Ciaran Byrne: Laughter, tears and roars of triumph in another epic race
SOME stumbled, some fell, some hopped, and in the end a few more were lent a kindly, helping shoulder to lean on.
But what really mattered yesterday was that they all crossed the finish line.
Many of the 13,000 competitors in the 31st Lifestyle Sports-Adidas Dublin City Marathon hadn't even reached the five-mile mark when Kenyan Moses Kangogo Kibet broke the tape in a dizzying 2hrs 8mins and 58 secs -- a new Dublin record.
He was followed over the line 16 minutes later by the first woman, Russian Tatiana Aryasova. They said Mr Kibet ran the last mile in 4 minutes and 50 seconds -- the time it takes for most of us ordinary mortals to wash a few dishes.
But for the vast crowds watching in glorious but nippy autumn sunshine, it was enough to be there as loved ones completed a course that encompassed the Phoenix Park, UCD's campus and the city centre's main streets.
There were tears, laughs, and guttural roars of personal satisfaction at the end of the gruelling course. Mostly the emotions spoke of a huge personal achievement being marked.
Others bounded along without a bother on them, giving it the look of a bank holiday stroll rather than the bank holiday nightmare it surely was for some who took part.
Some were marathon virgins, others seasoned contenders such as Catherine 'Kay' O'Regan, a perky 74-year-old from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.
She was running her 100th marathon in what was very much a family affair. After coming home in a very impressive 4hrs 25mins, the grandmother nonchalantly waited 10 minutes for husband Joe to finish, as well as son Fintan, who was running in his first race and came in just a couple of minutes behind her.
"I feel great," said Mrs O'Regan after crossing the line. "This one was very special for me. I just love running."
"She's metronomic," said Fintan O'Regan (50) when he eventually caught up with his mam. "I knew I wouldn't catch her so I didn't even try. She's amazing." he added.
A great number ran for fun and to raise money for charities and causes such as cancer research, meningitis, Down Syndrome and dementia. Many others represented the country's main running clubs, such as Mullingar, Sligo and Raheny.
Others ran for themselves, following through on promises made in darker, more personal moments of crisis.
Two years ago, John Quigley (57) from Cork city was told he had prostate cancer. Yesterday, fully recovered, his voice cracked as he proudly proclaimed: "Cancer does not have to be a death sentence."
They came from all walks of life, all sorts of places and they wore all sorts of attire, including full leprechaun suits (runner Pat Gallagher from Herfordshire), blonde wigs and nappies and superhero outfits. There was even a man painted as a tiger (Adam Sugget from London).
There was Mary Nolan Hickey, the only woman to have run every Dublin Marathon to date, maintaining her 100pc record, finishing in a time of 3hrs 51mins and 13 seconds in aid of Wicklow Hospice.
There was the former boxer Bernard Dunne who clocked in at a respectable 3hrs 45mins before he slipped away in the crowds without any fanfare.
Ann O'Riordan (39), who works for the Glen YouthReach in Cork, crossed the line with daughter Lia (4) swinging from her arms. "The most wonderful feeling in the world," she said.
She was followed by Dublin-based gardai Anthony Malone clutching his daughter Aiobinn (eight months) and Niall Reilly who held Aimee (7) as he finished his personal 26-mile and 385-yard odyssey.
As usual for the marathon, it was volunteerism that carried the day, with armies of helpers on hand, including 300 staff from the St John's Ambulance, 1,000 race marshals and even a dozen pace-setters whose job it was to run literally to a pre-determined time.
So it was that Gary Condon from Shankill, Dublin, ran the marathon with a huge balloon tied to his arm. Soaring high above his head it read "3.15", which meant those on a mission to finish at or before that time had to keep up with him.
WHILE the weak sunshine had come as a pleasant surprise, the morning cold forced runners to cover up as they gathered on Fitzwilliam Street for the 9am start.
When the klaxon sounded, they discarded hundreds of jackets, fleeces and other garments -- a marathon bonus gratefully scooped up by a waiting charity clothes bank.
"Brrrrr," said Paul Hannon from Co Armagh, who won the wheelchair race in a time of 2hrs and 20mins. "It took a while to get going -- I'd say it was about nine miles before I warmed up," he added.
"Brrrrrr," said one official just after 4pm as the last stragglers came home and the sun set on another epic race.