Over the past few months this last bank holiday weekend had been shaping up to be a complete damp squib. With all hopes of running the Dublin City marathon having been dashed, little by little all other running events were closing down too. Indeed, we had been hopeful that at least cross country fixtures could have restarted by now and we would have been looking forward to the Leinster Novices, where traditionally the club has excelled, and which usually takes place on the Saturday before Sunday’s running of the marathon.
Well, we knew from some time ago that the DCM would not be going ahead, but then towards the end of the Summer we heard about the organisers’ efforts to stage a virtual marathon in its place, with everyone running it in their own localities, counties or wherever they might find themselves. This certainly appealed to several of our members who felt they could do the training, even though the time to prepare was much shorter than most would have liked, or indeed needed. Susan Walsh then had the bright idea that we could take the opportunity to help those signing up for the virtual marathon by providing a marathon route and getting club-mates to volunteer to provide support on the day. It was thought this could also help with raising much-needed funding for the new clubhouse.
With only a few weeks available, a committee, led by Miriam Logan, with Olwyn Dunne, Paul Kelly, Lisa Shine and James Cottle, got together to discuss the logistics. Mindful that, under government guidelines at the time of planning, we couldn’t really hold an official event and had to keep within a maximum number of runners if they were running together, we realised that, in order to provide adequate support and to keep it off busy roads, the marathon would have to be in the Phoenix Park, observing a stipulation from at least one runner that the route had to have accessible toilet facilities….and that didn’t mean going behind a tree! So, a flat 5.275k loop was created that would take runners 8 times through the grounds of the Visitors Centre, the one building in the park with adequate (and, moreover, open) facilities! Having then worked out a route, a date (the Sunday when the original race would have taken place) and time of day (early!), we then thought about how we could make the occasion even more interesting and Liz Nixon suggested we hold a relay in parallel. A brilliant idea as it turned out! The chosen route was ideal for this, since we could accommodate teams of 4 runners on it. Miriam Logan was then charged with ascertaining interest in such a relay and had a super response from our membership. Paul Kelly, Olwyn Dunne and Lisa Shine also worked hard to promote the fund-raising aspects of the venture too.
During this period, we were also mindful that some groups who had organised similar virtual activities had found themselves in a sticky position with the OPW, particularly if tables and water stations were involved. Anything classified as an event in the park requires a permit, which can be difficult to get. So we needed to ensure that it could not be characterised as an event, but as training, and we felt we were well inside the guidelines for that since we were unlikely to have not many on the course at any one time. They would be spread out and, moreover, would have been running under AI guidelines since everyone would have had to have filled out a Covid contact tracing form in advance. At the time we thought we would have perhaps 12 or so runners for the entire distance, with maybe 9 or 10 relay teams.
As everyone knows, these plans became totally academic and redundant the weekend before the bank holiday as we were told that from last Tuesday we are to have 6 weeks of solitary confinement (from a running point of view) and most of us would find that our limit of 5k would not quite get us to Phoenix Park after all. Moreover, we would not be able to run with anyone who is not in our respective household.
Undaunted, the organisers were determined that the event should go ahead and when calls for interest went out again on the basis of a virtual relay, we found the response absolutely brilliant. Not only did we have 17 full distance marathoners take part over the three days of the bank holiday weekend (some of them having decided to run on the spur of the moment), but we were also able to create 23 teams out of those willing to run parts of the distance, some of the runners answering the call right at the last minute. To be fair, 4 of the runners didn’t realise they were even in teams until James Cottle bumped into 3 of them in Booterstown on Sunday in mid run and was advised that each was running a half marathon (Donna Barry, Cliodhna O’Reilly and Maureen McGinley), which enabled Cormac McGuire who was also running a half to be part of a team after all!
7 of the teams were put together by their members, whilst the remaining ones were assembled by James Cottle, trying desperately to balance them out as much as possible. In the event, it didn’t work out too badly and the maximum time spread between those teams was only about 23 minutes, with some of the teams only seconds apart. To encourage as much participation as possible we offered up a choice of distances from 5.275k through to half marathon. Most opted for 10.55k (a quarter marathon), whilst we even had a runner, Joanne Carey, famously born on the day of the first DCM, who ran 3/8 of the distance (15.825k)! As this would have been the first time for most running these odd distances, they would all have recorded PBs (music to James Cottle’s ears!).
