Friday 15 December 2017

Lack of elite runners leaves Dublin marathon between rock and hard place

Donny Mahoney

Monday was a surreal day for Clareman Sean Hehir. He was 46 seconds off the PB he set in last year's Dublin Marathon. But, unlike 2012, there was no one to chase on Nassau Street and he became the first Irishman to win the Dublin Marathon since John Treacy in 1993.

The elite runners did not come to Dublin this year. The men's section of the Dublin marathon has been owned by Kenyan and Russian athletes since the Mudlark's win, but they looked elsewhere when the race was between sponsors and there was no one to fork over hefty appearance fees.

As such, there was a comforting green-tinted hue to an Irish sweep of the men's and women's races, even if Hehir's winning time was the third-slowest in the race's history.

Dublin fits into a larger debate in marathon-running – do these events need the validation provided by elite athletes or should the races exist solely for local running communities?

In late summer, Competitor Group, who organise almost 100 endurance events largely in North America decided to eliminate funding for elite athletes, after a cost-benefit analysis by its venture capital firm.

The cuts will have a detrimental effect on elite running.

Without appearance fees, we may never have heard the stories of runners like Dennis Kimetto, the Kenyan farmer who won the Chicago marathon this month, despite only beginning racing competitively in 2010.

Hopefully, 2014 will serve up an Irish winner who will beat both Ireland's, and the world's, best.


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