Aching, blistered, bleeding, vomiting - and beaming with joy
For most this isn’t about competition but personal achievement, community family, friendship, and the memory of lost loved ones
RUNNING HAS become a bit of a secular religion in Ireland in recent times.
Indeed, the Dublin Marathon with its 14,300 participants sometimes resembles a massive religious rally. From before eight o’clock the faithful amass on Fitzwilliam Street listening to commentator Dave Dempsey’s invigorating pre-race sermon.
“This is the day you’ve waited for,” he says. “Today is the day you’ve dreamed of . . . that moment has arrived . . . that run down the streets broad and narrow that you’ll never forget.” Many of his congregation are stretching. Queuing for portaloos. Enthusiastically greeting friends and hugging family members.
Some, the lunatics, are engaged in pre-race running (sprinting up and down).
One man, more sensibly, is having a pre-race cigarette. Does that help? “It steadies me,” chuckles Armagh man Wayne Lavery. He and his friend Eamon Lavery (no relation) are dressed in white hooded bodysuits. “We’re the forensics team,” says Wayne.
“Actually it’s just to keep us warm,” says Eamon.
A group walks by wearing what look like large single butterfly wings with numbers inscribed on them. These are the pacesetters – those brave metronomic souls against whom weary joggers can pace themselves.
There are also some people in fancy dress – leprechauns, teenage mutant ninja turtles . . . and Batman. Not Bruce Wayne, but Dubliner Barry Cassidy. “I’ve run six marathons,” he explains. “I thought this year I’d do something different . . . for Halloween.”
“What do you think of this?”
I ask his fiancée, Niamh Murphy, who’s there for moral support.
“Well, it’s different,” she says, sounding a little unsure.
Many are representing charities and causes. “I’m running so Jack can walk,” reads one T-shirt. “Running for Jesus,” reads another. “Clowns for Haiti,” reads the running shirt of, well, a clown. A quartet are wearing shirts with a photo of a friend and the words “Feargal 1962 – 2012”.
“Go on, Fiona!” reads the homemade glittery sign held by James O’Connell. “That’s our daughter,” explains his wife Elizabeth. “She’s running to raise money for leukaemia. My sister lost her husband, Michael Walsh, in January. He was a great sportsman and Fiona’s doing this in memory of him.”
“We’ve told her whenever she feels like stopping to stop,” says her sister, Latisha Walsh. “But she’s been preparing for a long time. We’re very proud of her.”
At this point, the massing runners begin divesting themselves of tracksuit tops and extra layers by just firing them overhead to the side of the road.
It looks like weird confetti. Later volunteers collect this clothing in big green containers for St Vincent de Paul.
Claire Messitt, the grandniece of recently deceased Irish Olympian Bertie Messitt, is running in his honour. Her parents, Phyllis and Ivan Messitt, are holding up homemade, heart-shaped signs egging her on. Bertie has been an inspiration to them all.
“He never talked about his career,” says Phyllis. “But in one week back in the 1960s he won a bronze medal in the world championships and broke the Irish record and a world record.” The Messitts have been involved with running and the Dublin Marathon since its inception. “I’ve run 19 marathons,” says Ivan.
And Phyllis? “I stayed at home and minded four children while he ran 100 miles a week.” She laughs. “It’s a wonder we’re still here talking.”