Dublin Marathon. A Love Story.
This was originally written for an Irish sports website and subsequently posted on LinkedIn.
I am a pretty keen runner and over the years have taken part in a few marathons. When people find this out I am sometimes asked which I would consider to be my favourite. In order to be scrupulously fair and appreciative of the effort that race organisers and staff put into events it has to be said that I have never come across a rotten marathon. Pretty much every one of them has something positive to recommend it. London has an excited, big city buzz about it. Connemara by contrast is an exercise in quiet contemplation and being comfortable with your own company. Longford is extremely well organised and friendly and Blackpool marathon was the only race where I received encouragement from streakers en route.
My favourite though has always been the Dublin City Marathon. I first completed this in 2000 not long after moving to Ireland. It started then on the banks of the River Liffey by the Four Courts and the weather at the start was horrendous. It was cold, sleety windy grey and generally a bloody awful winter’s day. I remember a lad in a Kerry GAA team jersey flying past me soon after the start making me feel like I was going backwards. I passed the same guy after about eight miles as he was being sick by the side of the road. It must have been a long old day for him after that. By the time I stumbled past Heuston station on toward the finish line the blue skies were clear of rain, the sun was out and I was hooked.
Nowhere have I encountered a city that provided the same heartfelt encouragement and support that the citizens of Dublin bestow upon those of us who, for whatever reason decide to plod 26.2 miles around the town at the end of October.
Every year the race organisers, Gardai, the Ambulance service and a massive crew of volunteer helpers take over the RDS and a large chunk of the city for big running festival. The Expo at the RDS has improved massively over the years to the point where it is now interesting and well attended. The course is fair, well marked and the water stations are everywhere they need to be.
None of those things really matter. Lots of races are well organised and so on. What really matters deep down is that out on the course, every step of the way there are people standing out in all weathers. Cheering. Applauding. Handing out sweets. Playing music. Caring. Wishing the very best to a bunch of total strangers huffing and puffing around their town for reasons best known to themselves.
One year I was accompanying a friend around on what was his first marathon experience. He had done very well up to the halfway point but as we hit the twenty two mile mark he was really struggling to walk far less run. An old guy came out of the crowd and handed me an energy gel. “Get this into him” he said “it’s the best there is”.
Last year a woman slipped coming down the flyover at University College Dublin. One of the spectators dashed off and brought back a first aid kit to clean the scrape and put a plaster on the cut. All done and dusted by the time the official first aid guy arrived.
The large number of people running to raise funds in memory of a loved one or who have stories of tragedy averted provides its own emotional hit. The pictures and messages on the back of shirts a poignant reminder of our shared mortal frailty. It’s no wonder there are so many tears at the finish.
Every time I run Dublin it feels like my own personal Cup final. Thousands of cheering supporters and a wave of goodwill helping to carry me to the finish. It always feels like a great day out no matter the weather, no matter my own performance.
Maybe it could be your great day out someday too.
See you at the end of October.
Thanks for reading.