Bank Holiday Weekend Preview:  Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon takes centre stage…

Bank Holiday Weekend Preview:  BCM and more…

This Bank Holiday will see 17,000 competitors take to the streets of Northern Ireland’s capital city, Belfast, for the annual Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon 2018.

The iconic event attracts athletes from around the world and a win for Northern Ireland’s own Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) in 2017, caught the imagination of the country – Laura will again line up alongside a host of stars for the event.

Although the Belfast City Marathon will form the focus of our Bank Holiday Preview, it isn’t the only event taking place this weekend – infact, we have our own NiRunning Mile 2018 tonight (Friday 4th May 2018).

The Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) season continues with the Annalong Horseshoe and a host of local runners will also travel to the IMC Greystones event.

NiRunning Mile 2018:

In 2012, when we started our website, the NiRunning Mile was the first event we put on – it was in conjunction with our friends at ‘Marathon Talk’ – we had a handful of people at Antrim Forum for what was an excellent night.

This year, entries for tonight’s event (Friday 4th May 2018), which is hosted at the superb Mary Peters Track in Belfast, reached capacity in a number of weeks.

The race timetable will kick off at 6.30pm with a FREE un-timed Kids Fun Mile race for children under 8 years of age – we see this as an excellent opportunity for children to experience the track without the pressure of competition (ie timing). This race will be co-ordinated by our friends at Allstars Sports Academy.

Then at 6:45pm, the official race programme will kick off, start lists and timetable are available HERE.

The event offers athletes the opportunity to secure a one mile personal best, in the best of settings, the home of Athletics in Northern Ireland.  As the night progresses, the races will get quicker and quicker, culminating in the elite races, during which, Darragh Greene of Dunleer AC will be aiming to get as close to the famous 4 minute mile as possible.

Also chasing down a time close to the four minute mark will be well known local runners Jonathan McKee (Springwell RC), Adam Hilditch (Dromore AC), Chris McGuinness (Foyle Valley AC) and Eoin Hughes (Acorns AC).

In the race to be the fastest lady, North Down AC’s Jessica Craig will come up against friend and podium finisher from 2017, Laura Bickerstaff (Dromore AC).  In-form Nakita Burke of Letterkenny AC will also produce a quick time, as will Catherine Diver (Beechmount Harriers), Marie-Therese Fitzpatrick (Lagan Valley AC) and junior star Lauren Madine (East Down AC).

Annalong Horseshoe Mountain Race:

On Saturday 5th May 2018, a strong field is expected to assemble for Race 3 of the NIMRA Championship, the Annalong Horseshoe, in the Mourne Mountains (County Down).

The 13.1 miles course, which includes 1,371m of ascent, is a ‘long’ race on the Championship calendar.

Fresh from podium places at the Slieve Binnian Hill & Dale last night, Zak Hanna (Newcastle AC), Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) and William McKee (Mourne Runners) are expected to head the charge for honours.  The exceptionally talented trio will have former NIMRA Champions Jonny Steede (Glens Runners) and Stephen Cunningham (Mourne Runners) on their heels; highly respected Mourne man Stevie is a notable inclusion having been missed from the local scene for several years.

David Hicks (Newcastle AC), Sam Herron (Mourne Runners), Kieron Kelly (Newry AC), Colm Murtagh (Newcastle AC) and Ryan Stewart (Shettleston Harriers) are other athletes who will go well over this course.

In the ladies race, the always impressive Esther Dickson (Newry AC) will run and will be joined at the head of the pack by Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC), who produced an exceptional performance for a top ten place at the recent British Championships race.  Slieve Binnian Hill & Dale winner Martsje Hell (North Belfast Harriers) will also feature prominently at the front.

Other ladies who will go well include Gillian Wasson (Ballymena Runners), Hazel McLaughlin (Lagan Valley AC) and Jacqueline Toal (BARF).

Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon 2018:

Kenyan stars Joel Kipsang Kositany and Caroline Jepchirchir will lead a 17,000 strong field at the 37th annual Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon this Bank Holiday Monday (7th May 2018).

The event, which kicks off at Belfast City Hall includes the 26.2 mile race, a Team Relay, Wheelchair Race, 8 mile Walk and Fun Run.  The marathon has attracted nearly 3,000 competitors, while 2,200 teams (approximately 11,000 runners) will take on the relay.

After leaving the City Hall and City Centre, the field will make their way towards East Belfast, before coming back through the City Centre to the West en-route to a short section within Newtownabbey, via North Belfast.  The race will finish in South Belfast, in the Ozone Centre on the Ormeau Embankment.

Three time winner of the Belfast City Marathon Joel Kipsang Kositany, who boasts a personal best of 2:09:50 (2010), will be hoping to claim his fourth victory after wins in 2013 (2:19:28), 2015 (2:19:36) and in 2016, when he clocked his quickest time over the course, a speedy 2:17:39 – the course best for Joel could be put down to a close battle with fellow Kenyan Eric Koech and Ethiopian star Dan Tanui, both of whom will take to the start line again this year.

