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Berhan retains crown but our Laura sparkles to finish second

Belfast Marathon women's elite race

By Brian Hill

Berhan Gebremichael provided another example of the class of Ethiopian runners when she successfully defended her Belfast title in a time of two hours, 48 minutes and 26 seconds.

This is her fourth successive marathon win and ensures her unbeaten record over the distance remains intact.

However, the talking point revolved around 30-year-old mother of four Laura Graham from Kilkeel, who astounded everyone - including herself - by finishing second, only 30 seconds behind Berhan.

The time was just 53 seconds slower than her personal best in the London Marathon eight days ago. An ecstatic Laura said: "I am not wise. I am going on holiday tomorrow with the family. I felt really good in the race and enjoyed every minute of it.

"I only decided to race here two days ago. I had high expectations of London but I went out too hard."

Experts were amazed that she could put in such a strong time so soon after London, given the general view that it is not a good idea to race over the gruelling distance twice in eight days.

With better preparation, she can only get faster.

Berhan passed the 10-mile mark in one hour with the half way mark reached 19 minutes later. Behind her was Radka Churanova of the Czech Republic, with Irish Olympian Catriona Jennings further back. At this stage, Mourne Runners' Laura was not in serious contention.

The Kilkeel woman fought back though, and took second place after Berhan held her form in the closing stages to finish the second half of the race some 10 minutes slower than the first.

An exhausted Berhan confessed that she found the conditions much more difficult than last year. She was, however, very happy with yet another win and may come back next year.

The bronze medal went to 38 year-old Churanova in 2.51.37, which is her fastest time in 10 years.

Helen Csonge was fifth in 2.57.19, while north Belfast's Roisin Hughes was the second local finisher in 3.02.08.

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