Sunshine, sweat and cheers in Dublin


Relief and delight as 40,000 women make it over the finishing line at the mini marathon

THERE WERE smiles of relief throughout the 40,000-strong crowd as the heat melted any fear of the weekend rain for yesterday’s Flora Women’s Mini Marathon. Civilians and celebrities alike lined up to raise millions for charity as the largest women’s race in the world got under way at Merrion Square at about 3pm.

A sea of women walking, rolling and running in colourful T-shirts – some home-made and others printed – could be seen happily sweating it out across the 10km course. “The hoses weren’t out by the time we got to the fireman and we could see all the wrappers on the ground from the ice lollies,” said Gráinne Pyke (17) from Sallins, Co Kildare, who was walking the course for the Proteus Syndrome Foundation with her friends Shauna Gavin (17) from Sallins and Sarah Jane King (17) from Naas.

The girls had been training together since November and despite missing out on the weather-appropriate refreshments, finished their first mini marathon in one hour and 15 minutes.

“The last 200 metres – everyone goes so fast and all along the course the music just kept us going,” said Pyke. Throughout the race spectators cheered participants on as clowns handed out flowers to competitors passing by while music pumping from stands along the route kept the spirit going.

There were cheers all around as Linda Byrne, Ireland’s Olympic marathon hopeful, was the first to cross the finish line in a time of 33.30. “I feel brilliant, it was my goal going into the race,” said the 25-year-old. Byrne was raising money with her mother for Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross. “I would definitely encourage women to take it [running] up,” she said. “I’ve been running all my life and it’s great to have a goal and focus.” Byrne, whose boyfriend Kevin Lawlor was on the sidelines cheering her on, said the Olympics would be a “big experience”.

“I’m just going to focus on my own race and hope to make the next two Olympics after that,” she said.

Although men dressed as women are technically banned from the race, candyfloss-shaped wigs of various colours with hairy legs beneath ostentatious awkward-fitting dresses were hard to miss. Jane Stowe (34) and Anne Graham (34) decided to flip the rule and ran the race in matching outfits dressed as men, “like the guys in the 11850 ad for the laugh”.

Emotions were running high for Cork woman Sinéad Kane as she crossed the finish line with her coach Marian Lyons in under one hour. The 30-year-old visually impaired solicitor has only 5 per cent vision in each eye and has been training since April. Kane said her coach helped her through the race. “In training I was able to do it, but I was getting very nervous today because of crowds and if it wasn’t for her I might have stopped,” she said. Kane trained for 12 weeks to run the race for Child Vision, the national education centre for blind children. The Youghal woman said: “I want to show that children who are blind and visually impaired can run.”

There were famous faces among the crowd too, including Rosanna Davison and two members of the band Crystal Swing.

“It was our first year doing it and there was wonderful cheering on and support at every marker,” said Crystal Swing’s Mary who ran the race with her daughter and fellow band member, Dervla, for voluntary organisation the Carers’ Association.

“We kept a nice pace going and didn’t overdo it. It was a fantastic experience and great to see the girl power,” she said.