This Bank Holiday Monday (May 7) sees business as usual for the Deep RiverRock Belfast City marathon with over 20,000 runners expected on the streets of the city today. The 31st staging of the event looks set to be one of the most competitive with a number of international athletes vying for victory, and as colourful as usual with the huge relay turnout.
With a roll over prize of £4,000 up for grabs for any woman surpassing the 2008 course record, the female field is one of the strongest in the race's history. Kenyan runner Alice Chelagat boasts a considerably faster time (2:27:29) than the current course record of 2:39:22, and will be up against Moldovan athlete Natalia Cerches, who has also recorded a quicker time than the 2008 record.
In the men's field, Ethiopian runner Urga Negewo will attempt to repeat his 2010 success with another victory. Negewo's main challenger looks likely to be last year's winner Joseph Chesire, who set a course record of 2:14:56 in the 2011 race. Other elite competitors include Kenyan runner Freddy Sittuk, who recorded a 2:14:54 in last December's Macau marathon in China.
Starting at Belfast City Hall, the 26.2 mile route passes up Lanark Way, past West Belfast Orange Hall towards Gideon's Green and finishes at Ormeau Park. In addition to the marathon, the event plays host to the Team Relay - a huge feature of Northern Ireland's biggest running occasion, the wheelchair marathon, the marathon walk and a 3 mile fun run.