20,000 put best feet forward for GOAL
UP TO 20,000 people descended on 120 of the country's parks and sports grounds as part of the biggest ever annual GOAL Mile fundraising event.
Getting in on the act were Irish troops in Lebanon and Syria who rose at the crack of dawn for GOAL Miles of their own.
The overseas aid charity is hoping to raise more than €200,000 this year.
"We've made an extra-special effort this year," said the charity's chief executive Barry Andrews, who took part in the event in Kilbogget Park, south Dublin, along with 3,500 other participants yesterday.
He said the charity was delighted that the GOAL Mile has become a "Christmas institution".
"It's a great family event and it gets people in the right mood for their turkey and ham later on," he said.
"It really is fantastic that Irish army personnel on duty overseas are taking time out to support GOAL and our work in the developing world. We're extremely grateful to them."
Mr Andrews said that while some participants walk their dog or push a buggy, there are many serious runners too.
Paul Callaghan, from Dun Laoghaire, clocked the fastest time in Kilbogget, running the mile in four minutes 50 seconds.
Jason Murphy and Michelle Cahalane, from Stillorgan, did the mile while pushing their children Zara (2) and six-month-old Heidi in a double-decker buggy.
Zara got out to cross the finish line on foot.
Jason said the family braved the cold weather because "it's great to do a bit for charity and get a bit of exercise before Christmas dinner".
Local organiser Pat Finnerty was overwhelmed with the 3,500 participants -- 2,300 more than last year.
On Saturday, former world athletics champion Sonia O'Sullivan will lead 250 runners in the first Australian GOAL Mile in Melbourne.
Miles have already been run in Abu Dhabi, New York and London. Since it began in 1977, GOAL has provided €790m in humanitarian aid in more than 50 countries.