Belfast PR consultant and media commentator Brendan Mulgrew has run the marathons in London, Berlin and Dublin as well as Belfast, and said the switch to a Sunday race has put his home city event “on the road to a really successful marathon”. Running in his ninth race over the 26.2 mile distance, he described the atmosphere as “absolutely brilliant”.
“Overall, I think it is a real shame that the mistake has overshadowed a really, really positive day,” he said.
“I couldn’t stress that enough. Without that, we would all be talking about ‘wasn’t the new route brilliant, wasn’t it great that it was on a Sunday.’
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“Every church we ran past had singers out – in some cases the Salvation Army band playing – and it was absolutely brilliant. No way could it go back to a Monday.”
A total of 18,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes took part in the race that was officially described as being 0.3 of a mile (or 460 metres) too long after “human error” caused the lead car to divert from the expected route.
In a statement, chairman of the organising committee David Seaton said: “On behalf of the organising committee, we would like to apologise to competitors of today’s race.
“Approximately 460 additional metres were added to the officially measured course of 26.2 miles.
“This was due to human error, with the lead car diverting from the official route. I can assure all participants that protocols will be put in place to ensure this never happens again.
“In the meantime, we are in the process of adjusting runners times to reflect the correct distance.
“Feedback on the new route has been overwhelmingly positive and we thank the thousands of spectators who lined the route to support 18,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletics.”
Kenyan runner Caroline Jepchirchir ran the fastest ever women’s time in Belfast, crossing the line in 2:36:38.
Mr Mulgrew said some serious runners relying on an accurate finish time will be annoyed, despite the times being recalculated to allow for the extra 0.3 miles.
“Your Garmin [watch] measures the distance and my watch showed I ran 26.75 miles, which is half a mile extra,” he said.
“In a marathon if you take a long bend, or weave in and out of other runners as you’re going past, that can add a wee bit on. I have run marathons that [the Garmin] shows as 26.3, or 26.4, but not 26.75 – that’s a big discrepancy.
“So to the serious runner it’s a big deal but they’ve done what they can to rectify it. It’s embarrassing to an extent but no one did it on purpose. The lead car apparently just took a wrong turn, so there’s no point in castigating somebody.”
Mr Mulgrew went on to say: “I think we are on the road to a really successful marathon event in Belfast that will really grow and grow, both in terms of participants and supporters.”