Record numbers expected to turn out for big race

Sat, Oct 27, 2012, 01:00

RECORD NUMBERS of people will take the streets of the capital on Monday for the Dublin Marathon, which remains without a sponsor.

Despite the growing popularity of running, there will be no television coverage of the event for the first time since it began 33 years ago. The plug had to be pulled on a planned television highlights package because of a chronic shortage of funds.

“When we were told we had no sponsor we had to refinance the event and the first thing to go was live TV,” said assistant race director Eugene Coppinger.

“Even the highlights coverage had to be ditched. We would have had to pay for all the hardware and the helicopters and we just could not afford it.”

The funding shortfall follows the decision by the National Lottery in May to withdraw as title sponsor. The organisers were not able to find a replacement at such short notice.

It is only the second time in the event’s history that the race, which has attracted 14,300 entrants, has been run without a title sponsor.

Wheelchair entrants will start the race at 8.55am followed by the first wave of runners at 9am. A second wave will go five minutes later, while the last wave departs at 9.20am.

Throughout the morning and early afternoon there will be traffic diversions across the city with the most affected areas likely to be around the Rock Road, Merrion Square, Nassau Street and St Stephen’s Green.

The weather is expected to be cold and mostly dry for the event and organisers said the absence of rain and wind may help the elite athletes break the two-hour and seven-minute barrier in Ireland for the first time.

Last year’s winner of the men’s race Geoffrey Ndungu, who won in a time of two hours, eight minutes and 33 seconds, is back to defend his crown while the winner of the women’s race was Namibian athlete Helalia Johannes who set a new Namibian national record with a time of two hours, 30 minutes and 33 seconds.

“It is going to be cold but the winds are going to be light so it could be good marathon running weather which will probably be good for fast times,” Mr Coppinger predicted. “There are 12 Kenyans, five Ethiopians, one South African and one from Namibia and I would expect them all to be close to the front.

“There is a running boom all over the country and I think one of the reasons might be austerity,” he added.

“People are leaving gyms because they can’t afford them. When it comes to running you will get away with one or two pairs [of runners] a year. That is all you need.”

He said the charity element remained a major element of the event and pointed out that millions of euro would be raised again this year for hundreds of different charities.

“Most of the people are running for a good cause. There will be some people who come back every year but as with every year we will have a few thousand marathon virgins this year.”

Before the big event there will be an international breakfast run tomorrow. This started out as a low-key event featuring about 100 runners from overseas but has grown enormously.

More than 1,000 runners will gather in the city tomorrow for a gentle 5km run followed by a light breakfast organised by the marathon committee.

“It is not a race and it is absolutely not competitive but it is great fun and we expect to have people from up to 40 countries here on Sunday for the warm up. It is very social.

“There is no such thing as the loneliness of the long-distance runner when you are running a marathon,” said Mr Coppinger.