Tuesday 28 February 2017

13,000 marathon runners hit city streets

Louise Hogan and Grainne Cunningham

BLISTERS, stiff muscles and aching limbs are just some of the 'rewards' in store for the 13,000 hardy souls lining out today for the 31st Dublin Marathon.

That, and the knowledge they are taking part in the biggest marathon ever held in the capital.

Race director Jim Aughney, who wants to see the total number of competitors rise to 15,000 in the years to come, said he was delighted to see people back running.

And whether it has anything to do with the recession or not -- the last running craze was during the dark days of the 80s -- politicians have joined in too.

Charity

This year Fine Gael TD Jimmy Deenihan, who ran the marathon last year, is joined by nine of his Leinster House colleagues -- Lucinda Creighton, Mary Upton, Barry Andrews, James Reilly, Nicky McFadden, Brian O'Domhnaill, Fidelma Healy Eames, Frank Feighan and Damien English -- all of whom are running for their charity of choice.

Thousands of spectators are expected to line the 26.2-mile-long route for the event -- dubbed 'the friendly marathon' due to the throngs of onlookers supplying cheers and sweets for weary competitors.

And in the wake of the elites vying for the €15,000 prize for the first man and woman home will be the melee of amateur die-hards running for personal reasons and for charity.

Every year, more than €10m is raised by runners for a wide range of charities, including the two official beneficiaries Barretstown and Special Olympics Ireland.

Some 150 marathon virgins and veterans will hit the city roads this morning as part of the Wicklow Hospice Team. Among them is Mary Nolan Hickey, the only woman to have run all 30 previous Dublin marathons.

At 61 years of age, Collette O'Hagan from Dundalk hopes to finish her 200th marathon while for Tony Mangan (53), from Metro St Brigid's Athletic Club, Dublin, today is only the start of a global odyssey as he plans to keep running until he has circumnavigated the planet, finishing by running next year's Dublin marathon.

Former Saw Doctors drummer Johnny Donnelly will be setting off under the banner 'Run Johnny Run' to raise money for the charity, Sea Change, which helps provide people in poorer countries with small loans to set up businesses.

The musician is at the halfway marker in his challenge to run a marathon or more a month over a four-year period for charity. Around 15 people are due to line out alongside him, with numbers slightly depleted due to injuries.

"We lose an awful lot of runners due to injury. I think last year we had 30 or 40 runners that we lost in the last few weeks before the marathon," he said.

"I'm the epitome of what you shouldn't do. I don't run between races as they are just constant. What is important for me is the break in between, so I don't get to run, hence why I have so little injuries."

Lord Mayor Gerry Breen will start the runners off in Fitzwilliam Street Upper at 9am with the first of the elite competitors expected to reach the finishing line in Merrion Square North shortly after 11am.

Organisers will provide more than 128,500 bottles of water, 34,500 bottles of energy drinks and 20,000 energy snacks to sustain athletes on route.

It's estimated that over the weekend the entrants will consume enough carbohydrate-laden pasta -- as running-fuel -- to cover the Croke Park pitch.

Organisers have warned people to be aware of road closures throughout the day in the Dublin city area as the route winds from the city centre, through the Phoenix Park, out towards UCD and back into the city centre to finish at Merrion Square.

tomorrow: 16-page special on the marathon

Irish Independent

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