. I could see some other walkers from our group with Jen so I made it my mission to catch them. When I did Jen asked me if I was ok, my unfiltered response was ‘I’m not having that sweeper bus up my arse for the next 13 miles’. We spent the rest of the route using Jen and co as our pacemakers.

Coming to the end of the route I could see the time was 6hrs 55 mins. I was determined to make the walk in under 7 hours so found the last of my energy to bring me in at 6hrs 58mins. As stated previously my best time had been 7hrs 30mins so to finish 32mins faster than I’ve ever walked was such a confidence boost and I didn’t stop smiling for days. As one friend said on Sunday night ‘you have a cheeky grin in your eyes’.

Once again my Walk the Walk family got me through my final challenge of the year and reaffirmed my faith in human kindness. We were all delighted for one another and most chose to eat in the hotel restaurant so laughter and mutual respect was in abundance. We had to say goodbye on the Monday to our friends. Some of us on later flights went back into Temple Bar and enjoyed a final Guinness and live music. A fantastic end to a truly amazing weekend! Special thanks and love go to Jen and Sam who kept us all in check and made sure we all achieved our goals.

I have written another blog about my fundraising and I am completing the Three Land Challenge again in 2018 to fully appreciate the amazing experience without the nerves as I know I can do it. There are another few events I am looking at doing. As long as I can walk I will continue to raise money for others as one day it might be me that is benefiting from the grants provided by Walk the Walk.

Keep smiling and ask yourself why not when considering a challenge – there will always be more reasons to do it than not.

Gill x 

If you'd like to follow in Gill's footsteps entries are now open for Dublin 2018!



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