Marathon man Mutai’s hat-trick
Kenyan Marathon maestro John Mutai must wonder if luck will ever be on his side in his continual quest to beat Marty Deane’s sub 2hrs 16 mins Belfast Marathon record.
Despite yet another valiant attempt in yesterday’s race an ever increasing wind in the exposed Duncrue Estate section put paid to his hopes of a new record. At least he had the consolation of recording an unprecedented hat trick of victories.
And yet for most of the race the leader set a pace which made a record time a distinct possibility. Former Great North winner Mutai had the able services of teammate Zach Kihara who set a fierce pace which saw the duo reach 10 miles in 52 minutes. At the halfway mark at the top of the Antrim Road hill an impatient Mutai had forged a 50 metres lead in a highly respectable 68 minutes.
Two minutes further back was last years fifth finisher Sergiu Turea of Moldovia who in turn was a minute ahead of Denmark’s Hendrick Jensen and first local athlete Alan McCullough who was in close contact with Clonliffe’s Robert Malseed.
In the ladies’ race Kenya’s Joyce Kandie, who won three years ago, was racing with team mate Joyce Kirui. Local girl Suzanne McCormick was having the race of her life behind third-placed Svetlana Shepeleva of Moldovia.
Mutai’s record attempt was still on at the 20 mile mark which he reached in 1hr 44 minutes. However, by then he was suffering from the double setback of racing on his own in open spaces against an ever increasing wind. By the time he reached the relative shelter of the closing Ormeau Road section the record had gone but Mutai still crossed the line in a highly respectable 2hrs 17minutes 34seconds which ranks in the top 10 fastest of Belfast’s 28 marathons.
Kihara jogged in nearly four minutes later thereby reserving some energy for his next Marathon in China in three weeks time. Turea took the bronze medal and a battling Alan McCullough was a courageous fifth after suffering in the fierce wind in the closing stages. At least he had the consolation of a £1,000 prize for first local finisher.
The two Kenyan woman were also effected by the wind with Kandie taking her second title in three years in 2.47.44 – over two minutes ahead of Kirui. Next came Shepeleva followed by a delighted Suzanne McCormick who shaved no less than 4four minutes off her personal best.
Despite the indifferent weather, marathon organisers were delighted with the record turnout of over 17,000 participants in the various events – an increase of 2,000 from last year. The 3,000 entries in the Marathon included five intrepid runners raising funds for cancer in memory of one Martin Caher – just one example of the countless efforts to provide many thousands of pounds for various charities.