Belfast Marathon: Thousands taking to streets

The numbers taking part in the main marathon are up slightly this year even though numbers across all the associated races are down
The numbers taking part in the main marathon are up slightly this year even though numbers across all the associated races are down

From novices to veterans, thousands of runners and walkers will sweep through Belfast’s streets for the annual marathon on Bank Holiday Monday.

Organisers said the day has attracted a slightly lower number of participants overall throughout its string of events – the team relay, eight-mile walk, fun run, marathon and wheelchair race.

Lauren Glencross is running the marathon in memory of Johnny Cannone, her best friend's brother who died of cancer in September aged 23

Lauren Glencross is running the marathon in memory of Johnny Cannone, her best friend's brother who died of cancer in September aged 23

Slightly over 16,000 have registered across all these events this year, as opposed to nearly 17,000 last year.

However, the numbers taking part in the full marathon itself are up from 2,800 in 2014 to about 3,000 this year.

Claire O’Reilly, event manager for the marathon, said the increase in those tackling the full race was likely down to “a bit of a running boom” among the public at present.

She added: “I think there is a great interest among females as well. There are more females running now than there were five or six years ago.”

She estimated there has been a roughly 15 per cent increase in women taking part in the various events during this period.

In addition, the wheelchair race (in which competitors cover the same route as the main marathon, within a maximum time of six hours) has five competitors, as opposed to three in 2014.

While for many, running the marathon has become an annual fixture, for others like Lauren Glencross it will be a new experience.

The 29-year-old Lisburn woman, now living in London, is running in aid of her best friend’s brother Johnny Cannone, who died of cancer in September.

Miss Glencross said that Johnny had suffered from a “particularly aggressive form of cancer”, and had died within a week of complaining of stomach pains, aged 23.

The recruitment consultant is raising money for Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, which cares for sick children, and has far exceeded her £200 target with £800 now pledged for the cause.

“I’ve always wondered: Should I do a marathon? Should I not? I thought this will be a good reason to do it,” she said.

Mr Cannone was from the USA, and his family will be following her progress in the marathon.

“For me, it’s just about making them proud, and doing him proud too,” said Miss Glencross.

One would-be participant rueing his bad luck is Christopher Young, a 30-year-old civil servant from east Belfast.

Within two years he has dropped from weighing over 18 stone to around 11 now, and had been relishing the opportunity to make this his first marathon – something he dubbed his “life’s ambition”.

However, he said he has developed tendonitis, and now cannot run.

“I’m disappointed, but I know it’s better to look after myself,” he said, adding that he may try for the Dublin marathon instead.

“If I rest and recuperate, I can get back to where I was.”

The 2014 event raised about £1m, with the designated charity being Clic Sargent.

The final tally for this year will not be known until after the race.

The designated charity this year is Marie Curie Cancer Care.