Dublin Marathon on course for record number of entrants

Fresh hopes that Joe Sweeney could be first Irish men’s winner in 20 years

The start of last year’s Dublin Marathon where over 14,200 runners competed. This year is set to top 15,000 entrants. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

The start of last year’s Dublin Marathon where over 14,200 runners competed. This year is set to top 15,000 entrants. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Fri, May 24, 2013, 02:00

The Dublin Marathon is on course for another record number of entrants, despite the absence of a title sponsor. There are also fresh hopes for the first Irish men’s winner in 20 years, although largely because there won’t be an invited elite field – one of the cost-cutting measures forced upon the organisers due to financial restraints.

Race director Jim Aughney – speaking at the launch of the 2013 event, set as usual for the October Bank Holiday Monday, October 28th – was confident the overall quality of the race won’t be diminished: Aughney also announced a new partnership with Renault Ireland, who will present a Fluence ZE electric car to both the men’s and women’s winner – with all race entrants also in the draw for a third such car.

“Renault coming on board, with winning cars, has certainly helped,” says Aughney, who in March described the search for a new title sponsor as “pretty bleak” – but now sounds far more positive about the event’s long-term prospects. “A number of people did come along, discuss the sponsorship with us, although more with 2014 in mind. We always knew it would be very difficult to get somebody for 2013, at this late stage, and with the committed budget that we have. But I would be quite confident we will have another record entry, that the lack of a title sponsor won’t impact on that. I do know entries are already up, compared to this date last year . . . We had 14,200 last year, and we could well top the 15,000 this year.”

Dublin has however reduced its winner’s prize from €15,000 to €10,000 (men and women), while also forced to increase the entry fee from €70 to €75 (the first such increase since 2004). Gone too is the special invitation to elite runners, with Dublin normally bringing in around 20 Kenyans and Ethiopians: that, however, might open the way for the first Irish men’s winner since John Treacy, in 1993, especially with Joe Sweeney – for years now Ireland’s top male cross-country runner – ready to make his marathon debut in Dublin.

“It’s the lack of an elite field, really, that will be the only difference,” says Aughney. “But we’ve had the same team of people working on this marathon for the last 16 or 17 years. Out first target was survival. Then getting a record entry. Then getting more supporters. The last piece of the jigsaw is to get an Irish winner. That would be another shot in the arm.

“But there was never a danger of it not going ahead. I definitely think Joe Sweeney is a serious contender.”

The first event in the countdown Race Series, the Irish Runner five-mile, is on Saturday, June 29th. To register for all such events, visit www.dublinmarathon.ie