BELFAST MARATHON: 16,000 expected to compete on May Day

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Cllr Brian Kingston launches the 36th Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon with the help of Miss Northern Ireland (Emma Carswell) and Kerry O'Flaherty (Olympic Athlete) Entries are open now at www.belfastcitymarathon.com (
Photograph: Darren KIdd / Press Eye )

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Cllr Brian Kingston launches the 36th Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon with the help of Miss Northern Ireland (Emma Carswell) and Kerry O'Flaherty (Olympic Athlete) Entries are open now at www.belfastcitymarathon.com ( Photograph: Darren KIdd / Press Eye )

Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon

THE 36th Deep RiverRock Belfast City marathon on May Day Monday is set to be the biggest yet with over 16,000 runners expected including almost 2,000 five-person relays to make it the biggest single participation event in Northern Ireland.

Details of the event were revealed yesterday by Technical Director, David Seaton, at the Headquarters of Mencap who are, for the second year in a row, the official charity.

The launch was attended by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Brian Kingston, along with Olympic steeplechaser Kerry O’Flaherty and Miss Northern Ireland Emma Carswell, Margaret Kelly the Director of Mencap and Deep RiverRock Sponsorship Manager Rob Crabbe.

The top two from last year, Joel Kipsang-Kositany and Eric Koech, will return again with their sights on the course record. The Kenyan duo are certainly capable of running the 2:13:41.

Kipsang who will be 30 on race day has a tremendous record, having won the prestigious event on no fewer than three occasions in 2013, 2015 and 2016 as well as a second place finish behind Freddy Sittuk in 2014.

He has a blistering personal best of 2:09:50 set in Tiberias, Israel in 2012. He is a member of the Project Africa Team fronted by Omagh coach Ciaran Collins and produced the 14th successive African victory in May.

Thirty-five year-old Koech came to the sport late. Last year’s Belfast event was his first outside Kenya and he fought out a tense battle with compatriot Dan Tanui to just come second after Kipsang had moved away in the closing stages.

Koech and Tanui know each other very well at this stage. Tanui won both the Strabane Half Marathon and Ballyclare 10K with Koech second in each before Eric reversed the placings at the Walled City Marathon in Derry, crossing the line just three seconds to the good.

The mens winner will get £8,000 which would include a rollover of £5,000 if the record standing to Negevo Araroa of Ethiopia is broken. The top woman gets £7,000 if the 2:36:49 time set in 2013 by Nataliya Lehova of Ukraine goes.

It is the 11th year that Deep RiverRock has been the title sponsor while Mencap are in the second of a three year deal.