Women’s Mini Marathon: Morah Ryan and Lisa Duffy join 40,395 on streets of Dublin
THE STREETS came alive in a Mardi Gras tide of colourful T-shirts as tens of thousands of women ran, walked and sweated profusely, all in the name of charity.
Sunglasses were the fashion accessory of choice as precisely 40,395 women toed the line at the start of the 30th Flora Women's Mini Marathon for the world's biggest all-female road race.
They began assembling in glorious bank holiday sunshine from mid-morning -- many, many hours before the starter's gun sent the elite athletes springing out of the traps, to leave the hoards of funrunners singing and doing the Mexican wave happily in their wake.
Even as band Crystal Swing -- or at least two beaming members, mother Mary Murray Burke and daughter Dervla -- were jogging over the starting line at Fitzwilliam Square on behalf of the Carers' Association, Ireland's Olympic hopeful Linda Byrne already had her cruise control set on the finishing post.
At a mere 33 minutes and 29 seconds, the elite athlete flashed past the finish line with barely a bead of perspiration glistening on her forehead.
"This is part of my build-up for the Olympics so everything is going well. I'm just back from Portugal after two weeks' hard training," the 25-year-old said and her mother Beatrice was still out pounding the roads on behalf of Our Lady's Hospice in Harold's Cross.
"I want to say 'well done' to all the women for taking part. It is great to have a goal to focus on in your life and something to train for."
Many of the thousands of women were lining out to help fulfil someone else's dream.
The photograph on the T-shirt proudly sported by mother-of-five Tracey Fitzgerald, from Mullagh, Co Cavan, showed her daughter Casey (6) and her friend Kayley Dunne (8) from Navan, Co Meath, who both suffer from Cerebral Palsy.
"We are running to raise physio funds. They had major surgery done to help them walk. We are running to provide the funds for them," Tracey said. "It is her dream to walk unaided. Casey would love to be a dancer.
"At the moment, she can take 14 steps; she had her surgery in January."
Near the pond in St Stephen's Green, as temperatures soared, Patricia Kelly (31), from Foxrock, Dublin, gathered around her a posse of 64 ladies who were running for the Christine O'Reilly Foundation.
So far the family has raised €30,000 for the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) after Patricia's younger sister Christine died last September at the tender age of 28 from a rare form of lung cancer.
"We are all here in her memory today. They don't know how she would have got it, she was a really healthy 28-year-old, never smoked or anything," Patricia, who was accompanied by her mother Kathleen O'Reilly, said.
"Lung cancers are always referred to as tobacco-related. She was really an inspiration to all of us, really enthusiastic and such strength fighting her illness."
There was the usual sprinkling of well-known faces to be spotted in among the perspiring masses, including model Rosanna Davison, whose make-up was still firmly in place as she took the 10km run in around 50 minutes for the animal charity ISPCA.
Jogging along at a slightly steadier pace was model Roz Purcell (21), who was fundraising for the ISPCC, as she coped with a bandaged leg due to painful shin splints.
Boyzone star Keith Duffy's wife Lisa, who admitted the sweltering temperatures had taken their toll, was running to raise awareness for Irish Autism Action. She waited for a few minutes at the finishing line to hug her friend, Morah Ryan, the wife of the late Gerry Ryan.
One of the many colourful male interlopers, Sylvie Skelton, from Navan, Co Meath -- dressed in a woman's bra and fundraising T-shirt for Crumlin Children's Hospital -- finished minutes ahead of his wife, Sylvia.
However, he was anxiously waiting for her so they could dash back to the hospital to be at their daughter's bedside.
Their daughter, seven-month-old Mary Skelton, will today undergo her sixth operation as she was born with a life-threatening cardiac condition.
"We want to help raise money to improve the facilities -- they want to build a new ward," he said.
One of the biggest cheers of the day was saved for sprightly jogger Joan Brady (73), from Dundalk, Co Louth -- who has completed all 30 mini-marathons and came home in around one hour and 10 minutes, despite sporting a knee injury.
"It was great to see the number of young people out there, that is promising," she said.
Once again, it was the numerous charities who proved the really big winners as their coffers were boosted by more than €10m.