These sisters are still walking the walk

By vhiadmin, Wednesday, 24th February 2016 | 0 comments

Five Dublin sisters who did the Mini Marathon together in 1996 remember the event with fondness 20 years on.

We came across a photo of five sisters who were part of the 1996 Women's Mini Marathon and we wondered: where were they now?

Twenty years ago, the Farrell sisters (as were) undertook their first Women's Mini Marathon, and we've got the documentation to prove it. Snapped by a Herald photographer on the day in 1996, when Esther Rochford saw the picture, her first thought was “I didn't need hair colour then!” It did spark some memories as well, and Esther was happy to speak for her family and take us back to the day itself.

This year marks the 21st event that the Herald has sponsored — we've finally got the key to the door! In '96, £2.5 million was raised for charity by 25,000 women from all over the world, including 30 from Scandinavia, walking, jogging and running their way over the finish line. American runner Kay McCandless took the big prize, and went on to run the 5000m for Ireland in the Olympics. Originally from California, McCandless had a granddad from Donegal, so we're delighted to claim her.

CLOSER TO HOME

On the day, the sisters Farrell came to our attention. All married, Helen Lawlor, Martina Blanchford, Harriet Treacy, Maud Nolan and Esther Rochford had trained for the event together and they made across the line together.

The women weren't necessarily sporty: they didn't run in school for example, but they were active. “We'd seen that all kinds of charities were being supported, and we'd all been out walking at the time, so we decided we do it for charity too.” The charities the women supported included the  Crumlin Children's Hospital, Kare and The Irish Cancer Society.

“It was really popular,” says Esther. “Every day you'd pick up the Herald and there was something in it. Around locally, you'd see all the women out training, it was a big buzz.” Ranging in age between their thirties and forties, the sisters went out seven nights a week to prepare, with a goal of seven miles each evening. And they went out in all weathers — “We'd just put on a raincoat, it didn't bother us” — so they were prepared for anything on the big day.

THE DAY ITSELF

“It was a good day, it wasn't raining or anything like that. We talked non-stop! That's the great thing, you don't feel the time,” Esther laughs. “I've actually done the marathon seven times in a row, and every time I've done it with someone and all we've done is talk our way around. You were at the finish line before you knew where you were.

“I loved that it was strictly for women, that is was something that you did for yourself. You didn't have your husband, your partner with you, you didn't have your kids with you. It was something that I did for me. And you also hoped that you'd collect a few bob for the charity.”

The generosity didn't merely come from the women who were participating, but from the sponsors, too. “When you got your goodie bag, it'd take you an hour to go through it! There was voucher for this and coupon for that, a sample of this and a sample of that. Myself and Harriet used to go up a few days beforehand and collect the bags. I used to enjoy that as well.”

DOING GOOD

Has Esther got encouragement for anyone still debating whether to join in? “If you have your best friend with you, or your sisters, it's a great day out for women. It gets you out into the fresh air and at the same time you were doing some good for someone else.”

These days, the sisters are all still living locally to one another and have 15 grandchildren between them with two more on the way. In the summer months Esther and Harriet are still out walking two miles every night. And the memories of their days with the Women's Mini Marathon are still going strong. It just goes to show what an impact this event makes, not only on the charities that benefit from the fundraising, but also on the women who take to the streets.