Throughout the weekend, the roads and parks around Dublin and elsewhere were filled with runners running the virtual marathon or parts of it. It is said there were more than 5,000 runners who completed the full distance and the same again running half marathons. Some of them had supporters out cheering on everyone. One group in particular was positioned at Booterstown Dart station and running by them felt like going through the traditional Cru gauntlet on race day. They were cheering on every runner regardless! Those of us who ran were able to spot like-minded marathoners, often easily identifiable with their gel belts and/or water back-packs. Many were wearing previous edition Dublin marathon long-sleeved shirts. As we passed each other (in some cases several times) there would be a mutual greeting and good luck wishes.
We had at least two runners in Galway who took part in the relay challenge. Aine Kenny ran her quarter marathon in East Galway whilst Catherine Thornton ran along the coast in gale conditions further west for her half marathon contribution. As everyone will appreciate, we also enjoyed windy conditions here on the east coast and were all looking for routes which could minimise the negative impact of any headwind. There’s a rule of thumb apparently that a tailwind that can improve your pace by 10% will hurt you by 17% when reversed.
It was all for fun at the end of the day and you can see how everyone did below. There were inevitably some excellent performances among the 80 relay runners and 17 marathoners. Our fastest male marathoner on the day was Kieran Little who ran 2:49 and our fastest female marathoner was Olwyn Dunne who ran 3:53 and who pulled husband Joe, who had done little training for the event but still managed 3:56, through some sticky patches! The marathoners were relying on an app created for the occasion on which we could track their progress, but most found that Strava was a more accurate record of their run. Indeed, Olwyn’s app indicated she was still running 2 hours after she had finished and was in fact treating herself to a well-deserved glass of red!
Our fastest male half marathoner was Luke Davis who ran about a thousand times round a football pitch in UCD for his 1:31:55. The fastest female half marathoner was Catherine Thornton who ran an out and back in 1:34:10. The fastest quarter marathon performance came surprisingly from John Thuillier with an awesome 37:29, whilst his female counterpart in this category was (less surprisingly!) Orla Drumm in 44:13, but honourable mentions should go to Lea Braud (46:26) and Sarah Lyons (47:38). All excellent times. The fastest 1/8 marathoners were Edel Haverty (22:23) and Gill Early (22:28) with Alan Keane (24:32) followed by Thom Martini, just coming back from injury (25:45). Other honourable mentions should go to Patrick Needham who recorded a PB time in breaking 3 hours (2:59:32) and Cormac McGuire who ran 1:33 for his half marathon and didn’t even know he was running for a team! In addition, at least one marathoner, Mick Smyth who recorded a super time of 3:06, ran on most of the course that was originally planned by us in the Phoenix Park for the event.
It should be acknowledged that it’s not easy running any distance in a virtual competition, totally on one’s own. It’s nothing like the rough and tumble, the pushing and pulling, of an actual race. So the results are truly laudable.
First place in the relay went to the team of Liz Nixon and Maria Kennedy who both independently ran identical times (50:13) for their quarter marathon along with Darran Lovely and Tim O’Donnell. They collectively finished in 3:05:22, 90 seconds ahead of the second placed team which was a last minute creation involving Vinnie McGuinness, Ciara Lehane (who nobly agreed to run double the distance she wanted to run!), Dave Carter, Gill Earley and Darragh Jordan. Third place went to the team of Catherine Thornton, Emer Kenny and Orla Drumm who were a further 1 minute back. Congrats to all of them.
The first 10 teams came home in under 3:20, and despite the efforts of all of the teams, we were beaten by 4 marathoners (Kieran Little, Barry McGuire, Warren Swords and Patrick Needham) all of whom broke 3 hours for the distance.
Last, but not least, our fundraising efforts have not been in vain. At last count, the total raised over the weekend is just short of €3,000! Thanks a million to everyone who contributed (there's still time to donate!) and thanks so much to all those who ran and who brightened up considerably what could have been the most miserable time for us long distance runners! Many thanks should go to the committee involved in staging the event.
We are now all looking forward to Susan’s training sessions and challenges over the remaining 5 weeks of our solo running sentence!
