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This Sunday's 38th Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon has broken all entry records and is fast approaching some 5,000 applications.
This is a clear result of both the historic switch to a Sunday event plus the attraction of an entirely new faster course which eliminates the old tortuous lengthy climb on the Antrim Road.
Current champion Eric Koech returns to defend his title from a year ago when he enjoyed a two minutes victory margin over fellow Kenyan Dan Tanui in a time of 2 hrs 18 mins 19 secs.
This win made up for the 37 year old's runner up spot in 2016 when he lost out to Joel Kositany. Eric has not raced since his victory in Belfast as he is determined to repeat last year's result.
However, this is far from a foregone conclusion such is the caliber of the opposition which is probably the best ever. It includes three times previous winner Kositany who took the titles with some ease in 2013, 2015 and 2016. However, Joel has bitter memories of last year when he was joint leader with Koech and looking comfortable with less than 3 miles to go.
He then suffered the athlete's ultimate nightmare of a pulled hamstring after which he painfully struggled to the finish for 3rd over 5 minutes behind the winner.
This experience has made him more determined to achieve a record 4 victories and finally surpass the 3 wins of John Mutai over ten years ago.
The 31 year old certainly has the pedigree to do this given the fact that he has the fastest marathon best in the field of under 2 hrs 10 mins.
Koech and Kositany will however have to keep a wary eye on yet another Kenyan Bernard Rotich. He is also a former winner from 2017 when he secured victory in 2 hrs 16 mins which is the 3rd fastest time on the old course.
Thirty-two-year-old Rotich who was also second in 2013 is possibly the biggest danger of all next Sunday as he has the best recent form. He followed up his Dublin Marathon victory of 2017 with a very useful time in the same race last October of 2.14.18.
Gideon Kimosop is also a Kenyan from the Rift Valley who has easily the most experience of racing in the Province. He is a treble winner of the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Half Marathon and was 2nd over the full marathon distance in 2015.(05/03/2019) ⚡AMP
Over 17,500 runners are expected to hit the streets of North, South, East and West of the City. The event has grown with the inclusion of new sponsors which now include Deep River Rock, Belfast City Council, U105, ASICS, Daily Mirror, Translink, Athletics Northern Ireland, Linwoods, Belfast Live, Centra, White's Oats, Podium 4 Sport, U105 and Tayto. The route will...more...