Runners put their best foot forward

By Aideen O'Flaherty

OVER 20,000 people took to the streets for the Dublin Marathon on Sunday, and a number of local people were in amongst the crowd of determined runners, with each of them putting their best foot forward to raise funds for charitable causes.

Mark Ward, the Mayor of South Dublin County Council and a Sinn Féin councillor for Clondalkin, took on the 26-mile challenge to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society of Ireland, after they helped him when he was diagnosed with the condition in 2006 at 31-years-of-age.

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Going the distance was particularly poignant for Mayor Ward, as he previously needed the aid of a walking stick and suffered from depression as a result of his MS diagnosis.

Mayor Ward told The Echo: “I actually welled up at the last mile because it was very emotional for me, to see what I’d achieved.

“There was a great atmosphere at the marathon – it showed Dublin in its best light.

“There was great camaraderie between the other runners, and every so often I’d see people I knew cheering me on, which spurred me on.”

At the time of going to print, Mayor Ward had raised just over €2,500 for MS Ireland, and he explained why it was so important for him to raise funds for the charity.

“It’s fantastic that the money is going to MS Ireland,” said Mayor Ward. “They’re not state funded, so every donation is important.

“They helped me out more than most when I was first diagnosed with MS, so I do any little bit that I can to help them.”

Lucan man Mark Thompson was also in the throngs of runners on the day, where he was raising awareness of the Tallaght Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Support Group.

The 46-year-old father-of-two, who is a referee in the South Dublin Schoolboys League, already had some familiarity with COPD as his wife’s uncle and a neighbour from Arthur Griffith, where Mark grew up, both suffer from the disease.

Mark was cheered on by members of the Tallaght COPD Support Group who were at the Walkinstown roundabout to lend their support to the seasoned runner.

Mark told The Echo: “It was great. I did the marathon in four hours and 48 minutes, so it was 11 minutes faster than my time last year.

“And it was great to get that support from the group at the Walkinstown roundabout. Hopefully people will understand COPD more and look it up.”

COPD, which mainly affects smokers, is a disease which makes it hard to empty air out of your lungs, which can cause shortness of breath and tiredness, and can, in some instances, cause sufferers to avoid leaving their homes.

Describing what the atmosphere was like during the marathon, Mark said: “The support is great. If you’re struggling, the people running beside you help you to make it to the finish line.”

A special moment occurred at the finish line, when 11-year-old Tallaght boy Daniel Tighe, who has a rare genetic condition called Sotos Syndrome which causes low mobility, severe epilepsy and means Daniel is non-verbal, walked across the marathon’s finish line with the help of his dad Keith.

Keith ran the marathon with Daniel in his jogger buggy, before himself and Shaun Duane, who ran the marathon with them as part of Daniel’s Voyage, ensured that he got the chance to walk across the finish line.

Daniel’s mother Sinead, who is also the current Tallaght Person of the Year, told The Echo: “Shaun and Daniel’s daddy didn’t know how he would react when they helped him out of the buggy, but he did it and he’ll never forget how it felt.

“We keep looking at the video of him walking across the finish line. People say things like he’ll never walk or he’ll never run, but there he is – walking across the finish line with everyone else. It was beautiful.”

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