Marathon entry at a record high
With exactly four weeks left until the closing date, entries for the National Lottery Dublin Marathon on October 31 are already at a record high.
A further boost is the news that, for the first time since its early days, the race will be televised live for four hours on the day.
Many of those who have already entered are using Saturday's National Lottery Half Marathon as a test of their fitness, with the race limit of 8,500 reached before the entry deadline.
Up front, the race is wide open. A large group of Irish distance runners are heading for the Great North Run in the UK -- among them Mark Kenneally, who tops the current Irish marathon rankings, Tallaght's Sean Connolly, and Sean Hehir and Brian Maher, who were first and second in the National Half Marathon.
The women travelling include Maria McCambridge of Letterkenny and Bilboa's Rosie Ryan.
It means that Saturday's race could throw up a few surprises, as indeed it did last year when Alan O'Shea came home first in 67 minutes and five seconds.
Rathfarnham's Barry Minnock leads the men's entry, while Siobhan O'Doherty of Borrisokane and Clonmel's Angela McCann lead the women's list.
A few weeks ago, Minnock helped Rathfarnham WSAF to team victory at the National Half Marathon, where he finished fourth in 67 minutes and 20 seconds.
Last weekend, he was part of the ninth-placed Irish team at the World Mountain Running Championships in Albania.
The much-improved O'Doherty was the fourth woman home at the Frank Duffy '10' in a solid time of 57 minutes and 46 seconds. McCann won the John Buckley Sports/Cork Half-Marathon in Blarney last weekend in 83 minutes and 10 seconds.
Expect traffic restrictions in the Phoenix Park on Saturday -- runners and supporters are advised to take public transport and to use the shuttle from the main gate. The start and finish are both in the Papal Cross area.