Record numbers sign up for Dublin marathon
With less than three weeks to go, a record 15,016 have signed up for this year's SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon taking place on Monday October 26.
Numbers have been increasing steadily for the past five years and hit 14,600 in 2014. It's a big change from the first year in 1980. Back then, the Business Houses Athletic Association, who organsied the race, were delighted to have 1,420 finishers, with Dick Hooper of Raheny Shamrock leading them home in 2hrs 26mins 14secs and Carey May of Dundrum the first woman.
Last year's winners were Eliud Too in 2hrs 14mins 47secs and fellow Kenyan Esther Wanjiru Macharia who just held off the fast-finishing Maria McCambridge to be first woman in 2:34.05.
There have been lows as well as highs. After the 1980s, entries slumped to around the 3,000 mark. From 1997 the climb-back began and from the year 2000, around 8,000 entered each year. By 2006, the 10,000 barrier was well broken. It's been all upwards since then.
Upfront, the €10,000 first prize has ensured a steady stream of Africans and east Europeans to the race, raising the standard for the locals. Geoffrey Ndungu from Kenya improved the men's course record to 2:08.58 in 2011. Tatyana Aryasova of Russia ran a women's record of 2:26.13 in 2010.
Of the Irish, Jerry Kiernan's record of 2:13.45 from 1982 still stands. Maria McCambridge's time of 2:34.19 from last year is the fastest by an Irishwoman in Dublin.
Last year also, Paralympian Patrick Monahan improved the wheelchair record for the course to 1:52.43.
So who's running this year? With qualification for next year's Rio Olympic their top priority, most of the Irish marathon runners will be giving Dublin a miss.
Five Irish athletes got qualification marks at the recent Berlin Marathon and on Sunday, Fionnuala McCormack lines out in the Chicago Marathon.
Maria McCambridge is giving Dublin a miss this year and runs the Frankfurt Marathon on Sunday October 25 - the day before Dublin.
Rumour has it that defending national champion Sergiu Ciobanu of Clonliffe and Rathfarnham's Sean Hehir, who won the title in 2013, will line out again in Dublin. Both ran the Berlin Marathon ten days ago, where Ciobanu finished second of the Irish men.
Sonia O'Sullivan, who in 2000 finished first woman in 2:35.42, is pencilled in. Back in Ireland already is last year's overall winner Eliud Too from Kenya, who won the Athlone 3/4 Marathon by a stunning 20 minutes last Sunday.
Too made many friends on his last visit to Ireland and can expect lots of roadside support.