DUBLIN MARATHON ORGANISERS hope a change in selection criteria for major championships will entice the country’s top athletes to compete in the event.
Race director Jim Aughney is currently pushing for this year’s national male and female marathon champions (the first Irish athletes across the line) to earn automatic qualification for the 2018 European championships in Berlin.
Under Athletics Ireland’s current policy, a selection committee picks the athletes who will wear the green vest at major international meets, meaning there are no automatic qualification berths available to elite runners in the Dublin marathon.
It’s a system which has caused selection headaches, and indeed controversy, in the past with 15 athletes in total achieving the qualifying time for last year’s Olympics and then having to wait eight months to discover if they were selected or not.
It means athletes have previously opted to compete in Berlin, an event which takes place a month before Dublin, as it is perceived to be a faster course and therefore increases chances of clocking a better qualifying time.
Speaking at this afternoon’s launch of the 2017 SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon, Aughney said he is confident of reaching an agreement with Athletics Ireland ahead of this year’s edition on Sunday 29 October.
“It will be a massive help for the athletes,” he told The42. “If they know at the start of the year that qualification is on the line in Dublin they can plan and map out their schedule to include this event.
“It would also give them a proper training plan leading into a European Championships the following summer as they would have those extra few months to prepare rather than waiting until May to find out.
“If an athlete wins in Dublin, they then know that they will be competing at the Europeans or Worlds the following summer. It would allow them to prepare properly. It would be a win for all involved.”
Organisers have been asking for the qualification criteria to change for the last number of years and despite opposition from Athletics Ireland until this point, Aughney is confident he can push it through this year.
“We were looking for it before the Olympics and the answer coming back then was that they didn’t want to be exposing themselves by pre-selecting an athlete in any event,” he continued.
“They wanted to wait for the qualifying period to close and then make the selection by my argument would be for the betterment of the athlete. We’ve heard from them this is what they’d prefer and it would make their decision to run in Dublin far easier instead of going to Berlin or wherever.
“It would be ideal for 2018 in Berlin as we could be sending a team of five, depending on the qualification time. If that’s the case having the winner of Dublin automatically qualify isn’t a big ask for me. It would be the benefit of all concerned. If you win, you’re in and on the plane.”
Aughney, the race director since 1997, has overseen the development of the event into the fourth-biggest marathon in Europe and this year is already on course to be sold out again.
Entries are already at the 9,000 mark and organisers are anticipating the 20,000 capacity mark to be reached by June.
With the news title sponsor SSE Airtricity has extended its partnership for another two years, Aughney says there are plans to meet with Dublin City Council and the other relevant authorities to discuss the possibility of increasing the entry for 2019 and beyond.
“Dublin is now an event to rival every other international marathon,” he added.
“It generated €26.1 million for the city last year and all the key stakeholders (Dublin City Council, Dublin Bus, An Garda Siochana) see it as an event to be proud of and they’re doing all they can to help us make it better. It’s a showcase for the city and 2017 will be even better.”
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