Kenyan John Mutai will be aiming for a hat-trick in Monday’s Belfast Marathon.
Mutai was a clear winner of the even in both 2007 and 2008, but this year he will have to contend with Ukrainian Vyachesla Prikhadko, who is aiming to improve on his third placed finish last time out.
Another Kenyan, Zak Kihara, is also among those fancied to give a strong showing over the 26.2 mile course around Belfast, which starts at City Hall at 9am.
Alan McCullough is one of the leading local hopes, with namesake Ryan McCullough.
Joyce Kandia, who won in Belfast in 2006, is the favourite for the women’s race after an emphatic victory in the Titanic Quarter 10k race last month.
Svetlana Shepela from Moldova will be her biggest challenger.
A total of 17,250 runners will be on the streets of Belfast, a record 2,900 in the main marathon plus more than 2,150 relay teams — each made up of five people — 2,300 walkers and 1,300 fun runners.
The most experienced entrant is Coleraine’s Peter Ferris, who is running his 319th marathon — an Irish record. Peter also is running marathons at both the North and South Poles this year.
Hartman Stempfer is another well travelled entrant. His ambition is to complete a marathon in every European country.