Defending champions return to defend Belfast Marathon crowns

The event takes place on Sunday, May 5

Belfast Marathon winners
The 2023 Belfast Marathon winners, Morocco’s Mohamed Oumaarir (left) and Kenyan Shewaye Wolde Woldemeskel (Claire O' Neill)

A RECORD 5,500 runners are expected to take to the streets of Belfast on Sunday, May 5 for the sold-out Moy Park Belfast City Marathon, making it the biggest to date.

The 2023 winners, Morocco’s Mohamed Oumaarir and Kenyan Shewaye Wolde Woldemeskel, will be there to defend their respective male and female titles.

Oumaarir, who ran a time of 2:22:54 for the overall victory 12 months ago, will lead a strong contingent of international and local athletes. These include former Great Britain and Wales steeplechase representative Adam Bowden, who finished runner-up in last year’s event.

There are three interesting entries of east African origin. Former Ethiopian and now Bahrain national Aweke Ayalew finished 11th in the 2018 World Half Marathon Championships, recording a world-class time of 61 minutes and 19 seconds. More lately he clocked 2:07:12 in the 2019 Frankfurt Marathon, making him the fastest man in the field.

The Kenyan duo of Mathew Kemboi and Moses Kilmulwo also boast impressive credentials. Kemboi finished fourth in last November’s Istanbul Marathon in a time of 2:13:48, while Tuyange was 15th at the Barcelona Marathon last month in a time of 2:12:43.

Also taking to the field, will be GB’s Michael Young, who recently ran a time of 2:24:33 in December at the Valencia Marathon; William Strangeway, who finished third in the Murcia Costa Calida Marathon last year, recording a time of 2:20:32; and Welshman, Dan Nash, who won the Great Welsh Marathon on St Patrick’s Day in a time of 2:27.19.

Favourite for the first local prize is Annadale Strider Eskander Turki, who won the 2023 Moy Park Belfast City Half Marathon in a time of 1:09:10.

Dark horse here is the comeback kid Ed McGinley, who returned to the sport after an absence of nine years to win the Larne 10 Miles just over a week ago.

Conor Gallagher of St Malachy’s should not be ignored either given he was runner-up in the 2022 Belfast Marathon.

Turning to the women’s race, it will be Woldemeskel’s third time competing in Belfast, while Morocco’s Hanane Qallouj is no stranger to the Emerald Isle either, finishing sixth at the Dublin Marathon last October in a time of 2:37:20.

Others to watch out for are Qallouj’s compatriot Laila Aziza Selsouli, who finished eighth in the Marrakesh Half Marathon, and Kenya’s Beatrice Jepkemei, who recently ran 2:30:41 in the Linz Marathon.

North Belfast Harrier Gladys Ganiel heads the home challenge.

This year’s Moy Park Belfast City Marathon runners will be joined by 12,500 relay runners and another 1,200 participants in the 8-Mile Walk, all adding up to making it the biggest mass sport participation event in the north.