They ran apart, but together in a special show of global solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees to mark what should have been Cork city marathon day.
Almost 1,000 members of the Sanctuary Runners movement, which uses running to bring together asylum seekers, refugees and wider Irish society, were due to take part in the race before Covid-19 forced its cancellation.
But today a relay team of four completed the race on the streets of Cork whilst adhering to social distancing rules.
Busie Mhlophe, from Zimbabwe who lives in the Kinsale Road Direct Provision Centre in Cork, Peter Hertting who has lived in Cork for two decades but is from Germany originally, Niamh Ní Chonchuir from West Kerry, and Hana Fasika, a young Ethiopian student living in Cork City, all ran a leg of the marathon within their 5km radius in a much-changed marathon route.
Hana's route took her along what should have been the finishing stretch on St Patrick’s St.
“It was a great moment and I feel so delighted that I could do this. I ran alone but knew there were so many people cheering me on in their hearts,” she said.
Simultaneously Sanctuary Runners across Ireland and in cities all over the world donned their blue singlets and ran a leg of the marathon safely or whatever distance they could manage.
It included a resident of the controversial Cahersiveen Direct Provision centre in Kerry who ran in the grounds of the Skellig Star Hotel, with runners also taking part in Dublin, Kenmare, Galway, Sligo, Limerick, Waterford, Tramore, Longford, Athlone, Meath,Wicklow, Ennis, Mayo, Tralee, and Killarney, with others running legs in London, New York and Tokyo.
"With over 2,000 Sanctuary Runners now, we wanted to use this special day to show that we’re still here for one another, still determined to show solidarity, friendship and respect to all, and so the relay run meant so much to so many,” Sanctuary Runners founder, Graham Clifford, said.
“We took every possible safety precaution – even starting the run on empty streets extra early. And while our team didn’t get to embrace at the end, we got that same feeling of camaraderie knowing someone had crossed the finish line on Patrick Street on our behalf.”
It was Busie Mhlophe’s third time taking part in the Cork City Marathon as a Sanctuary Runner.
“Today we ran for Sanctuary Runners everywhere. It was emotional, it was fun but most importantly it was a sign that no matter what this community we have built, and are building, can endure anything.”
Peter Hertting said he had been training for several weeks in the hope of setting a good time for his leg of the marathon before Covid-19 hit their plans.
“Running is a good and simple way to release stress and anxiety while at the same time making new friends. And that bond is cherished in the Sanctuary Runners – that is why I was so delighted to run today for all my team-mates in Cork, the rest of Ireland and around the world,” he said.
Niamh Ní Chonchuir, an occupational therapist in Cork, said: “It was hot out there, but I never felt alone. I knew that others were doing the same as me, safely, and that drove me on.”