Its The June Bank Holiday And Here Come The Girls 2009: Athletics Of

Its the June Bank Holiday and here come the girls

ATHLETICS: OF ALL the nerve-racking, hair-raising, mind-boggling and ultimately shattering “learning experiences” of my short but varied career as a sportswriter, my first encounter
with the women’s mini marathon remains the most unforgettable, if not terrifying. Surround any young man shoulder-to-shoulder with 40,000 women smelling of Deep Heat and Tiger Balm – every one of them ready to kick ass – and see how quick he forgets it. There are some sporting occasions which defy both logic and explanation, and the women’s mini marathon is chief among them. Nothing in the country, or the world, for that matter, readily compares. It may be strictly limited to women, but much of the appeal lies in its easy accessibility. Indeed most of those taking part next Monday have probably decided to do so on a whim, or else while out on a Saturday night with seven or eight friends, probably all half drunk. There is no qualification standard and certainly no minimal level of fitness. Age, weight or girth is no obstacle, nor are fleshy knees, and sometimes sexuality isn’t either. They come from across the country and across every walk of life, and many of them do in fact end up walking it. No one talks about personal bests or split times in the women’s mini marathon, and no one takes it too seriously. Few of them even know how far it is (a mere 10km). It’s all about the taking part, just like the Olympics used to be. Who cares when they’ve turned it into the biggest all-women’s event of its kind in the world It doesn’t matter either that very title “mini” marathon is the biggest misnomer in all of sport (with the possible exception baseball’s World Series). Not only is there nothing at all “mini” about this marathon it’s impossible to have a “mini marathon” in the first place. If anything it should be renamed the Women’s Mega Mini Marathon. Either way, the overwhelming scale of the event can only be appreciated up close and personal, which is where I found myself exactly 12 years ago. Having failed to sustain a viable career as a biologist, guitarist, artist, waiter, actor and Teacher of English as a Foreign Language (in descending order, by the way), the notion of becoming a sportswriter finally became unavoidable. Like father, like son had nothing to do with it. For that I remain forever indebted to Frank Greally, the indefatigable editor of Irish Runner Magazine, who gave me my first start in this cut-throat business. After publishing my first article (something to do with the benefits of being a vegetarian runner, which I’ve long since renounced) Frank sent me along to the 1997 women’s mini marathon to do that all-encompassing “colour piece”, which of course means mixing down at ground zero. So I found myself on St Stephen’s Green on a typically sweltering June Bank Holiday Monday surrounded by 40,000 women. The first group I cautiously approached, who had just endured a six-hour bus journey from Donegal, had somehow got their rush of endorphins before actually running. They insisted I pose for a photograph with them, hysterically, and only eventually let me go, smeared with lipstick.
At the finish line the atmosphere was even more feverish. As they poured through in their thousands, sweaty and red-faced, fiercely brushing damp hair from their eyes, their fleshy knees quivering uncontrollably, it was impossible not to be touched by the emotion and power of this event.

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