15th December 2020
Running the Dublin marathon at minus one degree Celsius is not quite what most people expect they will be undertaking. But as with everything else in 2020, marathon running has had to be inventively adapted. For Gethin White, who fund raises every second year for the Samaritans, 2020 became the year he completed an adapted Dublin Marathon to honour that commitment. A librarian in Dr Steevens Hospital in Dublin, Gethin explains that he was fortunate to have the Phoenix Park near his work base. “I used to go training there at lunchtimes but of course lockdown put an end to that. I had also been injured for about seven months before then so by March my children and I needed to try and get some exercise.”
Gethin explains that they started gently running a mile each day – the children were used to running a mile a day at school and missed that. “So, successively on Saturday mornings we added an extra mile until we settled at doing a five mile run each Saturday. The carrot was that I’d cook them pancakes afterwards! My eight year old son Niall is more of a cyclist so he tailed off a bit but my 11-year-old daughter Roisin stuck to her task and was great at keeping me to our schedule. I wasn’t sure how far it would take us but I slowly each week I began to feel fitter.”
Feeling the need for a target, Gethin decided to run an adapted marathon: “I was very conscious of the effect lockdown was having on everybody’s mental health. I was also aware of the brilliant work that an organisation like the Samaritans do to support people when they hit their lowest ebb. The chance to fundraise for the Samaritans and to aim for the adapted marathon galvanised my efforts just as I was being to wilt a little.”
As he had built up his training very slowly to ensure he was able and fit, he knew he would not be ready for October so instead he opted to run in December: “Crazy idea I know!” However, as many others were also availing of the outdoors and recreational spaces and facilities to keep fit, Gethin saw that it was becoming increasingly difficult to find space to walk or run.
“The inventive solution was to run the full marathon on a modified three mile loop in the Phoenix Park and I chose to do it on Sunday 6th December. Fortunately for me I live just outside the gates of the Phoenix Park so I was able to train within the 5kms restriction. Less fortunately it meant the only way to keep socially distanced from people was to stick to the hillier parts of the park around St Mary’s Hospital so the route was going to be tough.”
His original plan was to run on his own, with Roisin joining him for the tough last six miles. Not to be outdone, Niall was also due to circle on his bike providing his dad with the occasional sip of water. To complete the family theme they also planned for Gethin’s wife Claire to hand him iced buns stored at a makeshift feed station.
Sub zero temperatures
However, what the White family did not plan for was sub zero temperatures: “It was minus one degree Celsius the morning of December 6th. I lost all feeling in my hands after about 10 miles. Roisin and her friend Martha joined me for the last few miles and their support was invaluable. Niall kept the supplies of water and gels going whilst Claire cycled round handing me sweet treats and barking encouragement.
“I eventually finished in 3 hours 38 minutes. The time was of secondary importance and I was just glad to make it through. The main aim was to raise funds. I feel passionately about the Samaritans because people in my family have volunteered for them and have also been users of the service. Thanks to the generosity of family, friends and in the main to HSE colleagues to date this appeal has raised over €3,000. We are still collecting:
And next year? While there may be some domestic discussions to be had, Gethin says he will “give the Dublin marathon another go next year if we are all back to something approaching normal.”