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Mary Hickey to run in 40th consecutive Dublin Marathon

In the last forty years there have been very few certainties in a world where everything seems to be changing all the time. However, we know a few things for sure, that the KBC Dublin Marathon will take place on the last weekend in October and that marathon legend, Mary Hickey, will be at the starting line.

The Dublin Marathon is an annual run that was first introduced in 1980, it’s a 26.2-mile challenge that isn’t for the faint hearted. The race covers large parts of the city and is always a great occasion on the Irish Sporting calendar.  There are not many survivors left since that first Dublin Marathon, with only a few men and one woman competing in their 40th consecutive version of the race.

Mary Hickey (67) from Arklow in Co. Wicklow competed in the first Dublin Marathon in 1980 with a field of less than 2000 people and 40 women. She came into that race with very little running experience, only ever previously running 18 miles. “I remember my calf muscles totally seized up after 18 miles and it was like a warzone, bodies were dropping everywhere. When I finished the race I remember thinking that it was horrible, I’m never doing that again”.

Hickey has since competed in marathons all around the world in cities like Boston and the first London marathon in 1981 along with some cross-country type races and also ultra-marathons. She completed the marathon des sables, a week long race in the Sahara Desert that is only for the elite racers which covers the equivalent of 150 miles.

The Arklow runner has ran in 39 Dublin Marathons with some races being more memorable than others, from fast times, pregnancies and personal life reasons. In the early days she was setting records competing in the first Dublin and London Marathon and first Irish Triathlon, posting her fastest time in 1981 getting just under the three-hour mark at 2 hours and 57 minutes in the Dublin Marathon. She came fourth out of all the women in that particular year.

In 1989 she was 6 and a half months pregnant but that didn’t stop her competing in the race. “In those days it was almost taboo for women to exercise while being pregnant never mind doing a marathon, but as long as your fit and healthy and know your own body, you’ll be ok,” she said. She took her time making plenty of toilet stops along the way.

In 2017, Hickey completed the race while pushing her husband around in a wheelchair as he was suffering from cancer. He too wanted to keep his streak of doing every single marathon intact. Unfortunately he passed away later that year. “I’ve seen the race from the front, the middle and the back throughout the years and how it is for people with disabilities”.

The 67 year old has been the only female to have completed all the Dublin marathons for quite some time. Herself and Brigid Mccabe from Mullingar were both holding the record for many years, before Brigid ended her streak after the 20th Marathon. “Just like that I was the only woman to have completed every Dublin Marathon and I thought to myself, well what now?” she laughed.  

 It hasn’t always been the easiest road for the runner through injuries and personal grief as she has lost family members over the years. “I sometimes wonder how I ever got to the starting line as all these things were happening, but we have to keep going, nothing in life is easy,” she reflected.  

This year Mary and forty other locals will take part in the Marathon all with the aim of raising 100 euro each for Wicklow Hospice. This is a cause that is close to Mary’s heart as she lost her brother when he was 27 to cancer. “It was fine just running when I was competitive, but now I like to run for a purpose.”

The Wicklow woman is proud to be the only woman to do every single Dublin Marathon and to be from the county of Wicklow. She is currently nursing an injury after hurting her back in a cycle around Ireland, so finishing the race is the main objective this year. She will keep doing the Marathon until she can’t no more. “I’ve been given a good body, I may as well wear it out.”

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