Stephen Scullion and Breege Connolly will start red hot favourites for tomorrow’s inaugural Deep RiverRock Belfast City Half Marathon which has attracted a massive entry of 4,000 competitors.
Scullion, the reigning national 10K champion, was a confident winner at the Laganside race three weeks ago after also taking first at the Titanic and Queens.
He showed his potential over the 13 miles distance with a record breaking performance at Omagh where he covered it in 64 minutes 46. The closest challenge will come from Annadale star Eddie McGinley.
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McGinley is the former Irish Cross Country champion. He won the Jimmy’s 10K at Downpatrick and set a track best of 29:32 for 10,000 metres when just missing a medal in Birmingham.
Brendan Teer came second at the Laganside and third at Lisburn as well as winning at Duncrue and Ballynahinch, Andrew Agnew was third at Queens, Keith Purdy took the 2012 Laganside while Connor Magill won at Greyabbey.
Paul Barbour, Andrew Considine, Richard Coey, James Brown and Justin Maxwell all have top ten credentials in what will be a fascinating race. The ladies event will be a thriller also as Breege Connolly goes against Julie Balmer, Kelly Neely, Judith Lonnen and possibly World Triathlon silver medalist Aileen Reid.
Breege with a 77:29 personal best of the distance should be in a class of her own. She has taken titles over both road and country. The North Belfast girl ran the Commonwealth marathon qualification with 2:39:23 in London.
Julie Balmer has had a string of victories over tomorrow’s distance including Larne, Newry, Groomsport and Dervock and should be in the medals again. Kelly Neely second at Larne and third at the Waterside is improving with each race while Triathlon star Judith Lonnen can also show.
One surprise entry is World Triathlon Silver medalist Aileen Reid fresh from her great performance in London. If she runs the former double cross country champion can threaten the leaders.
Diane Watson, Helena Dornan, Claire Prenter and Susan Smith have also the potential to take top position.
There is a big prize list covering all categories with £500, £250, £150, £100 and £75 for the first five men and women. The nominated charity is Cancer Focus NI.
The race starts at 9am at the City Hall and covers the City Centre and East Belfast before heading for the towpath from Stranmillis to finish at the Mary Peters Track.
Meanwhile the main action today is at Dungannon for the 8th Felix McCullough Memorial 10K Road Race which starts from the Leisure Centre at 12 noon.
Keith Shiels won the Waterside Half Marathon last Sunday and may fancy a quick return to the winners enclosure. The Foyle Valley athlete also came first in the Dessie’s 10K.
Chris McPeeke has three recent victories including the Castledawson 10K and will go close along with Chris Maguinness and the impressive Pierce McCullagh. Aaron Meharg and Thomas Leitch will also go well.
Karen Alexander second to Breege Connolly 12 months ago can follow up her Dambusters win with another gold today. The World Mountain medalist is a classy athlete who goes well on all surfaces.
Former winners Anne Paul and Gemma Turley can take medals with Gillian Wasson, Pauline McGurren and Heather Foley likely to be front runners.
The race organised by Dungannon and South Tyrone Council has prizes in ten categories with commemorative T-shirts for all finishers.