Sean races into history books and arms of his mammy
THE first Irishman to win the Dublin Marathon in 20 years raced into the history books – and the arms of his waiting mammy.
Even as primary school teacher Sean Hehir (28) hit cruise control to cross the finishing line of the 34th Airtricity Dublin Marathon, some of those 14,000-plus mortals trailing in his wake had yet to even hit the 10-mile mark.
The Banner County man knew history could be made on the stormy St Jude's Day when it emerged the marathon masters from East Africa wouldn't be taking part.
"This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Sean as he followed in the footsteps of Olympic silver medallist John Treacy's 1993 win in a time of 2:18:19.
Sean's main challenger, 6ft-2in favourite Joe Sweeney, admitted his tired legs simply couldn't catch his rival on the day.
Even if Sean was showing few nerves, his proud mother Cushla Murphy-Hehir confessed she had suffered a few sleepless nights in the run-up to the big race.
Meanwhile, her son, who teaches in Inchicore, Dublin, had endured strenuous altitude training sessions and gruelling 6.30am starts as 'M-Day' approached.
The winner of the women's race, Maria McCambridge (38), enjoyed a kiss from her husband Gary Crossan, who crossed the line less than a minute behind her.
On this occasion, the couple's two-year-old son Dylan wasn't pushed around the course by his dad but remained a spectator.
"I can't even describe how much it means to me to have won," said Maria, from Dublin, who looked like she had no liquid left to waste on tears.
"I told myself I could still do it, and it wasn't over until I crossed the line. The crowds were amazing.
"I just heard my name the whole 26 miles."
And as the masseurs were still pounding the lactic acid from the burning muscles of the elite athletes, streams of amateur runners were crossing the finishing line to the cheers of the waiting crowd.
For some it was a tick on their 'bucket list' that drove them on.
For others it was the voice of a loved one, or a special cause, that was fuelling them.
Lynn Ruane (29) from Tallaght, Dublin, who held a framed picture of her dad John as she pounded the hard miles, told how her dad had died earlier this year from illnesses associated with Parkinson's disease.
"The race meant a lot to me," said Lynn, who was fundraising for the Parkinson's Association.
John Quigley (60), from Douglas, Co Cork, had 'cancer survivor' pinned to his running t-shirt. "I had surgery for prostate cancer five-and-a-half years ago.
"This is my fourth marathon since," he said.
"I wear that to provide inspiration and hope for people who think that once you've cancer you're finished."
Number 200 was one of those lucky ones that appeared to bound over the finishing line. And the number was chosen for a reason as Larry Rigney was on his 200th marathon, his 28th Dublin race.
"It is just an interest," confessed Larry, who said he was "the wrong side of 50".
Another runner who was looking equally unfazed was Claire O'Dwyer (33), a garda at Bray station who was running for the Irish Cancer Society – along with around 170 other members of the gardai.
"I'm delighted. I was injured two-and-a-half weeks ago so I didn't know if I would be doing it," she said.
Some thought the gruelling slog might be a little too easy so they decided to push a child in a pram around the course
Robert Costello, from Dundrum, Dublin, said he could lean a little on the buggy on the downhills with a 15-month-old Charlie sleeping blissfully inside.
And, as the chilly evening light began to dwindle, it was finally time for the 1,000-plus army of helpers and hard-working St John's Ambulance crews to wrap up those tinfoil blankets and to call it a night.
For this year at least.