Blood, sweat and tears, but no swoosh
ATHLETICS DUBLIN CITY MARATHON: As a record entry of over 14,000 prepare to take on the gruelling 26.2 miles on Monday morning, IAN O'RIORDANtalks to race director Jim Aughney
STRANGE DAYS indeed when one man is being lined up with $250 million to wear a little swoosh around a golf course, winning millions more in prize money, and over 14,000 people will run around the streets of Dublin without the slightest chance of winning anything at all, unless of course they’re a Kenyan, and still that little swoosh doesn’t want to know anything about it.
Maybe it’s because marathon running has always been risky business – that anyone willing to endure 26.2 miles on their feet better realise so much can, and frequently does, go wrong. There are plenty of guarantees too, including the desperate urge to urinate within moments of the start, the horribly vicious blisters, and at least some mild form of diarrhoea, if you’re lucky – although nothing, it seems, can stop people from coming back for more.
Con Houlihan always described the marathon as the equivalent to conquering a horizontal Everest, and those who do complete the journey secure instant bragging rights that few so-called mass participation events can ever rival.
So, while some sports become increasingly reliant on commercial sponsorship to justify their existence, or struggle to maintain public interest, the 33rd running of the Dublin Marathon has attracted the highest ever entry and best ever elite field, and set up a course that looks faster than ever, all without touching either the entry fee or the existing pool of prize money. All this, by the way, without a title sponsor for the first and only other time since 1992 – which adds further weight to this inexplicably formidable force known as the running boom. Monday’s race may be lacking that little swoosh or any other type of branding, but it brings sport back to its basics, of health and human endeavour, which is what sport should be all about in the first place.
It was only last May when Jim Aughney, Dublin’s long-serving race director, revealed this year’s event wouldn’t have a title sponsor: the National Lottery had signed up for 2011, intending to stay on board until 2013, but when its own licence was put up for sale earlier this year things changed, and no agreement could be reached in time for the 2012 race (at least not one that satisfied the Dublin organisers). By then it was too late to seek a replacement, so Aughney and his team went about trimming some excess fat from an already lean operation.
“The first thing we wanted to ensure was that it has no impact on the runner,” he says, “and that come Monday evening, no one will look back and say, ‘gee, there was a noticeable difference there not having a sponsor’. And we strongly believe the quality of the race won’t change.