Inspiring future generations to take part in The Echo Women's Mini Marathon

Tomorrow Elaine Duggan will take part in The Echo Women's Mini Marathon - virtually again this year. But there will be someone special by her side
Inspiring future generations to take part in The Echo Women's Mini Marathon

Elaine Duggan, with daughters, Saoirse and Sadhbh, having taken part in The Echo Women's Mini Marathon, back in 2018. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

YOU could say that my eldest daughter is an inquisitive child… The questions usually start coming a few seconds after she gets out of bed and come at high level intervals, every minute, of every hour, of every day.

Munching over her breakfast, you could be asked anything from how many points she needs in her Leaving Cert to become a vet (she’s only nine!) to how many endangered animals are there in the world? Do bees fart? Why do women take men’s surnames sometimes when they get married? And what’s 1,034 multiplied by 3,457? Life’s fun with kids, isn’t it!

All this questioning, however, has led her to being a very bright little girl. I joke at times that she’s like a little encyclopedia. I’d love to take the credit for this — but if I am honest most of her knowledge comes from her dad. Ever since she was a very small child, when she’d ask a question of him, he’d reply to her in a very adult-like manner — no fluff, no dumbing down, no simplicity. He told it how it is.

In school this week she was shown a picture and when her teacher asked her what she thought the star on people’s clothing meant, my daughter told her they were the Star of David — and that during the Holocaust Jews were made to wear them by the Nazi’s to ‘dehumanise them’ and to help identify them. When she was telling me this, I had a smile across my face. A very proud mummy… I thought to myself, there are teens and adults out there who don’t even know what the Holocaust is.

But anyhow, I digress!

Another trait is that she is fiercely competitive — I have no idea where this comes from… she’s always in it to win it. 

So when she spotted me brandishing a mini marathon medal many years ago, probably when she was just about school-going age —there were questions, lots of questions... but mostly ‘When can I run?’

And then she asked again. And again. And again. Every year in the lead up to September, when I was trying to get some level of fitness up before the event, or she spotted me working on an article for The Echo about the race, the questions came thick and fast again: “When can I run, why can’t I run, what age do I need to be, when will that be… are you sure I will be able to do it, will I walk it, or run it, where will it be?”

Last year she would have been eight, and therefore officially qualified to take part, with an adult by her side, as the rules outline. But Covid had other ideas and a virtual race was held instead.

I promised her she could take part this year, when things got back to ‘normal’. You see, I wanted her to experience the ‘real’ event. After all, who wouldn’t want their daughter to be a part of this tsunami of sisterhood that spreads out across Cork city on the day? Women of all ages, women of all sizes, women of all abilities, women putting one foot in front of the other for different causes…

The power of this, the impact it might have on her little self-confidence, her self-esteem, on her belief in womankind. 

I wanted to show her how strong, determined, fierce, brave, kind and giving women could be - women who take part in The Echo Women’s Mini Marathon are all these things. 

It’s something I wanted so badly for her. And I know she’ll have that some day. But it’s not to be again this year.

Now she is nine, tomorrow should be her second mini marathon — but instead it will be her first, and just a virtual one. But that is OK. And people know it is OK. The hundreds who have signed up to run, walk, jog tomorrow or all next week, will still have a very special day.

 Faces in the crowd, at the start of The Echo Women's Mini Marathon back in 2017. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Faces in the crowd, at the start of The Echo Women's Mini Marathon back in 2017. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

There won’t be crowds on Centre Park Road — but there will be sisters, or friends, or work colleagues by your sides — you won’t be alone no matter where or when you are doing it.

I’ve had many different mini marathon experiences over the years. I still recall the feeling after my very first one, with former work colleagues. We were exhausted after running it, but also totally re-energised.

Personally, I have run it on the best of days when life seemed good… but I have also ran it on the worst of days, when life was a struggle.

The mini marathon to me is like a comfort blanket of sorts, year in, year out. It wraps itself around you and lets you know, even for a few hours, on a September afternoon, that you are not alone, that everything will be OK.

I love the race because for many it’s the last major thing we might do before we hunker down for winter.

This year marks the 40th race of the mini marathon… in ten years from now it will be the 50th —and my daughter’s 10th race, as she prepares to turn 20. So that’s a milestone she can mark in her calendar… and I’m hoping that I’ll be by her side, still able to keep up with her.

A little older, a little greyer, a little bit slower perhaps… but still taking part.

So, instead of her asking me questions today… I am going to ask her one: “What are we doing tomorrow?”

When she says “I don’t know...”

I’ll have great delight in telling her that I’ve registered her to take part in her first mini marathon...

Next year, when we are back on Centre Park Road (hopefully!) we’ll have another reason to celebrate, as her little sister will be eight and can officially get involved too! Roll on 2022... but first let’s enjoy tomorrow!

HOW TO GET INVOLVED IN THE ECHO VIRTUAL WOMEN'S MINI MARTHON 

The Echo Women’s Mini Marathon virtual race day goes ahead this year on September 19. But don’t worry, if you can’t do your virtual 6k on that date, you can do it between Friday, September 16 and 26.

Registration this year is as follows;

a) Early Bird, €10 = includes a race number and medal

b) After Early Bird Closes = €15

There will be the option for people to set up an iDonate fundraising page for registered charities.

You can register for the event at the new site: www.echolive.ie/minimarathon. Also keep an eye on social media @theechominimarathon

SEND US YOUR PHOTOS

If you have taken part in The Echo Virtual Women’s Mini Marathon in recent days, or you are planning to do so in the days ahead, send us a photo of you competing in it.

The sign which is currently in Kennedy Park, where the traditional finish line would have been.
The sign which is currently in Kennedy Park, where the traditional finish line would have been.

You can send us your photos via email at news@theecho.ie

Or Direct Message on our Mini Marathon Facebook page

INCLUDE: Your name, where you are from, why you’re taking part, and use the hashtag

#echovirtualminimarathon

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