Sun shines at Belfast Marathon as 17,000 runners take to streets - results, galleries and video
Good causes handed a boost on hottest May Bank Holiday in years
Thousands of athletes were scorched in beaming sunshine as they took part in the 37th Belfast City Marathon yesterday.
Supporters thronged the streets to cheer on sweltering participants as soaring temperatures made it the hottest May Bank Holiday Monday in years. More than 17,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair racers competed over the 26.2 mile route which reached every corner of the city.
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Running groups from across Northern Ireland took part for a variety of good causes, as well as families and friends who wanted to play their part for charities.
Among the competitors was former Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson, who - only seven weeks ago - donated one of her kidneys to her son, Mark (25).
Inspiring Jo-Anne ran the last leg of the marathon and said that she is feeling really well.
"Even with two kidneys, I never did a marathon," she joked.
"It was such a great atmosphere.
"There are so many wonderful charities and it really spurred us on."
LIVE: Belfast City Marathon 2018 from Albert BridgePosted by Belfast Telegraph on Monday, May 7, 2018
Jo-Anne said four teams - two including doctors and nurses from Belfast City Hospital - had turned out for Kidney Care UK, which she is the Northern Ireland ambassador for.
"It's brilliant how everyone has got involved," she said. "Seven weeks ago, I was waiting to go into surgery the next day.
"I'd rather be here seven weeks on doing this and I feel really, really good.
"I didn't think I'd be doing it, it's a real bonus."
Mark is still recovering from the operation, but said he is feeling great and incredibly proud of what his mum had done.
He's currently receiving treatment in Belfast, but will be moving to Newry's Daisy Hill hospital in around six weeks.
"It's amazing that she's running the relay of a marathon seven weeks on - I tried to walk it and I'm tired!" he laughed.
In a quite remarkable feat, one of Jo-Anne's companions along the last part of the route was 21-year-old Emma Donaghy.
Like Mark, Emma, who also suffers from anaemia, was in need of a new kidney three years ago.
In June 2015, her mother, Claire, provided her with the new organ she needed.
The radiography student is still receiving treatment, but is well on the road to recovery.
Proud mum, Claire, added that she knows all too well the toll that kidney disease can have on families and that it was important to raise awareness.
The similarity in Mark and Emma's experiences brought both families together.
"I saw Jo-Anne at the hospital. Then I saw that she was advertising for people to take part in the marathon," said Emma.
"I messaged her to say that I'd also had a transplant and that I had followed their story. We met up in a coffee shop by Belfast City Hospital and it all really went from there."
Other local politicians put their fitness to the test ,including Sinn Fein's Mairtin O Muilleoir, who sported bright blue hair, and DUP MLA Carla Lockhart.
The Hangover Harriers, made up of a team of five friends running in aid of various cancer charities, battled through the heat to find the finish line. None of the group had ran a marathon before.
"We're running because of all of our personal experiences," said an ecstatic Jean O'Neill.
"It was just brilliant."
Team Jo-Jo ran in memory of Joanne McCawley, who died last December.
Nine members of her family were raising money for the Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI charity. Her father, Davy, said he'd even consider running again in next year's race.
In the main races, two Kenyans reigned supreme, with Eric Koech the first man to cross the line in a time of 2:18:19 and Caroline Jepchirchir the first female to finish in 2:41:17.
Northern Ireland's Laura Graham finished second.