Weather conditions may well be the biggest test for the 1,500 or so runners in Sunday’s SSE Airtricity Walled City Marathon as the warm and sunny days look set to continue through to the weekend.
Not that running 26.2 miles is ever a stroll in the park but sunshine, heat and humidity, even with a 8.30am start time, adds an extra degree of difficulty.
Race Director Noel McMonagle flagged up the concerns yesterday and confirmed that extra Water Stations will be on the course, bringing the total to nine and added “We would also encourage the spectators along the course to consider setting up Hose points where possible and perhaps have drinks, oranges and sweets on hand for the runners as they pass.”
He also confirmed that the usual two Gel stations will be in place along the course and paid tribute to the involvement of the spectators during previous races, a feature much commented upon by runners since the inception of the event in 2013.
“People have enthusiastically embraced our event from 2013 and come out in huge numbers to support the runners all along the route,” he said and continued,
“I have no doubt that will be the case again on Sunday and I would specifically ask that residents in the Bay Road Park area come out and boost the runners at this tough stage, around 23 miles into the race, when spirits could be flagging.“
There was also a word of advice to runners: “Hats, Sunblock and lots of fluids, all highly recommended, drink early and often!”
As the City prepares to welcome the runners from 14 different countries, 950 from Northern Ireland, 450 from the Republic, and the balance from England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Kenya, South Africa, Indonesia and the Phillipines, the up front action is eagerly anticipated.
The 2014 and 2015 men’s champion Freddy Sittuk arrives from Kenya on Friday and will face a big challenge from his Omagh based countrymen Dan Tanui and Eric Koegh, who have been racing frequently North and South in recent months. The fourth Kenyan entry Elvis Bommett has been unable to get a travel Visa and will not be in the line up come Sunday.
Freddy ran a very impressive 2 hours, 22 minutes and 34 seconds last year, excellent running on the testing course in and around the Banks of the Foyle but will have his hands full with Koech, runner up in Belfast in early May with 2 hours, 18 minutes and 43 seconds and Tanui’s 2 hours, 18 minutes and 46 seconds.
Tanui of course has gone under 30 minutes recently for 10k and banged out a superb 13 minutes and 57 seconds last week in the Buncrana 5k, breaking Freddy’s 14 minutes and 18 seconds course record in the process. Has Koech been saving himself in the recent races as Tanui blasted away at the front?
The form then says it will be the Project Africa Omagh based pair rather than the defending champion who has been very quiet recently but a great battle is expected with Koech perhaps the man to stick the money on!
Pauline Curley won in 2 hours, 47 minutes and 29 seconds last year and the Tullamore Harrier a former Irish Olympic marathoner will head the women’s race field.
Her namesake Anne Curley from Dublin took the tape in 2014 with 2 hours, 57 minutes and 51 seconds and with Yorkshire based Hanna Oldroyd, a 2 hours and 50 minutes performer and no stranger to competing on this side of the Channel, will front the chasers on Sunday. Form here suggests another Tullamor Curley victory.
Chris McGuinness is considered the man to lead the locals home with Mark Mullan, James Crampsey and Moville man Benny Mullan also ones to watch. Sandra McKeever a recent impressive winner at the Inishowen Half Marathon is in good form and could go well.
Strabane’s Claire McGuigan has a good pedigree and is reported to be shooting for a time close to 3 hours.
If that pans out she will be close enough to perhaps worry one or more of the expected pace setters.
Right down the field should see lots of personal battles and stories unfold as regular marathon participants and novices all strive to impress their fellow runners and the cheering crowds, who get involved enthusiastically with the highs and lows of the participants all along the 26.2 miles. Why not get out there on Sunday morning and be a part of it!!
The action kicks off at 8.30am at the Everglades Hotel with the leading runners due at the Guildhall Square finish around 10.50am.
They will continue to stream through the finish line in the historic Square until around 3pm and among them will be Danny Sheerin who will get an earlier start time as he prepares to complete yet another endurance event on home turf!
There will be some disruption to traffic in and around the city during the day and motorists are asked to be patient and work with the PSNI and race Marshalls as the day unfolds.
Check out the race website www.thewalledcitymarathon.com and updates on facebook.