Ethiopian ace Berhan Gebremichael back to defend Belfast Marathon title
Last year's Belfast Marathon Women's champion Berhan Gebremichael of Ethiopia will be defending her title in next week's race, which has a current entry of some 3,000.
The 29-year-old is firm favourite to win again, particularly as her form indicates that she will have few problems dealing with next Monday's opposition.
She has won all of her marathons to date - India in February 2015 in a time of two hours, 39 minutes and 11 seconds, Belfast last May (2.40.57) and Castellon in Spain last December where she recorded a huge PB of 2.36.31.
A year ago in Belfast, Berhan defied the windy conditions to run with the top 10 men for a large part of the race. She finished eighth overall, some 10 minutes ahead of the next woman.
She said she could have broken the Women's course record of 2.36.49 had she had the services of a proper pacemaker - and that record may be under threat next week.
Other women who will be to the fore include fellow Ethiopian Fantu Jifar and England's Shona Crombie-Hicks, who was fourth in Belfast in 2012 and second two years ago behind Ethiopian Bayush Shiferaw. Already announced is Hungary's Katalin Garami, who got bronze last year.
The Men's race also includes last year's winner, Joel Kipsang of Kenya, who will be going for a hat-trick of victories.
His opposition includes fellow countryman Eric Koech who ran 2.16.33 in a marathon in Nairobi last October. Also racing will be Daniel Tanui. The quality field, which also includes Ethiopia's Zeleke Bekele (PB of 2.15.00), points to a very fast time in Belfast, weather permitting.
The Men's record stands at 2.13.41 set in 2012 by Urga Negewo. A new record will prove very lucrative as a rollover prize of £1,000 for each year since plus the first prize of £3,000 translates to a very healthy £7,000.