Women’s Mini Marathon sees solidarity and heartbreak

Over 30,000 runners raise millions for charity as the sun shines on the Dublin race

Runners get ready before the start of the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon. Photograph: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Runners get ready before the start of the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon. Photograph: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

 

There was a story behind every single one of the tens of thousands of T-shirts with the names of charities that made it to the starting line ahead of the 36th VHI Women’s Mini Marathon on Sunday afternoon.

Sandra Lennon, Patricia Leonard and Emma Redmond, all from Arklow, Co Wicklow, at the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon. Photograph: Tom Honan
Sandra Lennon, Patricia Leonard and Emma Redmond, all from Arklow, Co Wicklow, at the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon. Photograph: Tom Honan

While there was laughter and cheering and a carnival-like atmosphere – helped in no small part by glorious weather – heartache was never far from the surface. As people lined up to run or walk and to raise money for causes that have become dear to them, they recalled lost children, siblings and parents.

Participants in the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon. Photograph: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Participants in the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon. Photograph: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Ollie Dempsey from Monamolin, Co Wexford, was only three-years-old when he died suddenly last January. His father, Barry, one of a smattering of men breaching mini marathon gender rules, was running with a large team from his village. Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Paw Patrol, Ollie’s favourite cartoon, the group was raising money for a defibrillator for the local school.

“The village has helped us so much and we want to help them back,” Barry said, his voice thick with the emotion of it all. “It has been a fantastic day for us and the support has been just unreal.”

Eventual winner Lizzie Lee at the start of the race. Photograph: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Eventual winner Lizzie Lee at the start of the race. Photograph: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Ruth Wilson and Barbara Pepper at the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon. Photograph: Tom Honan
Ruth Wilson and Barbara Pepper at the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon. Photograph: Tom Honan

Gwen Dooley was running with her daughter, Áine, for St Luke’s Hospital, in honour of her father who died three years ago, “It is great to see all the T-shirts for St Luke’s,” she said. “It tells us we are not alone. This is a great day out but it’s a very emotional one too.”

Junior doctor

Eimear Duff wasn’t running in honour of a lost loved one but to raise funds for St James’s Hospital where she works. The junior doctor had a hard day and night ahead on the cardiac arrest team.

And she was doing it all on an ankle she had sprained while playing tag rugby. “I didn’t think I’d be able to run but I felt I’d be letting people down if I didn’t,” she said. “Tomorrow I’m going to play the sympathy card to see if I can raise more money.”

Winner of the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon wheelchair race Shauna Bouquet (14), from Galway. Photograph: Tom Honan
Winner of the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon wheelchair race Shauna Bouquet (14), from Galway. Photograph: Tom Honan

As the race started, the 30,000 people who set off were cheered on by a most exuberant MC, Today FM DJ and TV3 presenter Muireann O’Connell. “Oh my God,” she exclaimed at one point. “Can we big it up for the woman carrying a boy on her shoulders and she hasn’t even crossed the start line yet?”

The sense of solidarity among those running and walking the 10km course was so strong that it was crystal clear the woman with the child on her shoulders wasn’t the only one doing her bit to ease the journey of others.

The VHI Women’s Mini Marathon winner Lizzie Lee. Photograph: Tom Honan
The VHI Women’s Mini Marathon winner Lizzie Lee. Photograph: Tom Honan

The mini marathon was won by Lizzie Lee from Leevale Athletic Club in Cork in a time of 34.18. Laura Shaughnessy from Dundrum was second across the finish line in 34.30, and Siobhán O’Doherty from Borrisokane AC secured third place in 34.55.