Joel Kipsing will start hot favourite for Monday’s 34th Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon which has attracted a very competitive entry.
The 2013 winner was expected to face reigning champion and Kenyan compatriot Freddy Sittuk but the holder has withdrawn after a disappointing 10K run a week ago.
Twenty eight year old Kipsing followed Sittuk home last time. He has a best of 2:09:50 set at Tiberias in Israel back in 2012 and clocked just over two hours twelve at the same venue in February.
If conditions, particularly the wind are favourably Joel will not only be chasing the £3,000 first prize but will also have his eyes on another £3,000 for breaking the course record which stands Urga Negewo of Ethiopia at 2:13:41.
The result is by no means a certainty. Linus Maiyo is a thirty two year old Kenyan who has twice been below two hours twelve. He has a red hot sixty two minutes forty for the half marathon.
Two locally based Kenyans Vincent Kiprotich and Gideon Kimosop have medal potential while twenty two year old Mustafa Channi of Morocco in his marathon debut is a sixty four minute performer over the half distance.
A particularly interesting competitor is the 26 year old American Andy Wacker also in his first marathon. He is a noted mountain trail runner but has run 69:26 for the half.
Eddie McGinley carries the home hopes. The former Irish cross country champion from Annadale is expected to break his best of 2:24:52 set in Dublin in 2013.
“I know parts of the course well and will be concentrating on my own race helped by the crowd” said Eddie who is certainly capable of running close to two hours 20.
Keith Purdie, Brian Campbell, Andrew Considine and Stephen Wylie are other locals who will place highly.
The Ladies race should be dominated also by African athletes with Birhan Gebremical and Elaariba Khadija both fancied. Gebremical from Ethiopia won in 2:39:11 in India in February.
AQnd thirty three year old Moroccan Khadija has a best of 2:42:17 set in Marrakesh.
Shauna Crombie-Hicks from Bourton came second last year. She has a best of 2:38:42 while Shauna Fletcher of Richmond came first in the York Marathon. Omagh based Kenyan Selinah Kangogo is making her debut.
Gerrie Short fourth last time, Roisin Hughes fifth in 2013 and Amanda Perry should be top home runners unless Titanic winner Ann-Marie McGlynn decides to run.
Paul Hannon and Jim Corbett are expected to dispute the wheelchair race won last year by Patrick Monahan.
There are expected to be over 1,700 in action with 3,000 in the main marathon plus 1,900 relay teams, fun run and walk.
The benefitting charity is Marie Curie Cancer Care with it being the 50th year of the Belfast Hospice. The race starts at 9 o’clock.