Sunday 22 April 2018

A marathon effort in rain, cold and howling gales

Women cast aside orange weather warning

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

It was a day for mugs of oxtail soup and giant slabs of cake. A day for finding the matches to light an unseasonal fire and snuggle under a blanket watching the bank holiday movies.

And yet, as an icy blast of wind drove up Merrion Square, some 37,000 women - and quite a few bouncy-chested pretenders - found themselves doing the polar opposite of this.

'Polar' as in the literal sense of the word.

An orange weather warning had been declared by Met Éireann.

This translates as bringing "weather conditions which have the capacity to impact significantly on people in the affected areas".

The issue of an orange level weather warning "implies that all recipients in the affected areas should prepare themselves in an appropriate way for the anticipated conditions."

People taking part in the mini-marathon yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys
People taking part in the mini-marathon yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Sr. Jacinta, Sr. John and Sr. Margaret from the Little Sisters of the Poor taking part in the VHI Womens Mini Marathon
Alex Krampe and Carina Karsting both from Germany taking part in the VHI Womens Mini Marathon
Eimear O'Brien, left, from Sligo, and Anne Linden, from Monaghan, after completing the 2015 Vhi Women's Mini Marathon
Laura Banks, Jan Dowling, Cheryl Young, and Aisling Connelly participating in the marathon to raise much needed funds for the charity CRY. Photo: Keith Arkins

By this, the national forecaster probably did not mean shuddering at the corner of a Georgian square in a pair of shorts and a singlet before setting off into the storm on a 10k circuit.

In some cases this get-up was admittedly supplemented by other warming items such as a black bin bag or a sheet of tin foil; a woolly bobble hat, a tulle tutu or a pair of fairy wings.

Happiest was the group in the Japanese novelty hats with built-in umbrellas - which were looking less and less 'novelty' by the minute and more like an essential piece of kit for this Irish 'summer'.

Even the lofty bellow of 'Molly Malone', the traditional anthem for the setting-off, was but a faint sigh amid cascades of 'weather'.

But while the runners and walkers, strollers and amblers appreciated Met Éireann's concern, when it comes to the VHI Women's Mini Marathon, the gloves are most definitely off.

It's doubtful that a hurricane would come between them and the finish line.

Every single participant took that orange alert and turned it into a glorious declaration of heroism and a war on sloth and couch potatoism instead.

But far more importantly than that, it was a war on every other ill - from heart disease, cancer and dementia to grief, loss and hopelessness.

The captions and the poignant photographs of loved ones on the rainbow cascade of T-shirts were battle scars or statements of intent worn with fierce pride.

Everybody had come from all four corners of the land to make a difference, to do their bit for 800 charities.

And no howling gales could alter that - let alone sweep away the legendary feelgood factor that takes over the capital every June bank holiday weekend for this event.

So we cheered them on from the sidelines, while turning gradually blue ourselves.

Running it for the 33rd time was Patricia Horgan from Dublin 9, who was raising funds for the Alone charity for older people.

She never remembered the weather being quite this bad.

And then they were off, leaving the street-sweepers to do battle with discarded plastic ponchos which had morphed into parachutes, billowing down the road.

First across the finish line was jubilant Dubliner Maria McCambridge, with a time of just 34.03 minutes.It was her seventh time taking part and this was her first win, after years of coming very close.

Anne Marie McGlynn came second, with Catherina McKiernan in third place.

Orla Timmins (27) from Balbriggan came in at 39.12 minutes. Home to run in the event from Adelaide in Australia where she is working as a physiotherapist, she was delighted.

Shirley Dowd from Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, was running for Temple Street Children's hospital, where little Castlecomer girl Searlait Tywang (5) is receiving treatment for a brain tumour.

Searlait's mother Mairead walked the mini marathon and they managed to raise more than €1,000 for Temple Street so far, said Shirley.

A group of 110 women ran for the Gavin Glynn Foundation, set up by John and Jayne Glynn from Greystones, Co Wicklow, after they lost their beloved four-year-old son to a rare form of cancer last year.

The charity will help children going abroad for treatment, allowing their families to go with them, explained runner Rachel Flynn, who was Gavin's teacher at the Flynnstones Montessori school in Greystones.

It would have been Gavin's fifth birthday on Friday, she revealed, saying: "He was the best little boy."

Two weeks ago, the charity helped the family of an 18-month-old girl sent to the UK for treatment, she added.

Bride-to-be Niamh McDermott from Artane in Dublin ran the mini marathon in a veil with her five sisters for the Irish Society for Colitis and Crohn's disease, because Niamh suffers from Crohn's herself.

"Exercise keeps it well under control," she said.

Crossing the finish line at one hour and nine minutes, breathless but elated, was Kay Clare from Rush, Co Dublin.

She did the event for the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin city, which provides meals for the homeless.

Asked how she found running conditions, her reply was succinct: "Cat."

Four runners completed the mini marathon to raise funds for Kieran Gore, an 11-year-old boy from Ashbourne, Co Meath who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy.

Comedian Maeve Higgins, a VHI ambassador for the event found the going slow - but only because she was chatting along the way.

A big fan of the event, she said the atmosphere was very positive and uplifting.

The only downside about an all-women's event was the inevitable queue for the toilets, Maeve said solemnly.

Irish Independent

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