26.2 reasons why you just gotta love Dublin


ATHLETICS:From the elite athletes to the charity fancy dress runners, from the first-timers to the long-timers the desire
to make that finishing line on Monday is just part of the thrill of it all, writes IAN O'RIORDAN

AFTER 31 years it’s bigger and better than ever, and time for my top 26.2 reasons for loving the Dublin Marathon . . .

1 – The Numbers: Consider the countdown races, where 6,000 ran the five-miler in July, 7,000 ran the 10-miler in August and 8,000 ran the half-marathon in September, and now include the record 13,200 running the full 26.2 miles on Monday. That’s a lot of footsteps.

2 – The Marathon Expo: This is way more than just picking up race numbers. From noon to 6pm today and tomorrow, the RDS main hall is a Mecca for enthusiasts. There are 50 sponsor and trade stalls, exhibits from 15 overseas marathons, plus special running seminars every 30 minutes. It’s free to the public, and they’ll also be dishing out enough pasta to fill the entire pitch at Croke Park.

3 – The 9am Start: In what other sporting event could you be wrapped up in your tracksuit before 11.30am with €15,000 in your back pocket? Okay, that applies strictly to the winning man and woman, but the majority of runners are done by lunchtime with the rest of the day to bask in their glory.

4 – Jim Aughney: Every year Dublin’s long-serving marathon director is calmness personified. A sort of Dorian Gray figure, Jim must come under enormous stress every year, yet somehow hides it all away, or at least never lets it show. And he does this on a part-time basis? All 13,000 runners should salute him at the finish.

5 – The Media Bus: This is how we journalists get to enjoy the Dublin Marathon, sitting comfortably in our seats watching the race unfold while being fed fresh doughnuts and strong black coffee. Naturally, I’d much rather be out there running.

6 – Meeting Jerry Kiernan: Jerry normally sits in on the media bus too and is soon reminiscing on his glory days and often savage pace-setting, including his amazing 1982 solo victory, which the curly-haired Kerryman completed in a cracking 2:13.45, and which for years stood as the course record.

7 – The Weather: It can be unpredictable, but the Dublin Marathon is often blessed with the sort of autumn day Luke Kelly used to sing about, the leaves golden brown and sky burning as blue as a naked gas flame.

8 – The Road Closures: It may be just for one day, but how sweet it is to see runners rule the main roads of Dublin, to the great frustration of taxi drivers and other motor heads, who can’t seem to do without their cars, not even for just one day.

9 – The Race Sponsors: adidas and Lifestyle Sports have been the perfect fit, not just in terms of their range of running gear. In fact, Paul Moloney of adidas has been one of the driving forces behind the continued expansion of the Dublin Marathon. Unfortunately this sponsorship deal has come to an end, but a great opportunity knocks.

10 – The Charity Organisations: Every year the Dublin Marathon raises around €10 million for charities worldwide, but special mention this year goes to the Wicklow Hospice Team, with 150 runners now committed to raising funds for the county’s first, much-needed hospice (which recently received an anonymous donation of €1 million). Donate at www.wicklowhospice.ie

11 – Mary Nolan Hickey: The only woman to have run all 30 Dublin Marathons, Mary will be on the starting line again on Monday, with every intention of finishing number 31, and raising funds for the Wicklow Hospice.

12 – The Marathon Virgins: These are all the first-timers – to marathon running, not sex (at least in most cases). You can spot them a mile off as their inspiration gradually turns to perspiration.

13 – The Marathon Outfits: Some of those running for charity like to dress things up a little, and one of my favourites was Arthur Edward Rory Guinness, also known as Lord Iveagh, the direct descendent of Arthur Guinness, who two years ago ran dressed as a toucan. Although not all the fancy dress is intentional.

14 – The Water Stations: There’s always great frenzy as the runners try to get their hands on one of the 128,512 bottles of Ballygowan to be distributed across the nine stations. There’s a knack to drinking on the run, which few runners have mastered.

15 – The African Men: Which of the eight Kenyans and three Ethiopians will win this year and claim the €15,000 first prize? Last year’s winner, Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia, is not running, understandably, as just two weeks ago he finished third in Chicago in 2:08.10.

16 – The Russian Women: They’re tough as nails, and seem to return every year in the hunt for their €15,000 first prize, including last year’s winner, Kateryna Stetsenko, although technically she’s from Ukraine.

17 – The National Marathon: Since 2003 the Dublin Marathon has doubled as the national championships, a wise move indeed, although defending men’s champion Sergiu Ciobanu, a popular winner in 2:22.04, is actually from Moldova.

18 – Alan O’Shea: Known as the “Flying Doctor”, Alan somehow combines his heavy marathon training with long hours at Cork’s Mercy and University hospitals, and is tipped to win this year’s national title and perhaps break that surprisingly elusive 2:20 barrier.

19 – The Overseas Runners: There will be 74 countries represented on the streets on Dublin on Monday, a nice boost for tourism when we need it most.

20 – The Marathon Programme: Another quality product from the Frank Greally stable, this is the essential souvenir for all marathon runners, to prove they were down to start, even if they didn’t actually finish.

21 – Ellen Boylan: Five years ago Ellen spent six weeks motionless in a hospital bed after breaking her neck in a car accident that claimed the life of her sister Irene; on Monday she’s running her first marathon. Best of luck.

22 – Collette O’Hagan: At age 61, having fostered some 60 children at her Dundalk home, and overcome a debilitating illness, Collette will run her 200th marathon on Monday. Remarkable stuff.

23 – The Oireachtas Team: Perhaps they’re not all as lazy as they appear, as Fine Gael TD Jimmy Deenihan has inspired nine of his Leinster House colleagues – Lucinda Creighton, Mary Upton, Barry Andrews, James Reilly, Nicky McFadden, Brian O’Domhnaill, Fidelma Healy Eames, Frank Feighan and Damien English – to run on Monday on behalf of charities close to their hearts.

24 – The Crowds: They don’t reach New York decibel levels, but every shout of support counts, and Dublin have even designated 11 “cheering zones” at key marks along the route.

25 – Tony Mangan: The 53-year-old from Dublin will cross the finish line on Monday and then keep running until he has circumnavigated the entire globe, all 43,000km of it, before arriving home just in time for the Dublin marathon on October 28th, 2011. I kid you not.

26 – The Finish Line: The scenes here are brilliantly hysterical and ecstatic as each of the finishers reaches his or her running orgasm, complete with roars that appear to mimic immense sexual satisfaction.

And, finally, reason .2 – The 2011 Dublin Marathon: For those us too lazy to make the start this year, there’s always next year.

Ian O’Riordan will be at the Dublin Marathon Expo signing copies of his book Miles to Run, Promises to Keep – newly published by Boglark Press.