By Frank Greally
On Sunday October 29, Eleven runners will set a modern record of having participated in every Dublin Marathon event since 1980.
The 2023 Irish Life Dublin Marathon will be the 42nd edition of the event. Among the thousands set to toe the line will be Mary Hickey Nolan, the only woman to have completed every Dublin Marathon.
Mary will be joined by the youngest of the group, Dubliner Martin Kelly (61) while Peadar Nugent (80) of Galway has the honour of being the eldest. The remainder of this legendary group are Donal Ward (Donegal), Seamus Cawley (Limerick), Seamus Dunne (Meath) and Dublin based Donal de Buitléir, John McElhinney, Patrick Gowen, Dominic Gallagher and Mick Carolan.
A total of 2,100 runners took part in the inaugural event in 1980 and Wicklow native Mary Hickey was one of only 40 women who took part, finishing the race in 3 hours 38 minutes. She is now the only woman continuing an unbroken participation in the event.
Mary’s most memorable Dublin marathons were: “The year I broke three hours that was magic, to come across the line and see the clock reading sub three was something else. Getting around it when I was six months pregnant was special too and pushing my ex-husband around it in 2017, who was very sick at the time, that was very emotional.” Mary supported Tony to keep his unbroken Dublin marathon run after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Mary along with three of his friends pushed him around the 26 miles in an adapted wheelchair, he passed away the following June.
Donal de Buitleir signed up for the first edition of the race after Noel Carroll, one of the founders of the Dublin Marathon told him about the event: “In 1980 I was working on Merrion St and a group of us used to go down to Trinity College to train at lunchtime twice a-week. Noel Carroll also trained there so we’d meet him in the dressing room. He started talking about this marathon thing and I decided to give it a go. At that stage only iron men did marathons and even the idea of running 10 miles was challenging.”
Peadar Nugent, feels it is the support on the course that makes the event so special: “The Dublin Marathon really is the friendly marathon. All the people who staff the drinks tables all the way around and all the volunteers at the start and finish are marvellous. They’re all so full of great spirit and encouragement. No matter how miserable you might be feeling during it they always say, ‘you’re looking great!’ and that really gives you a lift.”
Reflecting on lessons learnt from competing in every Dublin Marathon, Martin Kelly said: “Sometimes you’ll be running along, without a care in the world, and next thing, two minutes later you’re thinking what I am doing here, I’m never going to finish this! But mentally we’re an awful lot stronger than we think we are. We all have a really determined streak in us so believe in yourself.”
Mick Carolan’s top tip for runners taking on Irish Life Dublin Marathon on the 29th of October is: “Listen to your body and breathing and don’t be obsessing over your time. Ideally run negative splits. If you can feel good at 20 miles and then start catching and passing people, that’s the greatest lift of all. When you cross that finish line there is always that feeling of achievement, no matter how easy or hard you’ve found it or how many times you’ve done it.”
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