By Ciaran O’Donnell
When less can be more. Up until recently, Letterkenny AC’s Caitriona Jennings was of the view that if she wasn’t on the limit every time she trained, she wasn’t working hard enough.
Her decision to change coach this year has led to a change, too, in perspective. And so the local Olympian goes into Sunday’s 39th Dublin Marathon with a much more relaxed mindset. While she’s extremely keen to go one better than last year and win the national marathon title, she’s not putting herself under any pressure.
“I’m looking forward to it,” she says.
“It’s always a great day. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it and will just see how it goes.”
“Preparation has been good in that I haven’t been injured or anything. I’ve been broaching it slightly differently to other years. I’m not training as hard, so the approach this year is different. I started to work with Teresa McDaid and she has made it fresh and interesting,” she adds.
Caitriona’s training now is much more centred around heart rate.
“And less about flogging myself,” she adds.
By her own admission, the 38-year-old would have been guilty of putting the body under too much pressure during workouts.
“In hindsight all my tempo runs would have been nearly at race pace. I would definitely have been over-training and pushing it all the time. In my mind unless you were running really hard, you weren’t really training properly. But now I realise that that’s not actually the case. So it has been really different in terms of the approach, but I have really enjoyed it because it (the load) has been a bit less.”
While she’s been plugging away for most of 2018, Caitriona didn’t fully commit to doing Dublin until September, even though she took part in the official launch of the marathon back in May. Compared to previous years, her build-up to the Dublin Marathon 2018 has been much shorter.
She was crowned national marathon champion back in August when winning in a time of 1:22:55, although she wasn’t anywhere near tip-top shape.
“I wasn’t running well at the time – I just did it because I wanted to run it. I do think that I’m in better shape now. The problem with the marathon is that you might think you’re in great shape and then all of a sudden you go to the start line and that disappears.”
She posted a personal best of 2:36:11 for the Rotterdam Marathon in April, 2012, prior to representing Ireland in the Olympic Games in London the following August. 2012 also saw her recording a personal best of 1:15:32 for the half marathon.
“While I’m not in as good a shape this year, I am more relaxed. And you just never know, I might actually run well on the day.”
Back in March, Caitriona took up an offer to compete in indoor marathon in New York.
“It was held on a 200 metre track and it was torture watching the number of laps go down,” she says with a laugh.
“It was absolutely awful.”
Sunday will see her taking on the Dublin Marathon for a fourth time, so she knows the gig. She was second Irish woman and fifth woman overall last year.
“I’d love to win the Irish championship, but it depends who’s there on the day. I know Lizzie Lee is running so there will be competition there. To be honest I purposely haven’t looked at the start list because you have to run your own race. Whether I win the championship this year, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
That she’s working and living in Dublin means she’s extremely familiar with the course.
“While I haven’t trained a lot on the course this year, I do train on bits of it from time to time. That is an advantage because it’s nice to know where the hard parts are and the parts where you can recover on. The atmosphere in Dublin is phenomenal and is definitely my favourite marathon because there is so much support. Everyone knows you and it’s great for me because I can sleep in my own bed the night before. Nothing changes, so that’s brilliant. I’m going there to enjoy it as well.”
Caitriona is as ready as she’s ever been for the long race.
“I will push myself when it comes to it. I know that. So it’s a matter of trying to enjoy it as long as I can.
“The buzz is amazing and the fact that the organisers moved it to a Sunday a few years ago has brought in a lot of foreign runners which has really improved the the marathon. Sure if you haven’t entered by June, you won’t get an entry.”
Getting the balance right in training has been the challenge in recent months, with the main priority avoiding the fall into the over-trained trap.
“A lot of the time you arrive at the starting line wrecked and you’ve run your race before you get to the starting line. It’s really hard to measure it correctly. If it doesn’t go as well as I’m planning, I wouldn’t lose hope because I think I could have trained a lot harder for it if I’d wanted,” she comments.
“Teresa (McDaid) was very aware of my other commitments. If I was busy at work she would advise me not to train, whereas before I would try and go out and do some kind of session at 10 o’clock at night just to get the session done, when in actual fact, I was gaining nothing and leaving myself wrecked. You can be your own worst enemy at times, you just have to be able to be sensible.”
One lives and one learns.
And more can be less.