Clothes tell the story of the 36th Belfast marathon
‘I’m the coroner for Northern Ireland, so if anyone drops I’m here on site’
A runner in the Belfast City Marathon. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Inpho
For one day only, the city of Belfast became a city of runners.
At the start line in front of the City Hall, in the green spaces around it, and in the normally crowded bus lanes and side streets, there were only runners.
More than 15,000 of them took to the streets for the city’s 36th annual marathon on Bank Holiday Monday, completing either the full 26.2 miles, a relay segment, or an 8km.
Often their clothes told the story.
There were club vests bearing the names of towns and villages all over Ireland – and further afield — charity t-shirts bearing names and images of loved ones, and every kind of costume, from a group of 30 Smurfs to Where’s Wally and the Mario Brothers.
They were all keen to get going – so keen, that one group of primary school runners had to be reminded to stop at the finish line.
While the enthusiasm may have waned at the more challenging parts of the course – or, as one runner put it, “the last 8 miles were a nightmare” – by the time they reached the finish line the smiles returned.
Tomas McLaughlin’s family had travelled from Blackrock, Co Louth to support him – complete with a hand-knitted Louth flag – and was congratulated with a hug from his mother Fiona. “I’m so proud of him, he trained so hard and he deserves to have done well, I’m delighted for him.”
Seán Lynch and Dermot McCarthy from Dublin Front Runners were running in Belfast for the first time.
“We decided we wanted to have a trip away and one of our other runner’s suggested Belfast, so it’s about team-building. It’s been brilliant, great support, loved the kids, loved the food, loved the jellybeans and the water and the oranges.
“I’ve been to Belfast before,” said Dermot, “but never running. It’s changed a lot. It’s much friendlier, more open, long may it continue. Even the weather is perfect. I’m looking forward to a Guinness now! I like the course, so I’ve kept coming back.”
“This is a hometown marathon and I’m the coroner for Northern Ireland too so if anyone drops I’m here on site, I was even worried about myself at one point, with that heat.
“I’ve only ever done the Belfast marathon, and there was good crowd of people round the course, I was impressed by the sheer number of kids and parents out with tables outside the front doors, and lots of jelly babies.
“I think the relays are a great idea to get bigger numbers of people involved. I know people talk about the course, but the course is flat, it could be more scenic but unfortunately all the scenic parts of Belfast are on hills, so I’m happy enough.”
There was local pride too, when Laura Graham from Kilkeel, Co Down, won the woman’s race – the first competitor from Northern Ireland to do so in 18 years.
Jarlath McKenna, originally from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, travelled home from Bristol to compete in the marathon. “I did London last week but Belfast was my first ever marathon.”
Among the fundraisers were 30 runners representing Jaxon’s Journey – which aims to raise money for specialist autism treatment for 5-year-old Jaxon Kane from West Belfast.
“Over a year need £10,000 for him,” explained his father Darren. “We’ve been able to fund this year and he’s just made huge progress, but now our funds are starting to run low so we got together some relays for the marathon.
“We had six teams of 30 people running so it was great to have that support from everyone, it really opens your eyes to just how generous people are.”