It was a day of persistence and for some pain, but for all involved in the Belfast Marathon it was definitely a day for pride.
Whether running for fun, for charity or for fitness, the thousands of competitors who donned their trainers and braved the damp May Day weather achieved a personal best.
The weather may not have been kind but from 9am yesterday over 17,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair users made their way round their routes.
As the hooter sounded outside Belfast City Hall cheers and shouts of encouragement broke out as the runners moved through the starting line.
An impressive 2,900 runners took part in the main marathon — more than a third than last year. They were joined by more than 2,150 relay teams, 2,300 walkers and 1,300 fun runners.
The marathon title was won by Kenyan athlete John Mutai for the third year in a row. The 42-year-old finished the race in an impressive time of 2 hours 17 minutes and 35 seconds.
Despite difficult conditions he said that he enjoyed the race.
“I enjoyed it, but it was tough with the wind and the weather. It was hard,” he said.
The winner of the women’s race was fellow Kenyan Joyce Kandia, who finished the marathon in 2 hours 47 minutes and 44 seconds.
“It is great to be back in Belfast. I was very happy to win, the last time was in 2006,” she said.
This was a great result for Kandia who was forced to pull out at the halfway stage last year.
“ I wasn't able to finish last year, so I was very happy to be able to finish and to win,” she said yesterday.
“It was tough, and I suffered from a bit of spasm but I was able to finish. I was pleased,” she said.
And Paul Hannan from Keady, Co Armagh, won the wheelchair race. He also said the weather affected his time.
“I think the conditions led to me being slightly slower by about 10 or 11 minutes, but I really enjoyed it,” he said.
The majority of entrants in this year’s marathon were from the UK.
However other countries represented included Cyprus, United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, United States, Hungary, Switzerland, Indonesia, Canada, Qatar, Netherlands and Iceland.
Danny O'Connor, chairman of the Belfast City Marathon Organising Committee, said the support for the event grows every year.
“Road racing is one of the fastest growing sports and this is evidenced by the absolutely huge interest in this year’s marathon,” he said.
Balloons, streamers and music helped to create a carnival atmosphere for all the enthusiastic runners while people lined the streets to offer support for all entrants.
People dressed as bananas, Superman and cartoon characters were spotted pounding the streets in the name of charity.
Hugs, smiles and even tears were shared as weary runners crossed the finish line.
The marathon record held by Marty Deane of Belfast of 2 hours 15 minutes 51 seconds was not broken, but history was made with the largest number of people entered in the annual event.
Among those who helped break that record were sisters Michelle and Louise Loughrin from Cookstown who completed the walk to raise money for Belfast City Hospital.
“We hope to raise at least £800, we were walking as a group and we all brought the competitive nature out in each other, which I think helped,” Michelle said.
Martin McLaughlin (48) from Omagh, Co Tyrone said he was delighted after completing the marathon.
“I am over the moon to finish,” he said.
“I really enjoyed the race and I was pleased with my time. The conditions were almost perfect — it was a little windy in parts but overall it was great.”
And Jennifer Hunter (54) from Cookstown completed the nine mile walk in aid of the Niamh Louise Foundation—a suicide prevention charity.
“I did this last year, so it wasn’t too tough. But my sister has travelled over from Oxford and is running the whole marathon. It is great to get all the support.”
There were also some who travelled from further afield to cross the finish line in Belfast.
Christian Morgan from London said the local people helped give runners a boost to carry on.
“The support was just brilliant with people of all ages and little kids out clapping — they were really pulling you through.”
While Kirstin Aiken (26) from Kilkeel was part of a relay team
"I was running the last bit, so I got the glory leg! It was a bit tough but there was a guy running the whole marathon who kept me going and there was lots of support along the way.”
Mayor of Belfast Tom Hartley said the event is something that the people of the city should be proud of.
“It is good for the people of the city and for visitors to see what we are capable of,” he said.Dame Mary Peters, the patron of Athletics Northern Ireland, was also among the supporters congratulating all the athletes and competitors.
“I just feel so proud to see such a huge crowd at the City Hall and then at Ormeau Park,” she said.
“It is just wonderful, I admire all the people who participate and so many charities benefit with Cystic Fibrosis the main one this year.”
Dame Mary added:“It is a major event for Northern Ireland. A lot of these people would never do sport, but they get involved and raise money and awareness for many charities — it is an inspirational day,” And it is the biggest turn out ever, which is something to be very proud of.” she said.