Friday 21 October 2016

Monahan the magnificent!

Wheelchair athlete Patrick Monahan
Wheelchair athlete Patrick Monahan

Watching just shy of 15,000 men and women of all ages, sizes and abilities negotiating the streets of Dublin in Monday's SSE Airtircity Dublin Marathon, it was hard to believe that at one point this great public celebration of running was under threat.

From almost 9,000 finishers in the Dublin Millennium year of 1988, numbers dropped to just over 3,000 a year later and then to below that figure for the following seven years.

For the organisers, those were hard times, with sponsors hard to nail down and money tight.

A scheme to bring in big American charities saw the numbers begin to climb again and, by 2000, when the race celebrated its 21st birthday, numbers were back over 8,000.

This year, its 36th, the race topped 15,000 for the first time. Of those, 11,000 were from this island, with close to 4,000 running in the national championships.

Now the plan is to move the marathon back to Sunday and make an attempt to bring back the overseas entries. The future of the race has never looked brighter.


So what were the highlights of Monday's race? There was a good tussle among the men up front with Raheny's Freddy Keron Sittuk in the thick of it until Alemu Gemechu from Ethiopia pulled away for victory.

Finishing ninth was Seán Hehir, running his second marathon within a month and promising to take a long rest before tackling another one in the spring with Rio 2016 still his target.

In the breezy and damp conditions, times were not fast and 46-year-old Pauline Curley was understandably emotional at winning her third national title since 2005 in a time of 2:49.32.

Curley, who has barely trained since undergoing knee surgery at the end of the summer, ran a cautious race and outlasted younger contenders like Sarah Mulligan and Michelle McGee, who both looked in serious trouble at the 22 mile mark and pulled out soon after.

But the star of the day had to be wheelchair athlete Patrick Monahan from Naas who led home the entire field in a dazzling time of 1 hour 43 minutes 5 seconds.

That was over nine minutes faster that the course record of 1:52.43 he set last year. In the past month alone, Monahan has broken the Irish marathon record three times.

He knocked four minutes off the record in Berlin with a time of 1:39.52, followed by 1:38.52 in Chicago and then 1:36.32 at the Columbus Marathon in Ohio last week.

He looked as if he was thoroughly enjoying himself as he freewheeled down Fosters Avenue in Dublin on Monday, with only a garda motorbike for company. His nearest rival, Barry Rice finished 27 minutes behind him in 2:10.05. This guy is a star.

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