Marathon runners of all shapes, sizes and ages united by one goal
Dublin’s streets had it all - from no-nonsense elite athletes to gleeful runners in elaborate costumes
Participants in the Airtricity Dublin Marathon, passing Trinity College, yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke
There’s something a bit martial about the marathon. The first one, in ancient Greece, was run to declare a war victory. And now, as 14,500 of the fittest, most motivated people in Dublin gather on Fitzwilliam Street Upper, I hear drumming (well, hi-energy pop . . . I think it’s Rihanna) and militaristic language. The runners will disperse in “waves”. They will be sent forth by the sound of a “gun” (a starter’s pistol). Meanwhile, announcer Dave Dempsey rallies the troops with propagandistic tales of manifest destiny. “The world belongs to those who believe in their own dreams,” he says.
“Yup, the fit people are finally taking over,” I think, as I stand on the sidelines chewing a Twix.
Of course, I’m not sure where the colourful costumes fit into my military metaphor – the leprechauns, witches and Batmen. “I feel a bit silly,” admits Alastair McDonald, one of two charitable pumpkins, as people accidentally run into the sides of his inflated costume. “Like a bit of a hazard.”
‘Here for the weather’
There are runners from all over the world. I meet Phil Erestain, formerly an exercise-averse man from the Philippines who is running the marathon “to surprise his doctor”. I meet four people from France. “We’re here for the weather,” says Francois Valle, smiling ironically at the dark, cloudy sky.
A generously moustachioed Clondalkin man named James Hempsey has run in all of the Dublin marathons. This year he is dressed as a Native American. He started wearing the costumes as a way to keep himself motivated. “I’m really starting to feel it a bit these days,” he says ruefully. He’s 72.
Another fit person, Olwyn Dunne, has volunteered to be a pace-setter. She has a camera mounted to her head and a large butterfly-shaped sign springing from her back. It says “4.00” (this means that those who stick with her will run the race in four hours). “A walk in the park,” she says. I take a bite of my Twix.
Eventually the race starts. Wave after wave of runners head off and soon the starting line is empty of people and filled with discarded clothes. “It’s like a war zone,” mutters one of the volunteers filling a big plastic skip. There’s a single foil blanket floating above us in the wind.
Of course, if these 14,500 fit people do take over the country it wouldn’t be too bad. And as onlookers wait to cheer on friends, family and strangers, the atmosphere is lovely. Children in face-paint wave inflated promotional gewgaws from Airtricity (the sponsor) and handmade signs saying things like “Go Daddy Go!” Adults swig coffee and hold signs saying things like “Go on Derek, you ride!”