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Belfast Marathon set for Sunday switch

This could be the last time the Deep River Rock Belfast Marathon takes place on a Bank Holiday Monday.

Plans are being made to switch the event to the Sunday of the same Bank Holiday weekend — possibly from as early as next year.

Today’s Belfast Marathon has broken all records even before today’s 9am start at the City Hall. No less than 18,0000 runners will be taking part in the various events making the occasion by far and away the biggest mass sporting participation event of the year.

The Marathon itself has 3,300 entries from 13 countries which is just short of the all time high figure of 3,600 back in the 1980s. There are also 2,200 five-person relay teams plus 2,400 walkers and 1,600 in the fun run.

While all this activity reflects the spectacular success of the event in recent years it has also led to a fairly significant degree of May Day traffic disruption and access problems in the Belfast area for a considerable proportion of the day.

This has caused increasing concern from the retail trade which now regard May Day as a big shopping day. This would not have caused difficulty back in the time of the first Belfast Marathon in 1982 when the vast majority of shopping outlets were closed.

The obvious solution here is a switch from the traditional Monday marathon to a Sunday.

Such a switch would substantially reduce the existing loss of shopping trade as Sunday opening hours are restricted to the afternoon.

Traffic disruption and access problems would also be reduced as the volume of vehicles is significantly lower on a Sunday.

It has also been outlined that because of existing Bank Holiday arrangements, the financial pressures associated with policing the event would be reduced if it was moved to a Sunday.

Such a move would also be welcomed generally by athletes who point out that Sunday is the normal day for most large marathons around the world.

It means that following their Sunday exertions most runners can relax on the Bank Holiday before a return to work the following day.

The accumulation of all these pressures mean that the issue of a switch to Sunday will be discussed at a full Belfast City Council meeting this week.

Depending on the outcome there the matter could then be referred to the Belfast Marathon Committee Board.

It is unclear as to how the council will vote on the proposal. Some opposition is anticipated from those who oppose any change to the traditional Sunday.

It is also understood that the marathon organisation are considering further changes to the course.

While the existing course includes most of the city it is particularly hilly in the north Belfast area.

There is also a problem concerning the traffic travelling to and from the Ferry Terminal at Dargan Road which directly crosses the path of runners.

Belfast Telegraph