Dublin debate: to be a domestic marathon or not to be…
The Airtricity Dublin Marathon on bank holiday Monday was a huge success with some exciting races up front – in particular the duel between Sean Hehir and Joe Sweeney. Jumping the Gun got a ringside seat to the race in the media van.
Dick Hooper described it as “a once in a lifetime opportunity” and Sean Hehir echoed those words after the race but the real question is where does the Dublin City Marathon go from here…
They decided to focus on a domest field due to a lack of a title sponsor until June and it seems to have generated great interest having Irish winners – certainly Maria McCambridge and Sean Hehir were worthy winners. It was also welcoming to see them on the front of all the national newspapers including our favourite – The Irish Examiner.
So should Dublin remain as a domestic event or return to its previous international set up… We put it out on our twitter handle @jumpingthegunie, ‘ to be a domestic marathon or not to be..’, and it seems a lot of people are in favour of an Irish focused field.
The feeling on the roads of Dublin is that it creates a profile for the local runners and will increase competition. Also the lack of genuine international stars in previous years results in no connection with the public as our homegrown talent languish behind the labelled “second rate kips” and it is hard to argue with those sentiments.
It is vital to have an international field though. The last two Irish winners prior to Monday were John Treacy and Sonia O’Sullivan – world class athletes. The mini marathon is one mass participation race already in Ireland with a lack of international flavour and it doesn’t help drive the standards of elite athletics. It is great to have more and more people pounding the streets but the standards are still off international standard – let alone world class. No athlete ran a qualifying standard for the European Championships in Zurich this summer.
The Competitor group, which includes the RocknRoll series, has withdrawn its budget for elite athletes as they see it brings no added value. This is surely a blinkered vision.
The Marathon Mission has helped in raising the standards but there is still a way to go. The right blend of internationals would surely stoke some improvement. Otherwise it could become a parochial event. The novelty will soon wear off with Irish winners every year. It could also lead to stunting the ambition of the athletes with them just being content to win in the Fair City.
The international elite field of previous years hasn’t dragged Irish athletes to faster times but that is as much down to the buy in of the Irish athletes themselves. There are a number of Irish athletes who haven’t toed the line.
If the Dublin marathon is going to have an Irish focused field then it will need the likes of Fionnuala Britton to compete. That would spark genuine public interest with a true international standard.
Imagine having the likes of Collis Birmingham, Sergiy Lebid, Sara Moreira and some top British athletes competing alongside the best Ireland has to offer – Fionnuala Britton, Mary Cullen, Mark Christie, Mark Kenneally and Alistair Cragg. Now that would surely warm the cockles as the runners pass Molly Malone on their way to the finish line.