Drogheda trio come through marathon test
WHILE Eliud Kipchoge and co were hot-footing it round the streets of London last Sunday week in what was an elite athletes only marathon, closer to home on the rain-sodden roads of Meath and Louth a marathon of different sorts was taking place.
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and a cleverly designed App, the London Marathon organisers had made it possible for club runners who had missed out on attending this year’s event to run their own race and submit their finishing time to enable them to receive their finisher’s medal.
Drogheda & District’s trio of Barbara Byrne, Carmel Keenan and David Birch must surely have wished that same technology could control the weather as the day dawned cold and miserably wet, not to mention the gusting wind, and no one would have blamed them for turning over and staying in bed.
However, athletics is all about overcoming obstacles and come 8am the Three Musketeers lined up on an empty street in Tullyallen, away from the bright lights and glamour of top-class athletics, and set off on what was their toughest challenge to date.
Normally, the early miles in this gruelling 26-mile race feel quite easy as the lightweight gear is on and the buzz from the crowd help the miles slip by unnoticed. However, this was a different story altogether, with clothing weighed down by the incessant rain and the only audible sound the squelching of one’s feet inside rain-sodden shoes.
Coming up to the 10-mile mark, the best thing in this trio’s armoury was their combined sense of purpose, coupled with their vast experience. Byrne was running her fourth marathon, while Keenan had seven under her belt and Birch - the most experienced - had completed 10 previous marathons.
Having completed a loop of the quiet rural roads round Ballymakenny, Termonfeckin and then Baltray where the half-way point was reached, the spirits were still good, but the fingertips were now turning a worrying shade of blue as the biting cold took hold of the runners and it’s in the darker moments of this distance race that one is asked to go to the well.
Thankfully, a welcome break from the wind, if only for a short while, was more than welcome and the support crew did a great job in keeping the runners hydrated and the Jelly Babies laden with sugar were disappearing at an alarming rate as the 20-mile marker was passed.
By now the runners were south of the Boyne river and on the way back from Mornington with a strong westerly wind blowing into their faces, and things weren’t going to get any easier as it’s a straight run out to Oldbridge where the finish line awaited.
Thanks to some sterling work by Yvonne McMahon and Sinead Weldon, the two supporting runners who did their best to take the wind and shelter their colleagues, the finish was reached, with Byrne crossing the line in 3hr 51min, Keenan only a minute behind and Birch running the distance in 4hr 17min.
This trio won’t be resting on their laurels as they join a larger group of Drogheda & District athletes who will attempt to run the 2020 Dublin Marathon as a virtual event at the end of the month.
Ava Hand of Boyne AC drives hard through the rain to finish third in the Under-10 Girls race and (inset) Under-10 Boys runner-up Leyton Byrne with his brother Keilan Byrne after their event.