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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Belfast City Marathon: Race returns after Covid cancellations


More than 5,700 runners have been entered to take part in this year’s Belfast City Marathon.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this is the city’s first marathon since 2019.

The race will begin on Prince of Wales Avenue in the Stormont Estate at 9:00 a.m. BST on Sunday.

The 42.1-kilometer (26.2-mile) race will take runners through east, north, west, and south Belfast before concluding in Ormeau Park.

At 06:00, roads along the route will begin to close, and once all runners have passed, they will reopen.

The marathon is being held in October for the first time. The event, which usually takes place in May, was postponed due to coronavirus restrictions.

There will also be a relay and wheelchair race along the same route as the marathon, as well as a 2.5 mile (4 km) fun run and an 8 mile (12.8 km) walk.

As a result, the marathon will be the largest mass participation sporting event in Northern Ireland since the pandemic began.

“It wasn’t clear whether we could go ahead or not for quite some time, and to some extent we took a little bit of a risk in deciding it could go ahead,” Belfast City Marathon chairman John Allen explained.

“It has been relatively more low-key because because of that slight risk.”

Mr Allen explained that the record number of entrants this year was due to some people deferring their entries until 2020.

“They originally entered about a year or so ago, and we had to move their entries forward,” he explained.

According to Mr Allen, the only difference between last year’s event and this year’s is the absence of top international runners.

Joel Kositany crossing the finishing line at Ormeau Park in 2019

Joel Kositany of Kenya won the event for the fourth time this year, crossing the finish line in two hours, 18 minutes, and 40 seconds.

Caroline Jepchirchir, also from Kenya, set the fastest ever women’s time in Belfast, clocking 2:36.38 to repeat her 2018 victory.


Anger was expressed on social media on Saturday after a number of people registered to participate said they had to wait for several hours to pick up their race packets.

The marathon’s organisers warned participants that there would be long lines and asked them to be patient.

Louise McKinstry, an Ulster Unionist Party councillor from Banbridge, was scheduled to take part in a 2.5k walk at Stormont as part of the marathon with her two young children and husband.

She explained that she had to leave the line because she needed to attend a children’s party and only had 1.5 hours to spare.

Ms McKinstry stated that they had raised funds for the walk and were disappointed that they were unable to participate because they did not have their packs, for which they had paid £48 (£14 per adult, £10 per child).

She stated that they would go on their own walk instead.

“We couldn’t wait three or four hours in the cold with two small children to get to the front of the line, so we had to give up,” she told BBC News NI.

“I was unable to use the pre-bookable collection slots during the week, and the ones that did work were fully booked.”

“I have emailed, phoned, and sent messages to explain the situation, but have not received a response, so we are unable to participate.” It’s extremely disappointing.”

Belfast City Marathon has been contacted by BBC News NI for comment.

Race organisers were forced to apologise in 2019 after admitting the course was 0.3 miles longer than it should have been.

In a statement at the time, then chairman David Seaton said “protocols will be put in place to ensure this never happens again”.

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