With several more big-city marathons already declaring revised race plans from this spring to this coming autumn, organisers of the Dublin Marathon are waiting and watching with interest before making any further announcements around the new look or feel of their date of Sunday, October 24th.
For now the hope and intention is to get as many, if not all, of the 25,000 sell-out entry of runners underway on that date, one year after the 2020 edition was postponed due to Covid-19. That decision, announced last May, allowed for all entries to be carried over to this October, or the option of a refund: with just 10 per cent taking up that refund option there will only be limited additional entries, if any.
Critical to any race-day plan will be any remaining level of restriction around Covid-19, even seven months from now, particularly around social distancing, and to a large extent dependent on the success of the vaccination programme. Around 20 per cent of race entries are from overseas, which may also complicate matters, and the countdown series of races over the summer still seem likely to be restricted.
"At present we are working through a few options, and will be holding off on saying anything at present until we have made a final decision," said Jim Aughney, the long-serving Dublin Marathon race director. "The vast majority took up the option of transferring their entry, with only around 10 per cent taking up the option of a refund."
The 41st running of the event, originally set for last October 25th, was a 25,000 sell-out, the organisers announcing that capacity back in January of 2020 after introducing a new part-lottery entry system. Such is the ever pressing interest for race entries they received just over 35,000 applications in all.
The postponement of the 2020 Dublin Marathon also meant there was no National Marathon Championship last year, scheduled to take place within the event, all those entries also transferred to this October.
At the time of the postponement, Aughney added that “we explored many alternatives for running the events safely but ultimately none were viable” – which was the case of almost all big-city marathons impacted by Covid-19. A few, such as London, that went ahead as elite-only races in October are now planning to return to proper mass-participation numbers this autumn.
Last week the Boston Marathon, typically held in April and with over 30,000 runners from all over the world, announced plans for a limited 20,000-entry race on October 11th.
The London Marathon, also traditionally held in April, is now set for October 3rd, the organisers there opening up 50,000 entries, most of which were decided by lottery, an increase of more than 7,000 on the previous finisher record. They have also announced 50,000 places for a virtual marathon run on the same day.
It means all six of the World Marathon Majors are now set to take place this autumn, starting with Berlin on September 26th (aiming for 45,000 runners), then the London Marathon, with the Chicago and Boston marathons on consecutive days (October 10th and 11th), Tokyo set to go one week later on October 17th, before New York on November 7th, the talk there of numbers dropping from 55,000 to 30,000.
Tokyo, typically held in March, has scaled back, announcing 25,000 entries, down from the pre-pandemic capacity of 38,000. International entries will be accepted up to March 31st.
"Is the marathon going to happen? Absolutely," Ted Metellus, race director for the New York City Marathon, told the New York Times last week. "It's what it is going to look like that's in question."
Carey Pinkowski, the chief executive for the Chicago Marathon, also said that 2021 race numbers might yet match the nearly 46,000 finishers of 2019, but admitted this "transition year" was likely to produce an altered event. "Is it going to look different? Absolutely. Is it going to feel different? Absolutely."
As will the likely look and feel of the 2021 Dublin Marathon in whatever shape it takes.