In all the colours of the rainbow and in the names of almost every charity in the land, they came together in solidarity to celebrate 40 years of the Women’s Mini Marathon.

rganisers of the VHI-sponsored event had tried to keep things going with virtual events over the past two strange years, but nothing could compare to the feeling of being there together.

When the familiar, uplifting strains of Molly Malone rang out in the streets of the capital among the crowds of some 20,000 women, it was emotional.

You could almost feel the charity sector breathe a sigh of relief. This is one of its main, vital fundraisers of the year and has been sorely missed.

As she crossed the finish line, one woman immediately dissolved into tears.

“It’s just been so long since we could do this,” she said.

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Jill and Laura Masterson embrace after crossing the finish line

The only problem was the rain, which fell in a steady sheet all day, forcing many to run in a selection of ponchos and rain jackets.

For some though, the rain proved to be no problem at all.

“I don’t mind the rain – we’re Irish,” said influencer Roz Purcell, ambassador for the mini marathon.

Having breakfasted sensibly on porridge and nut butter, she was already eyeing up the food stalls in Merrion Square for her post-race treat: a “nice, hot dinner”.


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Runners pictured at the start of the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon on Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin. Photo; Damien Eagers

She was delighted to be back out there and was most looking forward to chatting with people along the race course.

At the core, was a group of mini-marathon royalty – some 15 women who, come rain or shine, have not missed a year since it all began in 1983.

Angela McLoughlin – who will turn 80 next January and has completed every mini marathon – walked the race with her daughters Theresa and Michelle, who have completed it 30 times and 35 times respectively.

Originally from Roscommon, Ms McLoughlin ran it for many years, having first become involved when working on the catering staff at Sligo General Hospital.

She was delighted to be back after the pandemic.

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Lorraine Warburton, Jacqui Boyle, Sandra Warburton and Suzanna O’Callaghan from Tallaght AC. Photo: Owen Breslin

“It’s absolutely wonderful. I love the Dublin people – they give us great encouragement and the atmosphere is great,” she said.

Mary Lennon, Margaret McBride, Anne Quinn, Maeve Clarke, Breda Preston and Shelia Merne from Dublin were also delighted to be back running their 40th mini marathon.

All wore special T-shirts saying ‘Class of ’83’.

“There’s nothing like the atmosphere of the mini marathon – it’s so positive and uplifting,” said Ms Lennon.

“I don’t like starting in the rain but I don’t mind it once I get going,” said Ms Merne.

All kept their fitness regimes going throughout the pandemic and said it was what got them through the hardship of lockdowns.

The group always complete the mini marathon, supporting a different charity each year, with this year’s proceeds going towards Barrettstown and the Tallaght Cancer Support Group.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald was spotted in the crowd, running to support people with acquired brain injury. Sisters Sandra and Lorraine Warburton were running with friends including Jacqui Boyle, Sharon Tighe and Sarah Jane Kinsella from the Tallaght Athletic Club. “There’s going to be loads of tears now that everybody is back together again,” said Sandra Warburton. “There are going to be some very special moments.”

Phyllis Browne from Swords, Co Dublin, running for Pieta House, had given the virtual runs a go. “It was grand – but it’s not the same as this,” she said.

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Angela McLoughlin from Sligo, who was running her 40th women’s mini marathon. Photo: Damien Eagers

Kim McGrath from Trim, Co Meath had taken up running a year ago and was a bit nervous at the idea of her first mini marathon but finished with a good time.

At the finish line, long-distance runner Maria McCambridge said it had been “all right” but very quiet along the way – the rain unfortunately keeping the traditional large crowds of supporters away.

From the Athlone Running Club, Theresa Hughes from Ballymore finished with a personal best (PB) of 40 minutes and 28 seconds. Theresa was “delighted”
with her time, as was her running mate Emer Gaffney – also from Athlone – who recorded a PB of 41 minutes and three seconds. “The climb on the dual carriageway was a bit tough but then the rest of it was nice enough. The rain was heaven – it was a light dusting,” said Ms Gaffney. “It was a lovely atmosphere and there was loads of support along the way.”

Kathryn Walls from Co Down was running in memory of her sister, the doctor and Riverdance performer Dr Eithne Walls, who was among the 228 people who died when Air France Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro crashed into the Atlantic on June 1, 2009.

“It was 13 years ago this week,” said Ms Walls, who said that she and many of Eithne’s family members and friends have been running the mini marathon every year for the Eithne Walls Fund, which supports research at the Eye and Ear Hospital, where Eithne worked in ophthalmology.

“We’ve raised well over €30,000 for research and there is an Eithne Walls medal for research, so she is continuing to help people even in her death,” added Ms Walls. “She has made a runner out of me, which I never thought would happen.”

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Rosemary Halpin (right) and Kathy Walsh from Firhouse, Dublin share a moment as they cross the finishing line. Photo: Damien Eagers

In a pink wig and running for a cancer fund, Stephen McAllister ran in the place of his friend Kelly, whose father died of oesophageal cancer.

“I got some fair abuse along the way,” he smiled. “‘That’s a hairy lady’ was a big one. But it was all good natured.”

Jean Doyle and Niamh Ginnell ran with family members, with their uncle Eamon Dunne from Mullingar in a wheelchair. Mr Dunne has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Together, they raised almost €15,000 for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease association.

Sisters Maria and Suzie Keenehan from Carrick-On-Shannon, Co Leitrim, were running in memory of their brother, Xavier, who died of a brain tumour at the age of 35. They were raising money for St Luke’s.

“It’s an emotional day for us as a family,” said Suzie.

Abigail Plewman from Sandycove in Dublin united with her children Harry (11) and Kelly (9) at the 4km point to finish the race together.

“We did it for my mother, Gillian, who died of cancer during the pandemic.

“We will donate some money to charity afterwards,” she explained. “It’s an emotional day and you can’t but cry thinking of it.”

Niamh Forristal and Denise O’Mahony – “best buddies” from Clonsilla in Dublin – had completed the mini marathon several times but then “life got in the way”, said Ms Forristal.

“I burst into tears at the finish because just as we were getting to the end, some girl said, ‘You’ve got to finish it under the hour.’ She dragged me on. I wouldn’t have done it without her.”

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