Northern Ireland news

Belfast Marathon organisers apologise after admitting course was 0.3 miles too long

Around 5,000 runners took part in Sunday's main race. Picture by Kelvin Boyes
John Monaghan and Paul Ainsworth

ORGANISERS of the Belfast Marathon have apologised and said they will conduct a "full review" after admitting this year's course was longer than it should have been.

Participants raised concerns that the route was more than the normal 26.2 miles after GPS and other tracking devices informed them otherwise.

David Seaton, chairman of the marathon's organising committee, last night said they wished to "apologise to competitors" after an extra 0.3 miles was inadvertently run.

"Approximately 460 additional metres were added to the officially measured course of 26.2 miles," he said.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th May 2019 - ..General view of the start of the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon at the Stormont Estate, Belfast...Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye..

"This was due to human error, with the lead car diverting from the official route."

Mr Seaton said he wished to "assure all participants that protocols will be put in place to ensure this never happens again".

"In the meantime, we are in the process of adjusting runners' times to reflect the correct distance.

"Feedback on the new route has been overwhelmingly positive and we thank the thousands of spectators who lined the route to support 18,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletics."

In 2016, UK Athletics said it would not recognise times from the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Greater Manchester Marathons after the course was found to be 380m too short.

Taking part in yesterday's Belfast marathon. Picture by Ann McManus

Yesterday's error overshadowed what organisers described as a "record year" with around 5,000 people - an increase of more than 60% on last year - taking on the new route for the main marathon, which began from Stormont and took in areas in all four parts of the city before finishing at Ormeau Park.

It was also the first time that the event - whch also included a half-marathon, relays, fun run and nine-mile walk - was held on a Sunday.

Read More: Evangelical group accuse Belfast Marathon of being 'non-inclusive' due to Sunday event

Kenyan Joel Kositany broke a record by winning the men's race for the fourth time, crossing the line in 2:18:40.

Fellow countryman Caroline Jepchirchir repeated her 2018 triumph with victory in the women's section, setting the fastest ever female time of 2:36:38.

Runners make their way down the Andersonstown Road. Picture by Mal McCann

Along with a new day, the 37-year-old marathon saw runners taking in a stretch of the Lisburn Road before running to west Belfast along Finaghy Road North to Andersonstown.

While the decision to move to a Sunday led to protests from the Free Presbyterian Church - which held a demonstration last week at what would become the starting line at Stormont - other churches got into the spirit of the event, earning praise from athletes.

Runner Graeme McGowan said afterwards: "Churches en route need a major round of applause as they were so welcoming and supportive, and instead of being confrontational they embraced the event and made the day better."

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of pounds was raised for various charities and good causes thanks to the sweat of participants.

Teammates take a selfie at the Stormont starting point for the 2019 marathon. Picture by Kelvin Boyes

Among the organisations receiving funds was Marie Curie, whose nurses supported Belfast father-of-three John Johnson before he died in December, aged 47, after being diagnosed with cancer seven months previously.

A team of runners raising funds in his memory have so far received over £12,000 in donations.

His brother Alan Johnson told The Irish News: "We are blown away by the support we received, and I would like to thank everyone who donated, and to the runners who made this possible.

"We are eternally grateful to the Marie Curie staff who looked after John. Their support helped us through an incredibly difficult time, and it was touching to see so many people along the route cheering our team on when they recognised the Marie Curie t-shirts.

Jim Corbett was the first athlete to cross the finish line in the men's wheelchair race. Picture by Declan Roughan

"It shows that their staff has helped so many families over the years, and this is our way of recognising that incredible work."

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