top guns take aim at dublin
But home favourites can challenge raiders
After a gap of a year, the overseas athletes are back for next Monday's SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon, but they're not as likely to run away with it.
With the course record now firmly under 2 hour 10 minutes, the Dublin organisers have scrapped the time bonuses that were on offer in previous years.
It means that the kind of athletes now attracted to Dublin are running times that aren't too out of reach for local runners.
For instance, Aleksey Sokolov from Russia, who ran 2:09.07 in 2007, is back, although he's not running quite as fast these days. Earlier this year, he clocked 2:17.10 in Zurich. Another Russian Dmitry Safronov, finished ahead of Sokolov in Zurich in 2:16.06.
The Russians will take on a number of East Africans, most notably Merkebu Birke of Ethiopia who runs his first marathon after a number of sub-63 minute times for the half marathon. Berhanu Melayo Kassa also from Ethiopia and Paul Koech Kimutai of Kenya have times of around 2 hours 16 minutes.
Back in Ireland is Peter Brandon Somba from Kenya, winner of the Connemara Half Marathon last April, along with his mentor Lezan Kimutai, a Dublin regular.
Freddy Keron Sittuk will run Dublin for the first time after winning the Belfast Marathon last May in 2:18.29.
In the National Championships, Sergiu Ciobanu of Clonliffe is going for his third title, after running 2:17.08 at the Hamburg Marathon last spring.
At the recent Charleville Half Marathon, he finished ahead of Paddy Hamilton and Brian Maher, who both run on Monday. He will be joined on a strong Clonliffe team by marathon running machine Gary O'Hanlon and Declan Power.
Of the women, Esther Wanjiru Macharia from Kenya looks the one to beat with a time of 2 hrs 30 mins 50 secs from last year.
Marina Kovaleva from Russia, fifth in Dublin with a time of 2:34.54 in 2011, is another contender, along with Scola Jepkemoi Kiptoo from Kenya, and 19-year-old Meseret Agama Godana from Ethiopia, who ran a 72.33 half marathon earlier this year.
DSD's Maria McCambridge leads the Irish entry and goes for a hat trick of Irish marathon titles, running a personal best 2:35.28 in 2012. Most recently, she ran an impressive 72.25 secs at the Charleville Half Marathon.
Taking her on are Clonliffe pair, Barbara Sanchez and Ailish Malone, Breege Connolly of North Belfast Harriers and Tullamore's Pauline Curley, who runs her fourth marathon this year.