The marathon is one of the most loved fixtures in the calendar

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The Belfast marathon is a simple enough idea — it is technically a race, although for many participants it is a long endurance run with no competitive element.

Yet for all its simplicity, the marathon is one of the most loved fixtures in the Northern Ireland calendar.

Yesterday around 3,000 people ran the full 26.2 miles, another 10,000 ran parts of the route in relay, and a further 3,000 people joined the accompanying walk and fun run.

In addition to those who take part, many thousands more cheer them on and enjoy the spectacle.

Belfast is only one of many cities around the world that have a popular marathon, after there was a growth in the number of such events in the 1970s and 80s.

The popularity of marathons at that time was probably a reaction to the age of the car and the elevator, exciting innovations for much of the 20th century, but inventions that gradually led to us getting more lazy and less fit and more heavy.

Marathons were not just a craze that fizzled out – in Belfast’s case, the event has grown since it was first held in 1982.

The Troubles were still going then, and the race started from Maysfield Leisure Centre.
Now, in more normal times, the marathon departs from City Hall and takes advantage of the wide streets in central Belfast that are so well suited to large numbers of people.

Watch the video clip on our website of yesterday’s start to get a sense of the joy of the occasion: it takes more than five minutes for all the participants in the main race to pass. Many of the runners use the day to raise money for good causes.

The marathon is sociable, it promotes healthy exercise, it raises money, it’s fun and in its simplicity it is an anti-dote to the almost exhausting pace of technology.

It also defies those paramilitary swines who have threatened, on and off, to disrupt it since its inception.

It has been popular for more than three decades now, and likely will be for decades to come.