11th 1. James Harding 50:59, Paul E. Kelly 56:47, Ciaran Diviney 38:49, Grainne Regan 53:54 [3:20:29]
18th 2. Brendan Glynn 60:53, Pauline Szypruk 58:16, Rob Crowley 43:59, Gearoid Grogan 53:58 [3:37:06]
21st 3. Lisa Shine 58:44, Mairin Shine 1:07:44, Fiona Shine 68:06, Anna Shine 58:22 [4:12:56]
9th 4. Aine Crotty 54:02, Rebecca Fleming 49:39, Sarah Lyons 47:38, Lea Braud 46:26 [3:17:45]
19th 5. Diarmuid Byrne 53:05, Darina Scully 55:09, Gavan Doherty 74:18, Russell Murphy 53:41 [3:56:13]
1st 6. Liz Nixon 50:13, Maria Kennedy 50:13, Darran Lovely 41:58, Tim O'Donnell 42:58 [3:05:22]
20th 7. Neil Brown (half) 1:55:43, Kelly Brown (half) 2:05:24 [4:01:07]
5th 8. Sheena Warren 60:53, Dee Lawlor 43:00, Ollie McGrath 42:58, Philip Matthews 46:52 [3:13:43]
17th 9. Louise O'Riordan (half) 1:59:48, Michael O'Conor 40:20, Conor O'Riordan 50:31 [3:30:35]
8th 10. James Cottle (half) 1:32:30, Joanne Carey (3/8) 1:19:01, Thom Martini (1/8) 25:45 [3:17:16]
15th 11. Aitor Arribas Velasco (half) 2:00:51, John Thuillier 37:29, Peter Murray 47:35 [3:25:55]
7th 12. Tanja Narancic (half) 1:53:32, John Mulvihill 38:22, John Gleeson 45:08 [3:17:02]
10th 13. Luke Davis (half) 1:31:55, Mairead Cashman 60:06, Phelim Murray 47:30 [3:19:31]
3rd 14. Catherine Thornton (half) 1:34:10, Emer Kenny 49:29, Orla Drumm 44:13 [3:07:52]
14th 15. Emily Glen (half) 1:55:05, Michael Kiely 38:45, Kevin Kavanagh 49:56 [3:23:46]
6th 16. Carina Davidson 58:16; Peter O'Toole 40:36, James Moran 52:14, Cathal O'Hara 43:27 [3:14:33]
12th 17. Stephen Hurley 40:16, Marta Imaz 51:42, Dee Ni Chearbhaill 51:47, Hasit Zala 58:17 [3:22:02]
4th 18. David O'Donnell 48:30, Michael Fitzsimons 43:55, Eugene McDonough 40:51, Georgina Hawkins 58:17 [3:11:33]
16th 19. Ciara Lynch (half) 1:58:00, Aine Kenny 47:28, Rory Goldsmith 41:08 [3:26:36]
13th 20. Margaret Foley (half) 1:47:00, Edel Haverty (1/8) 22:23, Alan Keane (1/8) 24:32, Amy McGuinness (1/8) 23:11, Philip Hamilton (1/8) 25:59 [3:23:05]
2nd 21. Vinnie McGuinness 38:54, Ciara Lehane 56:10, Dave Carter 43:03, Gill Earley (1/8) 22:28, Darragh Jordan (1/8) 26:17 [3:06:52]
22. Cormac McGuire 1:33:00 (half), Maureen McGinley 2:33:00 [4:06:00]
23. Donna Barry (half) 2:09:06, Cliodhna O’Reilly (half) 2:18:00 [4:27:06]
24. Mick Smyth 3:06:48
25. Patrick Needham 2:59:32
26. Olwyn Dunne 3:53:50
27. Joe Dunne 3:56:11
27. Leo Lundy 4:39:52
28. Barry McGuire 2:56:26
29. Kate Murray 4:06:00
30. Maurice Kelter 3:54:19
31. Kieran Little 2:49:01
33. Triona Quill 4:03:24
34. Conor Parle 4:15:59
35. Donatas Jocius 4:05:43
36. Liam O’Brien 4:01:08
37. Warren Swords 2:54:33
38. Alan Kinsella 3:57:07
39. Richard Phelan 3:54:00
40. Daniel O’Mahony 4:04:00