Numbers up as marathon fever begins
The countdown has officially started for one of Ulster's major sporting spectacles.
And the growing popularity of the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon is underlined by the growing list of sponsors giving their backing to the fundraising event.
The 33rd race is scheduled for Monday May 5 next year and title sponsor Deep RiverRock are continuing their support for an eighth consecutive year.
Sponsorship is also coming from Asics, Belfast City Council, Podium 4 Sport, Randox Laboratories, Tayto and Translink.
The official charity will be CLIC Sargent Northern Ireland.
Danny O'Connor, chairman of the Marathon Committee, revealed that several hundred people have already signed up for next year's race.
Last May there was a record 3,500 entries for the Marathon plus 11,500 runners in the five-person relay team event.
In line with other major UK marathons, all participants will now receive their race numbers, timing chips and instructions prior to Race Day. On completion of the event everyone will receive a new finisher's pack containing their race t-shirt plus goodies.
The Belfast Marathon has been a huge success ever since Belfast's Greg Hannon won the first event way back in 1982.
This was during the first running boom in the 1980s when there was a big increase in the number of marathons throughout the UK. Unfortunately this early enthusiasm was not maintained with the result that by the 1990s many of these events had folded because of declining entries.
Belfast Marathon organisers anticipated this danger and introduced an idea from Canada to include a five-person relay event as an integral part of the marathon.
The idea was an instant success and entries for both the marathon and the relay have generally continued to increase ever since, with the event now attracting athletes from all over the world, and dominated in recent years by runners from Kenya and Ethiopia.
The men's record now stands to Ethiopia's Urga Negewo who won the 2012 race in two hours 13 minutes 41 seconds. Last May Ukraine's Nataliya Lehonkova ran the woman's race in 2.36.50, over two minutes better than the previous best.