Caption: Irish team at training camp in Matsue, Japan (thanks Ryan!)
When Olympics-bound Pauline Curley returned to Tullamore from her summer holidays last Saturday, she got a memorable reception.
"They had bunting up with 'congratulations to our Olympian Pauline' on it and where I work, they had posters everywhere. I don't think I'm ever going to get off this cloud!" she says.
Pauline, a last minute selection for Beijing, was on holiday in Spain with husband Adrian and 7-year-old son Emmett when she got the news.
"It's weird how it worked out. I wasn't at all well earlier this year and had gone to the Rotterdam Marathon not expecting much, but hoping to better my time. If I got the Olympic A qualification time, well and good. I didn't even know that the B standard was 2:42."
She finished in 2 hrs 39 mins, exactly was three minutes inside the B standard. It left her with a glimmer of hope. One day, Pauline was on a run, accompanied by her loyal friend Mick Hayden on his bike. "I feel something good is going to come out of this, Mick, I really do," she said. "He told me I was mad and not to think about it."
Seven weeks after Rotterdam, she finished second in the Flora Women's Mini Marathon behind Annette Kealy. She then ran two tough half marathons, winning in Lisburn with a time of 1:17.18. At the Irish Runner 5 Mile, she finished second before heading off on holidays.
Next came the phone call that changed everything. She is only the fifth Irish woman to qualify for an Olympics marathon and the first in 20 years. "My only goal is to finish the race and enjoy the experience. It will be all new for me - even being away from home for so long will be strange."
Travelling out in support will be Adrian, Emmett, along with Pauline's mother, her running sister Anne, Mick Hayden and the rest of the clan. "They're having a t-shirt made up with 'Biffo's Army on Tour in Support of Pauline' printed up! Emmett will have one with 'Give her the holly polly' on it - that's what he shouts when I'm racing."
Pauline's marathon will start at 7.30am (12.30am our time) on Sunday August 17. Her many friends in Irish athletes can look forward to a late night.