Wednesday 26 April 2017

Drogheda athletes master the marathon

TERRY McHugh is not even a member of Drogheda & District Athletic Club, but when his son Shane passed him in Westland Row en route to completing his first marathon, Terry jumped from the crowd and sprinted after him shouting encouragement.

Shane finished in 4:08:13, just allowing Terry time to re-position before daughter Kerry came through for an emotional 4:09:30 PB. Such was the excitement that at times the line between the supporters and the 14,350 participants was very blurred indeed!

This was Dublin, 'the friendly marathon', and on the Bank Holiday Monday 32 runners in red DDAC vests were reminded of this all along the 26.2-mile route.

'The DDAC supporters were incredible. I've never heard such roars of encouragement,' said Mary Leech, who led the Drogheda ladies home. It is eight years and three children since Mary last tackled a marathon, and this was to be her best - 3:13:34 and ninth place in the F35 category.

First-timer Judith McKenna was also part of the team and after 20 solid weeks of training under the guidance of Fran Egan, Judith romped over the line in 3:25:54, arms aloft and running beside training partner Mick Chawke.

Later she echoed the thoughts of many clubmates: 'A huge thanks to our coach Fran for such a super training plan and for all the encouragement,' while Yvonne McMahon, another firsttimer, was the third member of the team and sailed round to finish in an excellent 3:48:57.

For Paul Barrell a stomachcramping journey finished in 3:59:08, and the realisation of his goal to break the magic fourhour mark. Despite pain and discomfort from the 10-mile mark, Jillian Munnelly also ticked that marathon box with a highly respectable 4:28:59.

Pals Sarah Clarke and Terri Durnin reaped the benefits of diligent training with nicely matched times of 3:48:38, and trotting home in their slipstream was Liam Callaghan who described his 3:52:48 marathon as 'a 22mile run, and 4.2 miles of torture'.

Club performer of the day must have been Christopher Carolan who modestly deflected any praise of his 3:12:11 maiden marathon outing. Another disciple of Fran, he quietly declared himself 'over the moon'.

Pat Owens also excelled with a 3:13:03 -a personal best in a year that has seen many PBs for this determined rising star. Jonathan Kinsella had an impressive 3:20:55 debut too and Jane Alford and Sinead Brady were all smiles with 4:20:29 and 4:20:51 respectively.

Overall race winners were Kenyans Geofrey Ndungu in 2:11:09 for the men and Magdalene Mukunza in 2:30:46.

More evidence of strong club support could be seen at Oldbridge Estate last Sunday when Drogheda and District ladies claimed gold and silver in the female team category at the Louth Senior Cross-Country meet and the men took bronze.

In the ladies race over 5k in conditions described as 'cold, wet, mucky and slippery' by DDAC's Gillian Ivory, Suzy Macken of NER raced to victory in 21:35, with Drogheda's Mags Nugent the confident runner-up in 22:20. Yasmin Canning took third spot in 22:26, with Nuala Reilly, Sally Tipping and Mary McGreehan in close pursuit.

Erin McHugh delighted her many supporters with ninth place in 24:31, signalling a return to form, and Mary Toner came through smiling in 29:04.

Martin Quinn took top honours for Dunleer in the men's 10k challenge in 36:33, while best for DDAC was Paul Smith in seventh with 38:01. Pat O'Grady was ninth in 38:50 and Robbie Maher was never out of contention, coming in just behind in 38:57.

Stephen Duggan ran a strong race in 41:12 and Aonghus O'Connor continued his comeback after a season punctuated with injury to record 42:51.

This was the location where one of Drogheda & District's marathon hopefuls met with misfortune some weeks ago on a training run. Duleek man Peter Hearty was on cheering duty following dislocation of his knee. Both he and Fiona Murphy, who missed the race due to flu, will hopefully make swift recoveries.

Also missing their marathon are DDAC men Enda Collins and Gerry Mullins who travelled to New York primed and ready just a day before Mayor Bloomberg decided to cancel the famous New York City Marathon. Enda and Gerry were understandably hugely disappointed, but made the best of the situation, running together in Central Park and doing a little sightseeing before their return.

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