Editorial: 'Marathon marks 40 jubilant years as a runaway success'
It is not to everybody's taste and even those who are fans of running are sceptical about the marathon race. But the fact Dublin City Marathon has survived and flourished over the past 40 years tells its own story, answering naysayers and cynics.
In ideal dry, sunny and cool conditions in Dublin yesterday a record 22,500 runners set out on a test of their own mental and physical stamina and other resources. Supported by many thousands of friends and family it was a fun day and a celebration in Ireland's splendid capital city.
The idea of the marathon is at least some 2,500 years old. The Greek myths tell us that a certain Pheidippides, or Philippides, died of exhaustion after running from the town of Marathon to the city of Athens to convey the good news of a Greek battle win.
When the modern Olympic Games was first held in 1896 the race was conjured up to drum up some publicity for the new global sporting festival. The distance was based on the road which separated ancient Marathon and Athens. That was 26 miles and 385 yards in the "old money", or 42.195km.
Some 50 years ago the marathon began to crop up again, this time as a means to get "ordinary people" beyond elite athletes to get out and run. The first Dublin City Marathon, in October 1979, was based on a slightly older race in New York.
It attracted 1,950 runners who paid the IR£1.50 entrance fee and records show that 1,421 hardy souls finished the race. Down the years various charitable groups have used the marathon to spread the word about their work, recruit new volunteers and supporters, and also raise very valuable funds. A heartening feature of this year's race has been the participation of the so-called "Sanctuary Runners", a group extending a hand of welcome and inclusiveness to migrants in direct provision.
Of course, the race includes its elite competitors. These men and women from around the globe stride out each year and set standards comparable to all other places.
But the real heart of this event is the "ordinary runner", running to better and/or maintain fitness and also have some fun. Most of them are running against themselves, hoping to better their previous times and performances. Very many of these people also raise valuable funds for charities which are very dear to their hearts. Literally everyone is a winner here and the cynics can simply take their cynicism elsewhere.
Some of those who togged out over the years only did one or two races but got good value for their efforts. Others, the hard core, came back year after year for as long as they could.
By now the race is an institution and many other cities and towns have successfully emulated it. The sponsors have piled in and the publicity is in many ways self-generating. The event is a storehouse of personal interest tales.
For one day each year, at the Halloween bank holiday weekend, Ireland's capital city is en fête with its streets crammed with eager runners and their joyous supporters. We say: long may it continue.