Belfast Marathon: Thomas Frazer leads local athletes in contention
Thomas Frazer will lead the local challenge in next Monday's 32nd Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon when some 3,200 competitors will take the start line at the City Hall for the full 26.2 miles distance.
St Malachy's athlete Frazer, who hails from Belfast, competed for several years as a classy middle distance athlete racing throughout the UK for the highly successful club .
The 31-year-old is now married and living in Chicago which has been the venue of many of his most impressive marathon performances in recent times.
This includes no less than six marathons in the past seven years which have all been faster than 2 hrs 24 mins.
His first breakthrough came in 2006 with a 2.24 time in Chicago. He then ran a similar time in Boston before making a significant improvement to 2.22.23 in Japan in 2009.
However Frazer's most notable runs have occurred in his adopted Chicago City in the past two years.
A PB time of 2.19.42 for 19th place in 2011 was followed last October by yet another fastest time of 2.18.37. This makes him the sixth fastest current Irish marathon runner.
Had Frazer produced this time in last year's Belfast race he would have finished fourth for the most successful local performance since Tommy Hughes victory in 1998.
Frazer will arrive from the US this evening and is clearly determined to repeat his Chicago successes on home territory.
Hughes has again entered and will be determined to repeat last year's impressive display of eighth place in 2.29.43 .
The 53-year-old is known as the "Marrakech Express" for his memorable PB of 2.13.59 when finishing 2nd in that City's Marathon back in 1992.
He is an iconic figure in the Belfast Marathon with two previous victories to his credit.
Any local challenge will however be seriously tested by yet another significant challenge from African athletes who have dominated the Men's race in recent years.
Last year's winner Urga Negewo of Ethiopia set a course record of 2.13.41. While he is not racing this time another record could be on the cards again if weather conditions permit.
Entries include Kenya's Joel Kipsang who has a classy PB time of 2.09.50 when finishing sixth in the Tiberias Marathon in Israel two years ago. Last year he finished 12th in the same event in 2.12.56.
Fellow countryman James Rotich has an even more impressive best time of 2.07.12 from Amsterdam back in 2007. Over the years the 34-year-old has dipped under 2 hrs 10 mins in European marathons on five occasions. His last outing was a year ago when he recorded 2.17.17 in Zurich.
Kenyan runner Freddy Situk made a valiant effort to stay with last year's leaders but had to eventually settle for fifth place in poor weather conditions in 2.21.44. This year he will be hoping to improve and get closer to his sub 2 hrs 15 mins best time.
Ethiopia's Ashenafi Deme has finished fourth in the Ethiopia Marathon in 2.17.23. He ran a time of 2hrs 20 mins two years ago in Germany.