The Dublin Marathon is not about the running, it’s about the people

It was cold, it was wet, it was gruelling - and it was great

The elements certainly did not make the going any easier for participants in Sunday’s Irish Life Dublin Marathon. A bleak and grey onlooker, the sky spat raindrops at anxious runners toeing the line on a chilly autumn morning.

The ordeal was only just starting for us ...

I say “us” because I was among those shivering, jumping and cajoling at the start. After what seemed like an eternity – and a thousand nervous wees in various Portaloos – I finally got going in Wave 4. Valiant warriors, with some committing to walking from the very beginning – meaning they would be on the course for more than eight hours, held my respect, but I had an alternative master plan: I was carving myself up for a three-hour marathon, or a little bit longer.

Exploding off the start, smoking through the Wave 4 group, whose members were typically aiming for times of 4½ hours or longer, I was like Road Runner being chased by Wile E Cayote until I reached the no-man’s land between Waves 3 and 4. A rainbow pierced the overcast sky – everything was right on track.


Soon I’d caught up with the stragglers of Wave 3. As I threaded the needle through a patchwork of people, plumes of Deep Heat stung my nostrils. People of all shapes and sizes continued their run – or march – through their own Dublin marathon. Some wore capes, others dressed head to toe in complete firefighters’ uniforms. I saw a dinosaur during a tough moment swearing about the decision to wear such a ludicrous costume on what was already a difficult challenge.

Most see our costume-wearing friends as they warm our hearts when finishing an event but, believe me, there is no glamour in dressing in a heaving, inflatable costume and trudging up a long drag on a South Dublin main road.

Still, what really propels you through Dublin’s marathon is the train of positivity you find yourself in – men, women, children, dogs, witches (it is Halloween, after all) were out in force, cheering for any runner they could see. Some had spent hard-earned cash on little bags of Haribo or Jaffa Cakes or bananas and handed them out to anyone who needed them.

A little boy, maybe three years old, stood solemnly, hand out, forlorn that no one had high-fived him in a while. Putting a stop to that, I extended my palm and gave his tiny hand a teeny tap, to see his face light up and boom into a smile and a cheer. We’re all going to have a rough patch at some point and need that extra boost.

Gowan Brenda, keep her lit! You’re over the worst of it! Keep trucking on!a group of ladies screamed at their running friend, and, in a flash, I was Brenda too. Their energy channelled into mine, as I put to bed any scepticism about their declaration that the worst of it was over at only 10 miles in. I trucked on as recommended, hungry to hear or see what I would find next. Boy, did I find it ...

The rainbow from a few miles back had fled from the sky, with its light grey hue now an ominous black. On a long road, the long distance stretched out before me. The leading runners’ heads bobbed along like buoys in a harbour, and then a tremendous sheet of rainfall started heading in our direction. We all saw it but we didn’t choose to believe it until the heavy, cold rain descended from the heavens on our part of the road.

In an instant, puddles became flood pools, dry spectators became very, very wet – and the moisture grabbed my running vest, wrapping its watery fingers around my throat and lungs, making it a lot more difficult to breathe. For those who had read my marathon preview, you’ll know that I predicted a parable-type event happening on the day of the marathon, and here we were, about to be washed away into the Liffey, just as I had envisioned. And yes, for the wise among you, I had also specified that Dublin was to flood in Guinness, but despite many droplets being sampled, unfortunately all were 100 per cent rainwater.

Forty, 41, 42, ...

... the longest kilometre always happens to be the last in any running event, but what a last kilometre in Dublin. Surface floodwater rippled everywhere, but in response the crowds only grew louder. Reams and reams of people cheered to generate positivity and profound connection.

Physically, I was still struggling to breathe, the cold rain had turned my lungs to lead, as they tried in vain to pump the waste breath away and suck in whatever they could. First there were yells, then a beating of drums, and before I knew it, it was over – I’d done it, my Irish Life Dublin Marathon 2023 was officially complete in 3:15:36.

With light legs – too light, like jelly – I stumbled along to get my finisher’s medal. En route, a wise marshal chirped ‘welcome Home!’, which grabbed me back into the reality of what I had achieved, and indeed what everyone around me had done, too. We’d done a marathon! We’d run through the same streets and weathered the same storms but our minds had been all over the place, engaged in little battles of their own – for belief, for confidence, for those who weren’t lucky enough to take to the fight themselves.

The Dublin Marathon is not about the running, it’s about the people – and even on a day that threw all the cold seasons at us, I felt the warmth of those lining the Dublin streets.

Well done to all who did the marathon, and thanks again for the organisers, volunteers and spectators who made it so special.