Dublin may have had 30,000 runners pounding its streets in the women’s mini marathon but all attention went Lee-side.
Lizzie Lee, of Leevale Athletics Club in Cork City, won the event in jubilant form in her first ever attempt at it.
For Lizzie, it was part of a bigger picture — the 2016 Olympian is in training for the full marathon at the European Championships in Berlin in August.
“But it still means an awful lot to me,” she said. “It was a bucket list race. I said I wanted to do it and I wanted to win it so I’m really happy.”
So happy that she planned to allow herself a break from her strict training routine to celebrate, even if it would be Cinderella-style.
“Every runner in Cork will be out tonight so I’m definitely going to join them,” said Lizzie. “Nothing mad though — bed by midnight.”
Her fellow revellers would be among the 8,500 people who took part in the Cork city marathon as the event marked its 12th year yesterday in what Cork Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald hailed as a “great carnival atmosphere”.
As in Dublin, the runners in Cork were a hugely varied mix of abilities and motivations, running vests and charity t-shirts, and included this year were residents of direct provision centres in the county.
Organiser of the Sanctuary Runners initiative, journalist Graham Clifford, said he had been “overwhelmed” by the success of the project which he set up with photographer Clare Keogh.
“I worked in refugee camps in North Africa, travelled across Eastern and Central Europe with refugees during the migrant crisis, and have been reporting on direct provision for years,” he said.
“Also, I love to run so it seemed like a simple, but effective proposal to help Irish people understand those living in direct provision and vice versa through running. The success of the project has been overwhelming.”
The initiative has been supported by athletes including Lizzie Lee, Sonia O’Sullivan, Derval O’Rourke, Rob Heffernan, and Gillian O’Sullivan and by boxer Gary Spike O’Sullivan and GAA’s Tomas Ó’Sé.
Olympic bronze medallist Heffernan was “not running but reminiscing” as he joined the sidelines to cheer on the runners who were competing in what he said were challenging conditions.
“It is humid,” he said. “When it is 20 degrees in Cork and it is humid, it is tougher than 30 degrees with less humidity abroad. But the conditions are perfect otherwise. There is no wind there. There is no sun out.”
The marathon was won by Louth native Gary O’Hanlon in a time of two hours and 21 minutes. Gary, aged 43, of Clonliffe Harriers, is a national champion and has taken place in numerous marathons. Mark Kirwin placed second, while Eoin Callaghan was third. Zola Flynn was the first woman over the line in a time of two hours and 58 minutes, whilst Brighton AB group were the first relay team to cross the finish line.
One of the more colourful participants was Dolores Duffy from Ballincollig, who dressed up as Superwoman and was celebrating her remarkable 65th marathon.
“The whole way people were shouting ‘well done’ and ‘go on’. It was brilliant,” she said.
Back in Dublin there were many superwomen, including Sinead Gannon and her follow members of Team Archie from Roscommon, who were taking part to raise funds for 12-year-old Archie Naughton, and his seven-year-old twin brothers, Isaac and George, who have Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
To care for the brothers, parents Paula and Padraic, need to replace their house with one that can accommodate three wheelchairs.
Sports-mad Chelsea fan Archie has had to use his wheelchair full-time for the last six months but his supporters were determined that wouldn’t stop him taking part and they took turns propelling him along the course.
“He loves sport so we weren’t going to do it without him,” Sinead said. “The organisers have been brilliant because they’re making the event more and more about inclusion. We’ll do the Dublin city marathon later this year and he’ll be with us then too. He’s lost so much but he shouldn’t miss out on all the excitement.”
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