Kipsang in great shape for Belfast Marathon hat-trick
Double Deep River Rock Belfast Marathon champion Joel Kipsang of Kenya is in great shape for a hat-trick of victories in the 35th running of the event on May 2.
The biggest sporting event on the Northern Ireland calendar has again lived up to expectations with 2,700 racing in the full marathon and a massive entry of 1,800 five-person relay teams many of whom will be raising funds for this year's official charity, Mencap.
Kipsang, from the famous Rift Valley area in Kenya, had a point to prove in last year's Marathon following an impressive victory back in 2013.
This was followed by an emphatic defeat to Freddy Sittuk a year later which 29-year-old Kipsang put down to exhaustion as a result of four marathons in the previous eight months.
He made no such mistake 12 months ago when breaking away, with two miles to go, from rival Gideon Kimosop who has recently been prominent in local races with wins in the Larne and Omagh Half Marathons.
Kipsang enjoyed a one minute victory margin and immediately declared he was going for a third victory this year.
He certainly starts as favourite again particularly following his classy fourth place finish in a marathon in Germany last autumn in 2.13.15.
While Kimosop has unfortunately been sidelined by injury, Kipsang will need to keep a wary eye on highly talented youngster Zeleke Bekele of Ethiopia.
The 19-year-old lost out by just one second in his marathon debut in China in a useful time of 2.15.23.
Also making a welcome return to Belfast are Tamas Nagy of Hungary who was third last year plus Morroco's Musafa Channi who was fifth behind local star Eddie McGinley.
The Belfast Marathon's international flavour is also reflected in the women's race which includes last year's third place finisher Katalin Garami of Hungary plus team mate Helen Csonge.
Belgrave's Sophie Carter, who ran a PB of 2.48.29 in London last year, is also racing.