Jockey agent Garry Cribbin is running the Dublin Marathon for one simple, but very important reason: because he can. Nine years ago, weeks after riding his first winner at Punchestown, he was thrown from a horse during a normal morning routine. Though he ended up breaking his neck, he is adamant that he was very much one of the lucky ones.
"I was brought to Dublin's Mater Hospital and had my first operation through the front of my neck, and then a few bone grafts through my neck," the 32-year-old explains. "I still don't have full movement in my neck.
"It took me the guts of a year-and-a-half to come back to myself, and to get my head around not doing what I really want to do," he admits. "To this day, I miss it."
Determined to keep his hand in the scene, Garry tried a gamekeeper-turned-poacher approach, and decided to represent jockeys at the behest of his friends, fellow jockeys Niall Madden and Ross O'Sullivan.
"I actually applied for the agents' licence in neck brace and crutches," he laughs. And, as his body eventually healed from the accident, Garry found a previously undiscovered passion for football and running. Given his past as a jockey, it was an entirely different approach to fitness, but he was hooked from the outset.
"After the accident, I was conscious of putting on weight, and I knew I had to try something, anything," he recalls. "Through Derek (Smith, a friend who grew up next to Garry in Clane, Co Kildare, and later became his brother-in-law), I did a bit of running. I eventually got up to doing 10k runs with him and it was like an addiction.
"When you get a good time on a 10k run, you want to beat yourself in the next race," he adds. "Then we tried the half-marathon in Waterford and that was it. I was hooked on the idea of a marathon."
As his love of running started to grow, tragedy struck yet again. His friend JT McNamara – a cousin of jockey Andrew McNamara, whom Garry represents – suffered a fall during the Cheltenham races. He was paralysed form the neck down, and in an encouraging move, was recently moved from the Mater Hospital to the Spinal Injury Unit at Southport hospital, Merseyside, in England.
"I knew straight away watching it live that the fall wasn't good," he reveals. "JT is always up straightaway unless it's something serious. So, when I found out about that, Derek and I had a discussion about raising funds for him through the Dublin Marathon."
For now, Andrew and Derek are pounding the roads of Clane, and Garry has found that buddying up with a more experienced runner has helped his progress greatly.
"At the minute, we're trying to get 35-40 miles done a week, and we're now winding down ahead of the day itself," says Garry. "The way our regime is now, Derek and I do long runs of about 15 to 20 miles. We're taking two rest days a week, and doing speed work and tempo runs on Tuesday and Thursday.
"It's brilliant having Derek there, especially when I'm getting carried away with myself and running too fast to early. He's done the marathon before so he knows exactly what it takes. It's also hard to run and train when you're on your own."
And, given Garry's previous life as a weight-conscious jockey, the carb-loading often associated with marathon running is something of a novelty. "We've still lost so much weight," he smiles. "It's the total opposite to being a jockey."
Cometh the hour, and the first-timer is understandably nervous about the task at hand. "I've thought about it a lot, and I am a little nervous about disappointing myself," he admits. "The main thing is to finish it. I've heard that on the day, the adrenaline helps get you over the line."
Job done on his first marathon, the celebration plans are already under way: "We haven't had a drink in a long time, so the weekend afterwards should be great fun," he smiles.
"I got married in May as well and haven't stopped training since. So as you can imagine my wife is looking forward to the rest days!"
To donate to Garry Cribbin's fund for JT McNamara, contact him on 087 9064436 for details.