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In-form Laura firm favourite for perfect 10

By Brian Hill

Published 16/09/2016

Dominant: Laura Graham has won nine half marathons this year
Dominant: Laura Graham has won nine half marathons this year

This year's Belfast Marathon runner-up Laura Graham is likely to dominate Sunday's fourth Deep RiverRock Belfast City Half Marathon (9am Ormeau Park) which has another huge entry of 3,200 participants, many raising funds for the official charity Mencap.

The 30-year-old Mourne Runners athlete has been carrying all before her this year with nine half marathon wins, the most notable being Omagh where she recorded a personal best time of 78 minutes seven seconds.

The current form of the mother-of-four points to another quick time this weekend, particularly given the fast course which takes in east Belfast, the city centre and the Lower Falls.

Laura indicated after her recent win in the Laganside 10k that she was targeting this weekend's race in preparation for this autumn's Dublin Marathon in which she finished third last year.

The longer distance is probably her best event particularly given her achievements last spring.

In the space of eight days Laura ran a PB of 2.48.03 in the London Marathon followed by a runner-up spot over the much more difficult Belfast course in a time only 52 seconds slower.

It is generally acknowledged that with better race planning the south Down woman could quite quickly take another huge chunk off her best time.

Laura will be relying on good club runners this weekend to help her achieve a fast time. The best of the female opposition includes Louise Smith of North Belfast and Willowfield's Amy Bulman.

The men's race should see a repeat of the recent neck and neck struggle in the Derry Half Marathon between Kenya's Freddy Sittuk and Foyle Valley's Scott Rankin.

The two fought out a terrific battle before 2014 Belfast Half Marathon winner Sittuk snatched the win on the line by a mere one second.

Rankin, 26, who set a huge PB of 67.38 will clearly be out for revenge in Belfast.

The NI 10,000 metres champion is in the form of his life and clearly now has the sprinting ability to cover any finishing breaks by the 35-year-old African.

Sittuk, past winner of both the Belfast and Derry marathons, will need to use all his experience to overcome Rankin in a race which is sure to be another close battle.

Other male contenders include the Laganside winner Mark McKinstry of North Belfast, Danny McLaughlin of St Malachy's, Newcastle's Eoghan Totton, Chris McGuinness and Bangor 10k winner Francis Marsh.

Belfast Telegraph

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