If the talented trio go to battle like they did in 2016, Negewo Urga’s course record of 2:13:41 (2012) could be under threat.  Eric’s best in Belfast was his 2:18:43 in the aforementioned 2016 race, while Dan ran 2:17:40 last year for a runners up spot.  After finishing third in 2016, second in 2017, will 2018 be Dan Tanui’s year?

Moroccan athlete Mostafa Channi, a fifth place finisher here in 2015 and 2016 is also set to compete, as is Northern Ireland native Jarleth McKenna (Bristol & West AC).  Jarleth has finished in sixth place in the last two years, running 2:31:19 in 2016 and 2:30:30 in 2017 – recently he ran 2:32:00 in the soaring heat at the London Marathon.

Two time Irish Olympian Colin Griffin will make his competitive marathon debut.  After representing Ireland at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games as a race walker, Colin retired in 2014.  He recorded 33:38 at the recent TQ10k and will feature at the front end of the field on May Day.  Fellow Irish athlete Eoin Callaghan will also be worth watching.

Leading the Northern Ireland based contingent will be Ben Morrow (Ballymena Runners), Gary Henderson (Armagh AC) and Colum Gaile (Albertville Harriers).

Other athletes to look out for include Simon Reeve (North Belfast Harriers), Tim Brownlie (Willowfield Harriers), John Devlin (Annadale Striders), Dave Lonnen (City of Lisburn AC), John Craig (Victoria Park & Connswater AC), Ross Mercer (East Antrim Harriers), Noel Connor (Ballymena Runners), Michael Allen (East Antrim Harriers), David Noble (Larne AC), Phelim McAllister (Larne AC) and James Turtle (Ballymena Runners).

In the ladies race, 2006 Commonwealth Games competitor Caroline Kepchirchir, a 2:27:27 marathon runner, will lead the charge for honours.  Like Eric Koech and Dan Tanui, Caroline is part of the Project Africa Athletics team, a project headed by respected local coach Ciaran Collins.

Caroline holds personal bests of 32:32 and 1:08:36 for 10k and half marathon respectively – her more recent outing on record was the 2:27:27 marathon in 2013, in Ljubljana.

Two former winners will be chasing the Kenyan athlete as they battle it out for the Belfast City Marathon crown, they are Berhan Gebremichael (Ethiopia), winner in 2016 (2:48:26) and local star Laura Graham (Mourne Runners), who became the first local lady in almost 20 years to win the Belfast City Marathon last year, in 2:41:46.

Interestingly, when Berhan and Laura both lined up in Belfast in 2016, the Ethiopian held on to win by just thirty seconds after Laura had slashed her significant lead at half way.  Since winning in 2017, the Kilkeel based athlete has gone on to reduce her personal best to 2:37:05, retain her AAI National Marathon title and represent both Northern Ireland and Ireland.

40-year-old Radka Churanova (Czech Republic), a podium finisher here in 2016 and fourth place finisher in 2017, will also compete.

Northern Ireland’s Karen Alexander (Unattached) and Gerrie Short (Beechmount Harriers), both of whom have picked up prizes in Belfast previously, will start.

Other local ladies to look out for include Natalie Hall (Acorns AC), Louise Smith (North Belfast Harriers), Jana Ross (County Antrim Harriers), Roberta Dornan (North Down AC), Beverly Mitchell (Albertville Harriers), Susan McCartney (BARF), Fiona Prue (Ward Park Runners), Amanda Perry (Ballydrain Harriers), Maria Morris (Beechmount Harriers) and Karen McLaughlin (Springwell RC).

Catherine Miskelly (Ballydrain Harriers), who recently received her medal for completing all of the marathon majors, will also run.

Other events taking place in Northern Ireland this weekend…

Saturday 5th May 2018:

  • Killian Doherty Memorial Run – Drumquin – 9am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Events taking place outside Northern Ireland this weekend…

Irish Milers Club (IMC) Greystones Meet:

On Saturday 5th May 2018, a host of familiar faces will travel to Greystone, just outside Dublin (Ireland) for the Irish Milers Club Greystones Meet.

The event will have 5,000m, 1500m and 800m races and amongst the local competitors taking part are Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC), Craig McMeechan (North Down AC), James Hamilton (Ballymena Runners), Jonny Whan (City of Lisburn AC) and Rachel Gibson (North Down AC).

A full entry list for the event is available here:  IMC Greystones Entry List


As always, Northern Ireland’s twenty five parkrun events will take place this weekend. For more information on these, or to locate your nearest event, please visit our dedicated ‘parkrun’ section within our fixtures page.