Stephen Scullion heads northern quest in Dublin Marathon

Irish marathon record holder Stephen Scullion
Irish marathon record holder Stephen Scullion

OVER 20,000 runners will take to the streets on Sunday for the 2023 Irish Life Dublin Marathon with the elite few competing for the Noel Carroll Memorial Trophy and €12,000 prize money. 

John Treacy has been chosen as the official race starter to mark the 30th anniversary of his win in the 1993 Dublin Marathon. The Olympic silver medallist ran 2:14.40 on the day to claim victory.

Perhaps controversially, the organisers have introduced a new category this year to allow runners to enter as nonbinary, as well as either male or female, and the category will have its own prize fund. 

Several big-city marathons, including New York, London, Boston and Chicago, already allow runners to identify as nonbinary at the entry stage. 

With the decision taken after the entry deadline, a window was opened in August to allow all participants to change their entry to the nonbinary category should they have wished to do so.

It is a coup by the organisers that they have signed up former World Cross Country (2009) and World Half Marathon champion (2010) Florence Kiplagat for the race. The 36-year-old has a best of 2:19 despite having a few quiet years and should test defending champion Nigist Muluneh of Ethiopia who set a personal best of 2:27:41 last year. 

Others worth watching include Ethiopia’s Amente Sorome Negash (2:26) and Genet Habela Abdurkadir (2:29) as well as Morocco’s Hanane Qallouj (2:32).

Equally interesting should be the battle for the national championship with defending champion Courtney Maguire facing a renewed challenge from 43-year-old Strabane resident Ann-Marie McGlynn. Less than a minute separated the pair last year with the Tipperary woman having the stronger finish, but McGlynn impressed in winning the Belfast Half Marathon last month and will return with renewed determination.

While at the head of the field elite athletes and the top national runners battle it out for placings and national titles, the achievement and joy for the majority is completing the 26.2 miles. 

Known as the “friendly marathon”, the event is heralded as one of the best in Europe, given the incredible support from the thousands of volunteers who make the occasion possible and the spectators who line the streets of Dublin to cheer on the runners.

In the men’s race Irish marathon record holder Stephen Scullion will be aiming to win his second national marathon title following his success in 2019 when he finished runner-up overall. With a 2:09 best, the Belfast man will be looking to be in the mix with the elites and not just defending champion Martin Hoare from the Celbridge club. That is, of course, if he doesn’t withdraw at the last minute as he has done in the past.

However, the Dublin Marathon is about much more than the elite and championships races – there are literally thousands of human interest stories. 

Arklow athlete Mary Nolan Hickey (71) will join 10 other runners in continuing their record of running every Dublin Marathon since 1980. Mary is the only woman in that number and will be joined by the youngest of the group, Dubliner Martin Kelly (61), while Peadar Nugent (80) of Galway has the honour of being the eldest.

The remainder of this legendary group are Donal Ward (Donegal), Seamus Cawley, Seamus Dunne, Donal de Buitléir, John McElhinney, Patrick Gowen, Dominic Gallagher and Mick Carolan.

One of the entrants to look out for should be Al Murdoch, a fire fighter in the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, who will be running in 15kg fire suit and breathing gear in memory of his friend and colleague Darren O’Neill who passed away earlier this year. Darren has been described as having a “heart of gold” and was the “life and soul of the party”. He is “sorely missed by everyone across the fire service who knew him”.

Every finisher on Sunday will receive a medal with an image of WB Yeats to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the poet receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. Below the image the medal will be engraved with the inscription: “There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet.” 

The medal is certain to be a treasured item for thousands of participants in the years to come.