“You’re going to reap just what you sow” – Lou Reed 1942 – 2013
It’s seven am, October 28th 2013. D-Day. Garda Frontline HQ. A pungent cocktail of wintergreen and palpable anxiety swirls through the aged and narrow corridors of Pearse Street Garda Station. Mule after mule reports fit for duty, determined to brave the personal battle that lies ahead.
Life can be monotonous at times, however not every day is the same. Today would be the embodiment of that; 42 kilometres, 42 battles, one marathon, one war, one outcome, personal victory or personal defeat. The fight would not be between you and a customary enemy or foe, but rather a battle of the soul, the mind versus the body.
Discarded tubes of deep heat and wintergreen littered the floors, soldiers tooled up by consuming energy drinks, and stuffing energy gels into their utility belts, every last piece of ammunition a potential lifesaver in the personal battle that lay ahead on the streets of Molly’s Fair City.
A legion of centurions march towards the start line; strong, focused, powerful, capturing admiring glances from other souls preparing for the same battle. A former comrade now retired, Mick Miley gives life and gusto to the words of Peadar Kearney ably assisted by the Garda Band. Amhran na bhFiann trails away. The drums roll. On the start line a prevailing sense of dread, a stubborn knot in the stomach which refuses to unfurl hammers away at some, others experience a heroin high, light headed and giddy, the adrenalin courses through their veins. The starter thumbs the red button and over 14,000 troops mobilise. A bobbing army sprinkled with garda battalions.
The enemy has retreated. The early miles are a cakewalk. No threat to the infantry.
The six mile marker in the Phoenix Park passes without incident. The body is good, the mind strong, still no sign of the opposition. Caution exercised as they weave out through Inchicore and onto the SCR. A western turn at Dolphin’s Barn and the first engagement ensues. A stiff breeze rattles the defences and the clamber up Crumlin Road begins to sap the legs. The half way marker is passed and the convoy is a little battered but intact.
A clandestine attack is launched on Templeogue Road near the 16 mile marker; a counter offensive of sorts. A burly wind pushes the troops along encouraging them to run faster and let their guard down. A double agent among the ranks. Vital stores of ammunition are expended needlessly.
The race gets tougher, more fall back. The first real punishing onslaught comes at mile 19 on Roebuck Road. The iron is truly in the fire now. Regroup. Regroup. Circle the wagons. On through Fosters Avenue and the tower at RTE offers little solace; four miles to go. There is no let up along Merrion Road, the physical effort no longer a juggernaut on the move. A toll is being paid. The inner demons taunt and ridicule. A loudhailer screams – I want to stop, please surrender. Cerberus snarls on Shelbourne Road, aka Snipers Alley. A graveyard of marathon dreams. The Waterloo of Dublin, the dropout zone. They plough on through this psychological warfare. The shadows lengthen, the darkness descends.
Two kilometres to go. A small hill at Grand Canal Street, an Everest at this late stage. Reaching the top feels like the flag hoisting at Iwo Jima. Into the final mile- no man’s land. One mile but it’s the longest mile on earth. Pearse Street now and wave after wave of nullifying suffering engulfs weak limbs. Nassau Street has an anaesthetic effect, the willing crowds numb the pain a little. Guerrilla tactics play havoc in the mind. How far can it be? People shout “you’re nearly there”, but the pain returns on Clare Street. The hell continues.
The finishing line appears as an oasis in the Sahara. The enemy is defeated. There is no mirage, just an overwhelming feeling that a personal Stalingrad has been survived. It’s time to rest, smile and celebrate, to be proud and thankful. The demons have disappeared, the doubt expunged. The war is over. A medal is pinned to the chest. Oh the glory…
“Oh it’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you”.Indeed it was Lou, indeed it was.
PHOTOS BY SEAN POWER/POWERPIX