My marathon highs and lows

Urga Negowo Urga Negowo
By Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

HIGHLIGHTS

1. Sheltering in City Hall with marathon veteran from New York Fr Brian Jordan — chaplain to the trade unions of the Big Apple — before the 9am start while thousands were getting drenched outside waiting for the Lord Mayor Niall Óg to sound the starting horn (gun for off apparently decommissioned).

2. Overtaking youthful DUP Councillor Guy Spence – I had given him 32 years and he had reciprocated by allowing me a minute per year head start.

3. Being interviewed by Nolan on the great never-on-a-Sunday marathon debate as we plodded along the Sydenham Bypass.

4. The women of Westland who came out with oranges and jelly babies to fuel the flagging runners.

5. The barman from the Chester on the Antrim Road – steepest part of the 26.2 mile route – with three pints of beer on a tray.

6. The Hospice cheerleaders who braved the worst May Day bank holiday weather in a generation to give purple-shirted runners stepping out for the Children’s Hospice an extra spring in their step. I was particularly proud of my Irish language t-shirt provided by the Hospice: ‘Tá mé ag tacú le Ospís Leanaí Thuaisceart Éireann’.

7. The big cheer from the woman sipping from the Ché Guevara coffee cup in the porch of her Whitewell Road home.

8. ‘Born to Run’ pumping out of the Parador on the Ormeau Road as the 24-mile marker came into view.

9. Singing ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ for surprised spectators as we swung into the final mile towards Ormeau Park – ‘coming for to carry me home’.

10. Crossing the finish line, head and heart intact, four hours and ten minutes after setting out from City Hall, and going home to find out that my £2,000 fundraising target had been boosted by generous contributors to my donations page www.just giving.com/mairtin (still about £150 to go, though).

 

LOWLIGHTS

1. City Hall being closed to the runners as they lined up in the rain for the off outside the Dome of Delight on Monday morning. Shame really, since we had opened for the marathon pack collection and expo the previous day.

2. The Sydenham Bypass – will someone please tell me why are we forcing marathon runners and relay teams along the side of our ugliest and busiest motorway?

3. Failing to even get a glance of the new £90m Titanic Building as our route took us away from the bypass and on to the Queen’s Bridge.

4. No live music to lift the spirits as the rain belted down – in the famed rock ‘n’ roll marathons they have a live band (rain or no rain) on the mile mark.

5. Great to get a raucous reception in Clonard Street, but shouldn’t we have been running along the Cupar Way peaceline tourist Mecca or passing that other great West Belfast icon, the Cultúrlann, and the Aisling an Phobail artwork at Beechmount?

6. Not having the courage to grab one of those pints at the Chester.

7. Being lapped by Conall McDevitt just before being overtaken by a guy wearing a ‘UU Orange Society’ t-shirt at Gideon’s Green (“Guy Spence sent me,” he shouted as he sped past). Insult to injury.

8. Encountering Hurricane Irene on the coastal pathway at Newtownabbey (Belfast marathon in Newtown- abbey? Don’t ask.)

9. The unforgettable pong of the city sewage works as we shuffled past the city’s main sewage treatment works in the bleak and grim wasteland which is Duncrue Street.

10. Crossing the finish line one hour and 57 minutes after Ethiopian winner Urga Negewo (even though the Irish weather was surely to my advantage) and realising that I’m probably nuts enough to do this again.

 

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