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Ireland Race pays the price of its own success - and now some loyal athletes fear they could miss out

09:55  30 october  2019
09:55  30 october  2019 Source:   independent.ie

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But success comes at a price . Essentially the decision of the Dublin Marathon organisers to switch to a lottery - which opens on Friday - means that The lottery system could ultimately benefit everybody as it may result in a bigger field in Dublin. In the event of the organisers being able to present concrete

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The downside of the phenomenal growth in the numbers participating in the Dublin Marathon came yesterday with the announcement that a lottery system for participants will be introduced for the 2020 race, scheduled for Sunday, October 25.

There was a predictable hostile reaction on social media, but the bottom line is that the move from a first come, first served system to the controversial lottery was inevitable.

Ironically, back in the early 1980s there was an outcry when the organisers restricted the number of entry forms for the 1983 race - there was no online entries in those days. In the event the first marathon boom petered out quickly. But this time around it looks sustainable.

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Successful sports professionals can earn a great deal more money than people in other important professions. Most athletes retire after the age of forty or sometimes even earlier. Finally, sports salaries are only high because sports fans are willing to pay much money to watch their favourite stars.

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a group of people on a street: A general view of runners during the 2019 KBC Dublin Marathon. 22,500 runners took to the Fitzwilliam Square start line today to participate in the 40th running of the KBC Dublin Marathon, making it the fifth largest marathon in Europe. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile © SPORTSFILE A general view of runners during the 2019 KBC Dublin Marathon. 22,500 runners took to the Fitzwilliam Square start line today to participate in the 40th running of the KBC Dublin Marathon, making it the fifth largest marathon in Europe. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The KBC Dublin Marathon is the 11th biggest in the world in terms of entries and the fourth biggest in Europe after Paris, Berlin and London, which is a remarkable achievement given the size of our country. But success comes at a price. Essentially the decision of the Dublin Marathon organisers to switch to a lottery - which opens on Friday - means that the Paris Marathon is now the only big city marathon among the top 10 which still retains a first come, first served entry system.

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I found the race very/really exciting because I knew I was going to come first. That restaurant ___ most people. We did not have enough petrol to get to our destination. We ran out of petrol before we reached our destination.

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From the organisers' point of view, the advantage of the lottery system is that it will definitely establish how many people are actually interested in running the event. Until now, it has been essentially guesswork when it comes to forecasting the size of the field. Based on what happened this year though, it is safe to assume more than 22,500 - this year's limit - are interested in participating. The initial 20,000 entries were sold out within 40 days, and such was the demand for the additional 2,500 places made available in mid-summer that the online entry system repeatedly crashed, leaving a lot of frustrated runners.

Up to half a million people participate in the London Marathon lottery, though fewer than 17,000 are accepted (the rest are reserved for clubs and charities). It is unlikely that demand for places in the Dublin race will generate such a frenzied response.

Dublin Marathon © Getty Dublin Marathon

Indeed, by introducing a €15 registration fee - which will be fully refundable if the applicant is not successful - the Dublin organisers have ensured there will not be multiple entries from each hopeful participant as happens in London.

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The lottery system could ultimately benefit everybody as it may result in a bigger field in Dublin. In the event of the organisers being able to present concrete evidence that, for example, 40,000 are interested in competing, An Garda Síochána and the civic authorities may allow more participants than the 2020 upper limit of 22,500.

The lottery system has its downsides, of course. Though there were 22,500 entries, approximately 18,000 actually started the race. There is a danger that there will be a bigger number of no-shows in 2020, given the November 30 closing date for lottery entries. Runners who competed in the noughties, when the Dublin event was less popular, will feel aggrieved if they miss out.

But, as in life, success comes with a price tag.

Sean McGoldrick is a marathon runner and author of the recently published 'Dublin Marathon Celebrating 40 Years'

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