Group of 100 honour Michelle in mini-marathon challenge
MORE than 40,000 women of all shapes, sizes and ages will pound the streets of Dublin in the Flora Women's Mini Marathon later today.
And among them will be one group of more than 100 who are taking the place of a mother of two, who had planned to take part before she contracted cancer.
Michelle Bissett, from York Street, Dublin, first began to show signs of dramatic weight loss and illness shortly before her 40th birthday.
Less than a year later, the creche worker was buried in the party dress she had worn to mark her birthday celebrations.
Her cousin, Ann Dudley (51), Michelle's daughter, Lauren (16), and dozens of family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues will don T-shirts emblazoned with Michelle's picture to walk the mini marathon in her memory.
"She wore her party dress for her 40th birthday and was buried in it a year later -- just three days short of her 41st birthday," Ms Dudley said.
Michelle started to get sick just before her 40th birthday in November 2010.
When she was admitted to hospital early the following year, numerous tumours were found and she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"She was almost constantly in the Walter Stevenson ward at St James's Hospital after that," said Ms Dudley, who is from Blessington, Co Wicklow.
"They were absolutely amazing and she was under fantastic care there.
"This time last year, she was asking me if I was walking the marathon. I told her when she was better, we'd do it again for cancer research."
The Irish Cancer Society said they believed it was the largest single group to take part in the mini-marathon for the charity so far. Precisely 40,395 women are due to start the event at 3pm today -- the world's biggest all-female road race.
The event is expected to raise between €10m-€14m for a variety of charities and organisations -- including hospices, hospitals, cancer research and animal welfare groups.
"It is the women themselves; they have taken it and made it what it is," said event spokeswoman Jackie Wright.
"It has just grown and grown. We had 9,000 the first year and 30 years later we have to refuse thousands and cut off the entries early."
Come sunshine or rain, the event attracts walkers, joggers and elite athletes to tackle the 10km course, which winds through the city -- 18 women have completed all 29 events to date and are also due to take part in the 30th race today.
Women from all parts of the country compete, with the majority aged between 25 and 45; last year there were more than 260 women over 70.
This year, 87-year-old Maureen Armstrong, from Thurles, Co Tipperary, is the oldest participant.
The race gets under way at 3pm from Fitzwilliam Square, loops through south Dublin, crosses the overpass on the Stillorgan Road at UCD Belfield campus and returns towards the city centre through Donnybrook, along Leeson Street and finishes at St Stephen's Green.