Sunshine and proposals at finishing line on record day
Under glorious blue skies, 19,500 runners took advantage of Ireland's Indian summer yesterday to compete in the Dublin City Marathon.
Now the fourth largest marathon in Europe, a record number of runners wound their way through the capital, with approximately 17,000 crossing the finishing line at Merrion Square.
French runner Jean Baptiste Cokelar, from Cateau, France used the occasion to propose to his girlfriend Delphine via a sign attached to his back asking for her hand in marriage.
He wasn't the only French man to catch spectators' eyes; Michel Bach from Magney Le Hongre, France, dressed as the Eiffel Tower while running the 26.2 mile route.
In a nod to Halloween, other runners ditched the shorts and singlets for Superman, Flash Gordon and Elvis costumes.
Exhausted runners were given a hero's welcome by family, friends and supporters at the finish line and were presented with a special medal commemorating the centenary of the 1916 Rising and the 37th annual run.
Among the competitors, aged between 18 and 86, it was a triumvirate of Ethiopians who crossed the finish line in record time.
First prize - including a cheque for €12,000 - went to Dereje Debele Tulu, from Addis Ababa, who came in first in the elite men's race in a time of 2:12:18, followed by compatriots Dereje Urgecha Beyecha in 2:14:38 and Asefa Legese Bekele with a time of 2:15:01.
Mr Tulu, who took the lead in the third mile, said he was delighted to have won the race.
"Being number one is very good," he beamed as he spoke to reporters after barely breaking a sweat as he crossed the finish line shortly after 11am. "I'm very happy."
So-called "accidental runner" Laura Graham, (30), from Kilkeel, Co Down, said she was shocked to win the Irish women's title with a time of 2:41:54, beating Letterkenny's Caitriona Jennings and Tullamore's Pauline Curly.
"I didn't expect that at all today," said Ms Graham, a mother of four, who only took up running two years ago after her father Drew suffered a near-fatal heart attack several years ago.
She began running in order to raise funds for the local heart and stroke association and is running this year to raise funds in aid of autism.
Despite the near-perfect conditions - including sunshine and crisp autumnal air of 15C, her win still caught her by surprise.
"I still don't think I'm good enough (to be an elite runner) but I just had it in my head that I have to go for this," she said.
Helalia Johannes from Namibia - who won the 2011 Dublin Marathon - won the women's elite category in a time of 2:32:32 in a nail-biting finish that saw her power ahead of Ethiopia's Ehite Gebireyes to win by a mere two seconds.
Ms Johannes, who took time out from competition last year after giving birth to her daughter Honour, said it was her little girl that helped spur her on to win the race and take home the top prize of €12,000.
But she said it's the incredible spirit of Dubliners that keeps her coming back year after year.
Sergiu Ciobanu, who hails from Moldova but has been an Irish citizen since 2005, said he felt somewhat vindicated yesterday after winning the Irish men's national championship title with a time of 2:17:40, his fourth national title and personal best.
He narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Rio Olympics following a controversial decision by Athletics Ireland to award the spot on the Irish team to Paul Pollock. But Ciobanu said he will happily hoist the trophy when he returns to his adopted home of Clonmel, Co Tipperary.
Mark Kirwan, (31), from Raheny, north Dublin, said yesterday's gruelling race, which he completed with a time of 2:22:17, was "the icing on the cake" of a year in which his wife Ruth Mills gave birth to their daughter Lucy.
Irish Paralympian Patrick Monaghan, (30), from Caragh, Co Kildare, won the wheelchair race in a time of 1:39:18.
French runner Celine Bonce, (35), from Brittany, said the Irish people who lined the route and cheered on in encouragement were a true inspiration for those sprinting by. She said: "The Irish are brilliant."