First aiders supplied that finishing touch


HURRICANE Lili didn't destroy the Dublin City Marathon but she did add an extra element of difficulty to an already gruelling event.

Runners turning up at the start in O'Connell Street yesterday morning were relieved that predictions of northerly gales and lashing rain had been proven incorrect.

But instead, a stiff south westerly challenged us all, particularly on the long climb through Harold's Cross.

The threatened foul weather also appeared to keep the locals in their beds, especially in the first part of the race out through Ballsbridge and back through Clonskeagh.

But while the southside slumbered, the runners enjoyed the calm before the stormy climb south out of the city centre and up to the KCR junction.

We all struggled against the stiff wind. The sharp turn right down Templeville Road came as a relief.

As the 16 mile mark came and went, tiredness was starting to take its toll, particularly on those - including your correspondent - who had run a little too friskily over the opening miles.

At least the crowds were building up as we wended our way down through Walkinstown.

Hitting the canal at 20 miles and the pace was slowing. The first aiders' offers of Deep Heat - a cream used to soothe aching or stiff muscles - were becoming more and more popular.

Your correspondent was forced to drop in to one of these pit stops in Inchicore, where the young first aider operated with the speed and efficiency of a Formula One mechanic.

Any misconceptions about the pace I was going were soon dashed, when a man dressed in full clown's outfit trotted past.

As we turned at Chapelizod, the encouragement from the crowd became more intense as it responded to the tiring runners.

It is this connection between crowd and runners in the latter half of the race that makes the marathon special.

Sweets, chocolate and drink are offered. I had spectators running beside me, people lying to me that I "looked great" (not true at the best of times) and shouting encouragement from the sideline in a way that you know they mean it.

And it helps.

My wife and kids, waiting patiently at 25 miles, were glad to see me in one piece and then, as the rain started to fall, it was the long drag down the quays and into Abbey Street.

Arriving in O'Connell Street some two hours behind the winner, there were still plenty around to shout encouragement as the finish appeared.

Like many others, I must have looked a sight, hobbling back down O'Connell Street.

An elderly woman passing me, surveying what must have looked like a field hospital, declared to her friend: "That runnin' isn't good for them, you know.

Maybe she's right. Most of the runners would have agreed with her around 20 miles yesterday. But not after they crossed the finish line.