Joel Kipsang Kositany and Caroline Jepchirchir favourites for BCM 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), Gordy Graham (Unattached), 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 most 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.