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Sunday 19 November 2017

Electric atmosphere as 40,000 burn up the streets

High spirits and sporting endeavour combine for run in sun

Jen Feighery, Tallaght, Dublin, and Laura Parke, Clondalkin, Dublin, jump for joy at the start of the mini-marathon
Jen Feighery, Tallaght, Dublin, and Laura Parke, Clondalkin, Dublin, jump for joy at the start of the mini-marathon
Competitors make their way down Fitzwilliam Street Upper
Race winner Siobhan O’Doherty, from Tipperary, with her mother Agnes
Sophie Fleming, Rebecca O'Toole and Lorna Merrins, Nurney, Co Kildare, celebrate after the race
‘Super heroes’ Adam King, Paul Devlin, Robert Lambe and Paul McLoughlin, all from Tesco, Clarehall, Dublin
Caroline Dowling (17), sister Claire (19), Catherine Fitzpatrick, and Bridie Dowling (mother of Caroline and Claire), from Rathdowney, Co Laois

AN electric atmosphere and a euphoric tide of goodwill swept 40,000 women on to mini-marathon success – despite acquiring a little sunburn along the way.

The forecasters had promised cloudy skies, but instead summer decided to arrive with a bang, as bright sunshine rather inconveniently drenched the participants of the 31st Flora Women's Mini-Marathon – still the world's biggest all-female road race.

From early morning, buses, trains and cars deposited hoards of women of all ages and in T-shirts of all colours of the rainbow in the capital in high spirits to combine sporting endeavour with the biggest bonanza of the year for charities.

A holiday mood swept over the city as they strolled up sun-dappled Grafton Street, took a peek into Brown Thomas and sprawled on the lawns of St Stephen's Green, enjoying a little downtime before having to gear up for the event.

At the entrance to the park opposite the Shelbourne Hotel, a group of pink-wigged "ladies" were feverishly dabbing make-up in a frantic effort to cancel out the chin stubble and hairy knees.

Organiser Catriona Ryan said that though the race is meant to be female only, the arrival of the online registration has meant that more men are signing up under women's names.

Asked if stewards turn a blind eye on the day, she said: "It depends on the steward."

Four "super heroes" from Coolock in Dublin – Adam King, Robert Lambe, Paul McLoughlin and Paul Devlin – were running for Aware and were blithely dismissive of the potential problems in running in tights and wigs in the sticky humidity.

"You get used to it – last year was hot, too," shrugged Adam, adding it was worth it to suffer for a good cause.

The strains of the anthem of the Mini Marathon, 'Molly Malone', hadn't even died away when the elite runners fled the starting line.

And just 34.20 minutes later, Siobhan O'Doherty (28) from Borrisokane, Co Tipperary, was first through the tape, overwhelmed with her victory, having come second twice before.

The young woman, who works as a physiotherapist in St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny, has been running since she was 17.

"I love this race and I always wanted to win it but I didn't expect it," she said.

She may not have expected it – but her mother, Agnes O'Doherty, certainly did.

"I knew she had it in her. You can rely on her," she beamed.

Second across the finish line was Fiona Roche, from Raheny, Dublin, while third was Donegal runner Maria McCambridge who had been tipped to win the event but she said it "just didn't happen on the day".

"My legs were heavy. I'm very disappointed but that's racing for you," she said ruefully, adding that it was still good training for the World Championships in Moscow in August.

Running in memory of Jill Meagher and to raise vital funds for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre was the family of the young woman murdered in Australia last year.

Jill's aunt, Catherine Halpin, said the group of 11 got on very well, completing the mini-marathon in under two hours.

"I did the mini-marathon 15 years ago but have done nothing since and I'm a bit sore," she confessed afterwards.

The family have already raised over €6,000 for the Rape Crisis Centre and money is still flooding into the website, which is still active.

Catherine said Jill was not a sports person but if she had been alive and if it had been one of her friends, she would have been the one driving the family to do something.

Jill's parents had been in touch from Australia and were very pleased with the effort everyone had made to honour their daughter, she added.

"It was a very good day. It was something positive and we can't let ourselves be victims. Unfortunately this is the position we are in," Catherine said.

Also running for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre was Fiona Doyle, who was abused by her father throughout her childhood.

In red 'Help Fight leukaemia' T-shirts, Bridie Dowling, daughters Caroline (17) and Claire (19) and friend Catherine Fitzpatrick were running to raise funds for St James's hospital, where Bridie's husband, Patrick, is currently being treated for leukaemia. "He was diagnosed this time last year and the care he's getting there is brilliant," said Bridie, becoming emotional.

In purple 'Down Syndrome Ireland' T-shirts, a team of 18 women were running as 'Team Lilly May'. Lilly May's mother, Roisin Killion from Blanchardstown, explained her daughter was born 18 months ago with Down Syndrome and was doing well.

A team of 16 girls ran in memory of friend Shauna Fitzpatrick (16), from Kilronan on Inis Mor, the Aran Islands, who died from malignant melanoma.

They are on course to raising €80,000 to kit out a teenage "hangout" area at Crumlin Children's Hospital. "We used to visit her in the hospital and there's nowhere for teenagers," explained friends Kathleen Deevy and Noinin Ni Ghoill.

Irish Independent

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