Standing in what we had calculated to be vaguely near the start area in extremely un-worn in runners, I genuinely got a bit choked up. Inches from me at every angle there were people wearing t-shirts that each told a unique story as to why they had made the effort to be here. A man in front wore a Cystic Fibrosis t-shirt reading “2013: In a wheelchair. 2014: Doing the Mini Marathon.”
As a journalist, I ached to know each of their incredible stories. As a fellow athlete, I began to quickly get charity envy: Why hadn’t I raised money for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, something so astoundingly important to pay attention to at the world’s biggest female-only charity event? What about the Irish Kidney Association, something that had not only touched me personally but dozens of women around me who also struggled with ill kidney health? (And whose t-shirt, I hate to admit, would have matched my shoes just a little more than my chosen charity.)
According to RTE news last night, our attendance yesterday would accumulate to a staggering €12 million for various charities that had for some reason or another caught our respect and consequently captured our efforts to do the 10k.
In the end, I was still adamant that Console (the national charity for suicide prevention and bereavement), was an extremely worthy cause to choose to do the mini marathon for, especially in the wake of a series of devastating suicides last week in Galway. But the dazzling variety of other charities surrounding my green Console t-shirt gave serious food for thought and made me realise that I’d have a tough choice to pick another charity next June.
By the time we had reached the UCD bypass, as far south as we would go, two lines of walkers going in opposite directions had converged and something spectacular happened. Seeing a series of women in wheelchairs passing slowly who still had about 500m to go before they reached our side, the crowd broke into a spontaneous applause and cheered them on.
I’ve never been cheered on by people in the street for what was essentially just walking, having raised money for a charity. Two gorgeous little girls at the side of the motorway insisted that I “don’t leave them hanging” and extended their hands in aid of “girl power”.
These two moments made me realise why the day was so special; that truth be told, a lot of the time women just aren’t very nice to each other. This 10 kilometer radius around Merrion Square was a rare, sacred space void of bitchy comments, filthy looks and judgment of appearance.
We were all just there happy to be involved in something so hugely positive that often came from a personal or familial struggle, whether it be to lose a loved one in a car crash, to suffer through cancer, to battle depression or to be struck with cystic fibrosis and to use it create hope for others and ourselves.
Although waiting with my group as they made a pit stop meant that we finished directly behind a woman who was actually smoking a cigarette as she crossed the line, it was a huge personal achievement to have been involved in something a lot bigger and more powerful than I had first comprehended.
So much of both physical and mental challenges can prosper in the face of personal challenge, and I am extremely proud to be part of the over 40,000 women who overcame their own challenges and crossed the line yesterday at the 2014 Flora Women’s Mini Marathon.