The Walled City Marathon 2015 – The Idiot’s Guide

In a new weekly column, Derry News Sports Editor Gary Ferry writes about his preparations for the 2015 Walled City Marathon. The only problem is that Gary isn’t what you would call a natural athlete.


I walked the Derry version of The Green Mile last Monday night.

For those of you familiar with that particular Tom Hanks film, you’ll remember the obnoxious prison officer Percy Wetmore leading the huge John Coffey to his cell, shouting out that there was a dead man walking, before he was promptly told to shut it by his superior.

Percy Wetmore was by my side last Monday night, at least in spirit.

As I trudged the last half mile to my car through Springtown Industrial Estate, I could swear he was right there beside me, yelling out to the passing taxi men and the late night customers of the Rice Bowl, that here was a guy on the way out. He was right to do so.

That last half mile I felt nothing but numbness, emotionally, physically, mentally, even theologically.

There was no point to anything anymore. I could actually have been, for all intents and purposes, on my way to the electric chair, much like Mr. Coffey.

You see, idiot that I am, I did too much too soon.

I ran all last summer on my way to competing in my first ever Waterside Half Marathon, and even though it nearly killed me on the day, I did it.

Because my knee had requested a trial separation period, and because I thought I had earned it, I gave myself a well-earned rest. Two weeks off should do it, I told myself. That would give my knee the time to reflect and realise that the spark was still there, whilst also giving me time to catch up on my friendship with the sofa, and the 64 episodes of Coronation Street that I had missed.

But two weeks turned into three weeks, and three weeks turned into three months.

The guilt of New Year’s Resolutions forced me back onto the roads a few weeks ago, and I clocked up five miles, going back to where it all began for me, running late nights around Springtown Industrial Estate, where not a being would see me.

The first step is always the hardest, but I got it done. I didn’t feel too bad afterwards, but since I had been planning all year to do the 2015 Walled City Marathon, five mile wasn’t really going to cut it, and I promised myself I would be back out within 48 hours.

But then the snow came.

I took two weeks off from work, but all running plans went out the window. So instead of running, I built up my upper body strength by building the biggest snowman Shantallow has ever seen (Exhibit A). It took me four hours to build that sumbitch and I was like Popeye afterwards. (Assuming Popeye had a really sore back and frostbit fingers).

With the weight of the Marathon growing heavier on my shoulders with each passing day and each missed opportunity, I woke up last Monday morning determined that my drought was about to end.

I made it happen.

I went out at 9:30pm that night (I had to get the wains to bed!), and parked the car at the Derry News, before setting out determined to hit my target.

Because this was only my second proper run sine the Half Marathon back in September, I set myself a minimum target of 5 miles, but I really wanted the ten.

I did my laps of Springtown and I was feeling good. I had to run with caution as there was still ice on some of the footpads, but I grew in confidence, and once I had completed five miles I set away from Springtown, up past Templegrove, past Ballymac, the whole way up the Northland Road, down Rock Road, Down the Strand Road, and back up the Buncrana Road to Springtown.

I reached 8 miles and I thought – ‘I’m grand here’

I reached 9 miles and I thought – ‘I’m still ok.’

It was at this stage that a ludicrous thought entered my head. ‘Could I do the 13?’

Once that thought entered my head I couldn’t get rid of it. “Think of the satisfaction you’ll feel if you do it. You’ll be right on track for the marathon.”

Once I hit ten miles, the problems began.

I had completed the half marathon in just over two hours in September, and I was making such goo time that I thought I was well on course to break that record, and with barely any training.

“Think of the satisfaction”, I told myself again.

By mile 11, it was clear that I had several problems.

But I kept going, and even though my time was dragging, and my legs were dead, I ploughed on.

By mile 12, I was barely conscious.

In hindsight, I should have stopped at 11, because I was seriously in danger of collapsing in Springtown as I took on the final mile.

I needed something to keep my mind focused, so I started doing the times tables in my head (seven ones are seven, seven twos are fourteen…). That’s how bad a shape I was in.

But after going one to twelve and halfway back around, I reached the end, two minutes past my WHM time.

’13 miles’, the running app told me.

I stopped. There was no satisfaction. There was no joy, only numbness.

On that long walk back to the car, I remember only one thought entering my head.

‘There’s absolutely no chance you can do this marathon.’

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