02 May 2017


Northern Ireland’s Laura Graham deservedly stole the headlines with a memorable victory as tens of thousands of athletes took to the streets of Belfast for the 36th annual Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon (Monday 1st May 2017).

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).