Dublin Marathon ‘optimistic’ for 25,000 runners this October

Final decision on exact form the event will take will be made on June 25th

Just under six months to go and organisers of the KBC Dublin Marathon are “cautiously optimistic” they can get as many, if not all, of the 25,000 sell-out entry of runners underway on the October Bank Holiday weekend, one year after the 2020 edition was postponed due to Covid-19.

With several other big-city marathons already declaring revised race plans from the spring to this coming autumn, for now there is every hope and intention that Dublin can aim for their date of Sunday, October 24th, even if the event may require some new look or feel.

However it has been agreed that a final decision on what exact form the event will take, including the exact capacity, will be made on Friday June 25th; it was also announced on Wednesday that the popular Dublin Countdown Race Series will be staged on a “virtual” basis only, whereby runners can complete their choice of distance at any time or place over the designated weekends this summer.

According to race director Jim Aughney, event organisers are cautiously optimistic that there is still potential for it to proceed: 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.


“We are still working towards holding the 2021 KBC Dublin Marathon in October,” said Aughney. “The detailed planning by the organising committee is on-going and we continue to engage with the relevant authorities.

“We wanted to be transparent with runners to let them know the date we will make the final decision while also offering runners who have not secured a place, an option to enter our virtual marathon.

“We are making the final decision as late as possible so we can review the state of play while also ensuring we can start the critical event management needed to provide the quality of race for runners that we pride ourselves on delivering.”

It’s also been agreed that whether or not the actual marathon proceeds with 25,000 runners, a virtual race will also be staged over the same weekend (with unlimited entries).

That decision to postpone the 2020 event, 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 six 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.

Aughney also added: “The other unknown is the spectators, the vaccine is key for that. By June 25th, we will four months to prepare, runners will have four months to prepare, and we’re working away in the background on plan B, and probably Plan C and Plan D, with different combinations of what might be possible.

“It’s changing daily, or surely weekly, but we’re still very hopeful we can run a physical event next October. We have 25,000 entries, and the chances of having 25,000 runners in the streets of Dublin might be slim at this stage, but if we get 10,000, 15,000 whatever number we can get, it would be great news for runners and the city if we can get it across the line. We just don’t know at this stage.”

There will also likely be a requirement to run a test event. Aughney also confirmed the Dublin Marathon, a non-for-profit event, received nothing of the Government’s compensation package, despite the losses of last year, which saw over €70 million allocated to the governing bodies of sport, despite submitting an application through Athletics Ireland.

“We were obviously disappointed, we did ask and didn’t get, we lost a lot of money in 2020, trying to plan things early.”

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.

Speaking at the race series launch on Wednesday, Stephen Scullion, National Marathon champion from that 2019 race and in line for the Tokyo Olympic marathon, said: “For runners of all abilities it is important to remember whether it is virtual or real it helps to have a goal to aim towards. By signing up to one of the races it will give you the motivation to get out the door and enjoy your running in the brighter, longer days of summer.”

Reigning women’s marathon champion Aoife Cooke, who last month ran the Tokyo women’s standard with her 2:28:36 at Cheshire Elite Marathon, also pointed to the benefits of the virtual race series: “A distance longer than 10km can be intimidating for some but if you take a stepped approach which is offered through the Virtual Race Series you can build up to the longer distances with confidence.”

For now at least there is some confidence the Dublin Marathon can proceed in actual form. The Boston Marathon, typically held in April and with over 30,000 runners from all over the world, has 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.

KBC Virtual Race Series Dates: Fingal 4 Mile 19th/20th June; South Dublin 10k 17th/18th July; Frank Duffy 10 Mile 21st/22nd August; Half Marathon 18th/19th September. Runners can sign up at www.kbcdublinmarathon.ie