LAURA GRAHAM and BERNARD RIOTICH WIN DEEP RIVERROCK BELFAST CITY MARATHON
Kenyan athlete Bernard Riotich stormed to victory in the men’s race, breaking the tape in 2:16:03 (1st place), but it was the performance of local athlete Laura Graham which has captured the imagination of the country. The AAI National Marathon and Half Marathon Champion recorded a new personal best of 2:41:46 (1st place) to become the first local winner of the event in 18 years – Barbara Brewer was the last NI winner in 1999.
The Mourne Runners star showed no signs of fatigue from her outing at the London Marathon 8 days ago, where she ran 2:42:38, as she bettered her runners up placing in Belfast twelve months ago - that day, Laura finished second to Ethiopian Berhan Gebremichael in 2:48:55.
Crowds came out in force and roared the 31 year old mother-of-four to victory in a race, which Laura explained, meant so much to her. After crossing the line, the Kilkeel lady told Athletics NI, “It doesn’t feel real. To win Belfast City Marathon is a dream. This race means the world to me and having my family and friends here made it even more special.”
In the men’s race, Bernard Riotich surged clear of what was a five man lead group around the 20 mile mark to seal top honours. Seeing off Project Africa Athletics team members Dan Tanui (Kenya), Emanuel Kiprotich-Melly (Kenya), Hillary Chirchir (Kenya) and Moroccan Abdelhadi El Mouaziz, Bernard achieved his goal of winning in Belfast. After crossing the line in 2:16:03 he told the waiting press that he had targeted Belfast this year after competing at the event back in 2014 when he missed a podium place after running 2:23:29.
Pre-race favourite Dan Tanui claimed 2nd place in 2:17:40, just over one minute quicker than his time in Belfast last year, while Emanuel Kiprotich-Melly completed the men’s podium in 2:18:11 (3rd place). England based County Tyrone man Jarlath McKenna (Bristol & West AC) led the local men across the line in 2:30:30 (6th place).
Following Laura Graham home in the ladies race was Belgium’s Olympic hero Els Rens. After enjoying a battle with Kenyan Salome Jepkoech-Kimutai for the first half of the race, Els took the runners up prize in 2:46:20 (2nd place). Salome, who is part of the Project Africa Athletics team, crossed the line in 2:53:59 for 3rd place.
Karol Doherty followed on from his win at the recent Omagh Half Marathon with victory in the wheelchair race, leading the field home in 2:46:11 (1st place). In the team relay, Team ‘TTT’, made up of Eoghan Totten, Seamus Lynch, Lindsay Gordon, Andrew Annett and William McKee won in 2:19:19 (1st place).