But not even the super speedy Geoffrey Ndungu got the biggest cheers of the day. Those were reserved not for the human cheetahs who finished the race as fast as they started it, without losing an ounce of pace during the 26 miles in between, but for the drooping-shouldered, foot-dragging, wobbling strugglers who had to fight every inch of the last few miles to make it home.
It seemed the weaker the runner, the stronger the roars as the crowd of determined well-wishers urged those with flagging spirits and failing limbs to keep on going.
The event is a marathon as much for those on the sidelines as it is for the participants. They spend months as unofficial cheerleaders, coaches and comforters while their loved ones pound the pavements in preparation for the big day, followed by hours of hanging around, hoping, praying and entertaining toddlers in the rain while they wait for daddy or mammy to whizz or waddle by.
Sarah Cawley from Wicklow town considered herself one of the luckier ones, as she only had to keep tots Nicole and Liam occupied for two hours and 42 minutes — the time it took husband Joe to complete the course.
A delighted Joe, his fifth marathon over, revelled in his pint-sized welcoming committee and said he made sure to run at lunch times and early in the morning “so as not to disrupt family life”.
Sarah saw it slightly differently. “I’m a running widow. But it’s my own fault. He always said he wanted to run a marathon so I bought him a sports watch with a heart monitor for his 35th birthday and it was like I attached Forrest Gump to him,” she said.
The 32nd Dublin City Marathon had its biggest ever entry, with more than 14,000 runners, and there were just as many different reasons for taking part.
Joan Powell, originally from Dublin but living in Sydney for 25 years, was waving both Irish and Australian flags as she waited for daughter Charlotte to come into view. It was Joan’s first time back among family in Ireland since her husband, Richard, died in May, and Charlotte scheduled the trip to coincide with the marathon. “She’s running it for her dad,” said Joan. “It’s only her second marathon, but she wanted to do it here for him. It’s her tribute and I’m very proud of her.”