Huge crowd on hand to 'carry exhausted runners every step'
Emotional scenes played out on the streets of the capital as 20,000 runners participated in the Dublin Marathon in aid of good causes and to seek healing for themselves.
Exhausted souls crossed the finish line as the October sunshine and an army of animated spectators created a powerful backdrop for even the most battle-worn.
Stretchers and wheelchairs were ushered for those who had hobbled, with help, to the bitter end. While others had family members join them for the last few metres, just to ensure they would reach the goal they had worked so hard to achieve.
But for some the last few steps were almost too much to bear. Karen Clarke from Portmarnock Athletic Club, Co Dublin, devoted her thoughts to one of her closest friends as she crossed the finish line.
"I'm thinking of someone who can't be here," said the overwhelmed runner as she broke down in tears.
"I thought about my friend to get me through to the end as I was so exhausted coming up to the finish, but then I just became overwhelmed as I know she couldn't be here, even if she really wanted to be," Ms Clarke said.
"She can barely walk, let alone run. She's suffering the illness that so many suffer - cancer - and the more I thought of her, it broke my heart, but I ran for her and she helped me make it to the end."
Ann-Marie Feeley (45) ran the marathon with her husband Colin (46), overcoming one of her main life challenges - exercise-induced anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.
Ms Feeley, who lives in Naas, Co Kildare, was running two years ago when she suddenly collapsed, her airways closed up and a rash spread over her body.
Despite this severe and rare allergy, she ran the marathon carrying two EpiPens with her, to shoot adrenaline into her body in case she went into shock.
"This has been a major achievement for me, I have never run a marathon and I just wanted to prove to myself I could do it," the mother of three said.
"A lot of people give up exercise when they realise they have exercise-induced anaphylaxis but it's only driven me further, to see can I do this and I had my husband with me the whole way.
"The crowd in Dublin really spurred me on too, they were just amazing. I'm just delighted."
Ms Feeley looked elated as she crossed the finish line and embraced her husband.
"I know I could die from exercise, but I don't want anything to stop me living a normal life and I love running.
"If I eat wheat - and there's a lot of foods with wheat in that you don't realise - and then I exercise, that's when the reaction can happen.
"I never thought about it though during the race. The crowd carried me every step."
The number of women participating in the Dublin Marathon rose from just 70 in 1980 to 7,000 in 2018 - a milestone, marathon organisers said, on the 100th year since women got the vote for the first time.
Mother-of-two Mary Foley (40), from Ratoath, Co Meath, watched from the sidelines yesterday. She had been due to run but had to pull out after suffering a back and calf injury.
But she was on hand at the Phoenix Park to cheer on her friends who were taking part.
"When I was injured, I was devastated," Ms Foley said.
"I was going to run for Temple Street because the hospital is so important to me.
"My daughter Faye was born with a blocked bowel and if it wasn't for the dedicated team at Temple Street, who operated on her when she was just a day-and-a-half, she could have died."
The teacher watched the race with Faye, now aged four, her son Oscar (2) and her husband Marcus.
"I was so looking forward to running because this was a new chapter of my life - I had only started running recently - but I'm so proud the rest of the girls are running and I'm here to support them.
"We didn't even know each other last February. We found each other on Facebook. And they have become not only running companions, but friends.
"We talk to each other every single day and we're each other's support network."
Peter Foran, from Clonsilla, Dublin, was also in the crowd with his children, Katie (8), Christopher (5) and Caoimhe (3), as he supported his brother and sister, Christopher and Marian.
"My brother and sister are running to raise funds for a relative's charity, CanTeen - which supports teenagers and young adults with cancer," Mr Foran said. "The charity means a lot because both our parents died from cancer.
"Our dad, Christopher, died from prostate cancer in 1995. And mum died in 2001, after suffering breast cancer.
"Most people are running for a reason and I ran last year. But this year I'm here to support my siblings with my children.
"The Dublin Marathon is such an important event, it reminds us of all the good that exists in the world. How could you not smile watching the runners today."