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Sunday 22 October 2017

Ready for a marathon run?

What makes a 61-year-old woman want to clock up her 31st Dublin marathon? Katie Byrne finds out by talking to some of the record number of runners in this year's race

"We saw this before with the economic climate in the '80s," says marathon race director Jim Aughney. "There are a lot of people who, unfortunately, have a lot more time on their hands. They see running a marathon as a cheap way to keep fit and stay active and healthy. The running boom is thriving because of that."

The record number of entries also bodes well for local business. With many of the field travelling from abroad, the marathon injects an estimated €10m into the Dublin economy. Around another €10m is due to be raised for charities worldwide.

The gruelling 26-mile distance makes it an ultimate test of endurance. Nonetheless, it will attract people of every shape and size, young and old, experienced and inexperienced. Some will run the whole distance, some will walk. Some are there to compete, most just want to complete.

Our politicians will be represented too. TD Jimmy Deenihan is running with an Oireachtas team which will include fellow TDs Mary Upton, Barry Andrews and Lucinda Creighton.

Among the most impressive spectacles this year will, no doubt, be Tony Mangan. When the 53-year-old 'ultra runner' crosses the finish line, he will be at the beginning of a journey which, hopefully, should come full circle at the Dublin Marathon start line in 2013. By then he hopes to have circumnavigated the globe, travelling 43,000kms east to west, pushing everything he needs for his trip in a 40kg chariot carrier.

Twenty-nine pople have run the 30 Dublin Marathons up to this one, including Arklow woman, Mary Nolan Hickey (58), who this year is running along with a team of more than 100 athletes to raise funds for Wicklow's first hospice.

"Some years I ran it well and it didn't even seem that hard because I was prepared. Then over the years you get the odd injury, you get a little bit less fit, you put on some weight . . . then it becomes harder."

However, neither injury nor adversity has kept Mary from the start line. She still lined up for the marathon when she lost her son in 1994.

"Obviously, in 31 years you're going to have many ups and downs in your life. Running to me is part of my life and I know Stuart [her son] wouldn't have wanted me not to."

She even ran the marathon when she was six-and-a-half months pregnant. "I took my time -- walked most of it -- and it was nice to see what it's like at the back."

Collette O'Hagan, a 61-year-old foster mother from Dundalk, is another inspiring woman taking part. Monday marks her 200th marathon. "I did my first one in 1990 in Dublin. The following year I did two. Now I do 12 or 15 a year. I never set out to do this -- it just happened."

Collette runs four to five nights a week and she attributes the sport to keeping her feeling young and supple. She is running for the Aurelia Trust, an Irish charity that helps children in Romanian orphanages.

While the couple have trained together, they may not be running mates on the day. "We'll try to keep together, but he'll probably get ahead of me at some point," says Louise.

Known as the 'Friendly Marathon', the event attracts thousands of spectators, who cheer on the runners.

Volunteers also keep the runners motivated. More than 1,000 volunteers from local running clubs will be in attendance, including 81-year-old Harry O'Gorman who is a regular fixture at the finish line.

"I'll be there at about 7:30am . . . and I'll be there until the last person finishes. I absolutely love it," he says.

As a championship runner in the '60s, O'Gorman understands what the runners are going through. "I shout at them when they're approaching the finish line, 'keep your head up and keep walking' because once they stop, they're gone."

The overall winner will be presented with the Noel Carroll Memorial Trophy as well as a cash prize of €15,000.

All runners are presented with a medal, finishers' T-shirt and goody bag. And after that, they'll probably be repairing to the nearest pub to catch up with the rest of us . . .

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