Drogheda trio come through marathon test

Drogheda Independent - - SPORT -

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.

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