An almost permanent fixture on the local sporting calendar, the Longford Marathon is well known for its ability to serve up more than just the occasional sub plot or two.
This year, much of the spotlight will undoubtedly be thrust in the direction of four RTE journalists-Fran McNulty, Sinead Hussey, Fintan Duffy and Ciaran Mullooly as they swap the newsroom for 26 miles of gruelling road running in just over two weeks time.
The quartet, under the expert guidance of local athlete Brendan Doyle, are set to take part in the marathon’s steadily growing relay event in a bid to raise much needed funds for their chosen charity- the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Waiting patiently inside the Longford Arms Hotel for its official launch last Tuesday evening, nerves appeared to be unusually absent as thoughts turned to the big race in two weeks time.
And it didn’t take long for the expected deluge of banter and mild provocation to start either.
“The couch to 5km app is now redundant,” said a delighed sounding Ciaran Mullooly. “I still feel that Fran McNulty has a lot to answer for in terms of the organisation of this event.”
Clearly in jovial mood, the Lanesboro journalist jokingly claimed one of his colleagues had even been getting in some extra training with the Kenyan Marathon team.
“Mr (Fintan) Duffy is fresh from his outstanding performance in the triathlon out in Lanesboro. Sinead waltzed around the 5km on that occasion and Mr McNulty apparantly trained with the Kenyan Marathon team that same weekend, so we come here with great experience and one very big rookie,” he told a well attended gathering of interested onlookers.
If the state broadcaster’s midlands correspondent had the audience in laughter, their mentor, Brendan Doyle, was more exacting.
He said, despite some early teething problems, the group had shown their resilience by sticking to their task manfully over the past eight to ten weeks.
“They have surprised themselves. They are there, they just need to keep it going,” he said.
Those motivational words seem to have rubbed off on the team’s other members. Sitting alongside his two other work mates, Fran McNulty heaped praise on Brendan’s work ethic and unstinting suppport.
“Brendan Doyle has been incredible. He would give you moral support, be it by a phonecall or even a text. He has kept it together and kept us on target. He has given us a programme and we come together every week or two weeks. The difficulty is I have never ran before and Ciaran hasn’t either. Fintan is doing triathlons, but we are all novices to this.”
He was also forced to respond to Ciaran’s earlier assertion about his alleged close ties with the Kenyan marathon squad.
“Absolutely not,” he replied, affording himself a wry grin in the process.
Listening on, Sinead and Fintan both hinted at pursuing their emerging taste for long distance running further.
“I did a 10km last Wednesday night for the first time in an hour and 15 minutes and then on Sunday I did it in an hour and five minutes,” said Sinead. “Now I say I only did 10km when this time last year I couldn’t run from here to the door.”
In backing up those comments, Fintan smiled when asked about giving Ciaran a lending hand during the final, or aptly dubbed, ‘glory leg.’
“I think we’d prefer to kick him down the last kilometre.”
Whether they get that chance, all will be revealed on August 26.
*To make a donation to the group’s charity- the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association, simply log onto mycharity.ie/event/rt-relay-run.