2014 Canberra marathon not lonely for long distance runners
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2014 Canberra marathon not lonely for long distance runners

It's highly unlikely Alan Sillitoe would have called his most famous work The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner if he had attended a Canberra Marathon.

The event, now in its 38th year, is one of the city-state's most social and participatory sporting events.

Winner, Samuel Gebremichael, crosses the line.

Winner, Samuel Gebremichael, crosses the line.Credit:Graham Tidy

In addition to more than 6500 athletes who took part in the running events on the Saturday and Sunday of the weekend-long running festival, there was an equal - if not greater - number of mums and dads, wives and husbands, sons and daughters, workmates and friends who rocked up to cheer their loved ones across the line and share the achievement.

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There was no shortage of the latter.

While individual runners may have wished they had scored a better time, all of them were chuffed to have taken part and gone the distance, even if, for some, it did take twice as long (or more) to get there as the pedestrian peloton.

My hat goes off to the inspirational achievements of people obviously well into their 70s who completed the half-marathon course and, in particular, to the awesome wheelchair entrant, Richard Nicholson, who blitzed the event in an amazing one hour, 53 minutes and six seconds.

He beat everybody else home by almost half an hour and would have been the only entrant on the day who came close to experiencing anything like loneliness.

There were no surprises when Samuel Woldeamanual Gebremichael hove into view just after 8.50am as he had been the clear leader for much of the marathon.

Like the first swallow of a northern summer, he heralded the imminent arrival of a packed mass of often red-faced and gasping humanity.

St John Ambulance Officers were on hand and incoming runners were visually assessed to determine what shape they were in.

At least one bloke of middle years was assisted from the finish line, sat down in a wheelchair (albeit not as streamlined as that favoured by Mr Nicholson) and watched closely until his condition improved.

Hannah Walmsley, a producer with ABC Radio 666, was competing in her first full-length Canberra Marathon.

She is no stranger to the sport, however, having won the Canberra women's half-marathon twice.

''I'm not that happy with my time (of two hours, 56 minutes and 58 seconds),'' she said. This was almost 10 minutes slower than she had run at her first full marathon in Melbourne.

The 25-year-old said the shift from half to full marathon was a big step and that the Canberra course had been challenging, with some serious hills to be climbed.

The media professional, who runs with Dick Telford's group, didn't have the time or the inclination to tweet during the event.

By 9.30am the flow of inbound runners had become a flood, with grandmothers and grandfathers of steel starting to appear in the ranks of half-marathoners who had been sent off at 7.45am.

Julie-Anne Halpin, a 20-something member of the Beauty of Exercise Group from Sydney's northern beaches, took two glasses of orange drink and a lot of Canberra oxygen to regain her composure.

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She was far from disappointed at having cracked the two-hour mark for her first half-marathon.

''Why did I do this? I have no idea,'' she said. ''I do think I will feel good about it later. It was hard work but I do think it was worth it - and I've got my finishing badge.''