Belfast Telegraph

Major changes to Belfast City Marathon route could be on the horizon

By Andrew Madden, Local democracy reporter

Major changes to the Belfast City Marathon could be on the horizon, if reforms by race planners are passed at City Hall this week.

The council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday to discuss proposed changes to the iconic event, which costs £600k each year.

Changes recommended to councillors for approval include a new course from next year onwards - and moving the event to a Sunday.

The marathon is not run by BCC, but Belfast City Marathon Limited - a free standing, legally constituted organisation that has no legal connection to the council, except in relation to funding.

Changing the race to a Sunday was recommended to organisers in a request from the Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce (BCTC). 

The Chamber said that due to the Bank Holiday Monday Marathon trade is “greatly” impacted, with figures showing normal trade is cut in half when compared to a normal Monday’s business.

BCTC said the first May Bank Holiday should be a significant trading day and a move to a Sunday race would boost visitor numbers, while allowing the majority of retailers to open as normal at 1.00pm. 

“They also expressed the view that the vast majority of international marathons are held on a Sunday, a day which BCTC feel would attract a greater number of international competitors,” council briefing documents state.

New routes for the marathon were suggested by several councillors at a meeting of the City Growth and Regeneration Committee in February and two draft proposed courses have been drawn up, based on Sunday race day. 

According to the plans, the marathon in 2019 could see thousands of runners travelling along the Ormeau Road and finishing at the Ozone Centre within Ormeau Park.

Both proposed courses begin at Stormont, with the new 26-mile routes moving further into both north and west Belfast and taking in the Waterworks Park.

The plans have been drawn up with the input of a number of interested parties, including the PSNI, DfI, Translink and Athletics NI, with Belfast City Marathon Limited also engaging with some churches along the course.

If councillors support the recommended changes on Wednesday, BCML will undertake a public consultation on the plans in due course.

One major implication of the new marathon, if it gets the green light, will be the financial aspect.

“The budget, for either of the new proposed routes will roughly be the same, although there will be a significant increase in costs as more stewards will be required and additional traffic management arrangements will be needed,” council documents state.

An additional £50,000 will be required to facilitate the proposed changes, so the council will have to “upscale” its contribution to the event, according to the briefing papers.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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