Belfast Marathon: Koech out to end Kipsang's reign
Eric Koech, the 2016 Deep RiverRock Belfast Marathon runner-up, will be making a determined effort to go one better on May 1 next year in the 36th running of the event.
The 35-year-old made quite an impact earlier this year when he won a close duel with fellow Kenyan Dan Tanui to clinch the runner-up spot.
Both athletes were in the three-man leading group at the 20-mile mark when Joel Kipsang suddenly broke away to secure victory. Koech then fought a gruelling battle with Tanui before winning a frantic sprint finish to secure second place by three seconds in a time of two hours, 18 minutes and 43 seconds.
Koech was delighted with his performance, considering he had only taken up running six years ago and it was his first race outside Kenya. But now he is eyeing victory next May.
Technical Race Director David Seaton announced some details for next year's event, when it is hoped that some 16,000 people will take part - which would make the Belfast Marathon the biggest mass participation sporting event in the province.
He revealed that there will be significant financial advantages for those who taste success in Belfast. The total prize fund for the winner of the men's race will be £8,000, which includes a rollover figure of £5,000 for breaking the course record of 2.13.41, set in 2012.
The top female will pocket a cool £7,000 if they break the record of 2.36.49 from 2013.
Koech has a personal best time of two hours and 16 minutes, set when he finished second in the Nairobi Marathon two years ago. After last year's runner-up finish in Belfast, he came second in the Strabane Half Marathon behind Tanui. Koech believes he will have the advantage of being better acquainted with the Belfast course next May.
However, triple Belfast Marathon winner Kipsang can also claim similar credentials. In May, he stated that he fully intends to return next year in search of a fourth victory. The Kenyan will certainly start favourite as he defeated Koech last time by a comfortable one-minute margin.
Nevertheless, Koech, a member of Omagh coach Ciaran Collins' Project Africa scheme, will be making a determined effort to break Kipsang's dominance in the Belfast event.