The Times We Lived In: water stop at 1983 Dublin City Marathon

Published: October 31st, 1983Photograph: Dermot O’Shea

Dublin City Marathon 1983 - A young boy looking after the water for the marathon runners. Photograph: Dermot O’Shea

Dublin City Marathon 1983 - A young boy looking after the water for the marathon runners. Photograph: Dermot O’Shea

 

“Hmm. Now, if I add three drops to that one and five drops to this one, they’ll all be exactly the same. No, hang on! Some of these cups in the middle only have a tiny amount . . .”

You’ve heard of Marathon Man? This is Water Boy. Sadly we don’t know his name, for the original caption simply says: “A young boy looking after the water for the marathon runners.”

The picture was taken during the Dublin City Marathon in 1983, when the race itself was just three years old and it was okay for a young man like this to be in charge of a water table all by himself.

He is clearly taking his duties very seriously. Intriguingly, there’s no sign of a water source, so where he’s getting his top-ups from is anybody’s guess. Also, the angle from which the picture is taken suggests that the precarious plastic cups could tip over (or, given a strong blast of October wind, blow away) at any moment.

It all speaks of a more informal, ad hoc sort of marathon event. In 1983, few people would have forecast how the race would grow. The 1983 race had 8,688 finishers: by 2016, that number had swollen to 19,500. This October the marathon is expected to bring some €10 million into the coffers of Dublin city. The race itself has a prize fund of €15,000.

As for the refreshments, entrants to this year’s race will all receive T-shirts and goodie bags as well as orange-favoured Lucozade Sports, supplied in cups. Water will be provided at 10 locations in 250ml Tipperary Water sports cap bottles.

Which is all very admirable, and precise, and immensely organised. And I know the atmosphere at the Dublin Marathon is incredibly uplifting and encouraging.

Still, though. I’d be willing to bet that if you were running in 1983, and you happened to grab a cup of water from this particular table, and you were rewarded with a smile from this particular little boy, that water would have tasted like wine.

These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from: irishtimes.com/photosales. A book, The Times We Lived In, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is available from irishtimes.com and from bookshops, priced at €19.99.

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