Brilliant Berhan Gebrehmichael a cut above at Belfast City Marathon
Berhan Gebrehmichael completely blew away the field as she made light work of the difficult Belfast City Marathon course, crushing her opposition with a 10-minute winning margin to break the tape in an excellent time of 2 hours 40 minutes 57 seconds.
This was the fourth fastest winning time in the ladies race in the 34-year history of the event and was particularly impressive given the windy conditions in exposed sections of the course like the M2 Foreshore and Duncrue Estate.
The 28-year-old Ethiopian still has a 100% success rate in marathons, with an inaugural victory over the distance in Ahmedabad, India back in February in 2.39.11.
Prior to the race her agent, Malcolm Anderson, kept tabs on the athlete to avoid a repetition of last year's near disaster when the eventual winner, Bayush Shiferaw, was late for the start.
He was, however, a little apprehensive about how she would perform because although she is in good shape, Belfast is only her second visit outside Ethiopia.
It turned out Anderson had no reason to be concerned, however, as Gebrehmichael and Khadija El Aariba of Morocco raced through the seven-mile marker in the City Centre a long way clear of the opposition after 42 minutes.
Gebrehmichael appeared undeterred by the lack of female opposition and used the company of good male club runners to ascend the tough Antrim Road hill. She passed the half-way mark in 1.19.43, some one-and-a-half minutes ahead of El Aariba.
Kenya's Selina Kangogo, who is part of the Project Africa group based in Omagh, was struggling in third place and was coming under real pressure from surprise entrant Katalin Garaki of Hungary.
Gebrehmichael continued to increase her lead to the finish. At the tape she was clearly delighted with her good time. El Aariba finished second in 2.51.06 and Garaki secured third in 2.55.43. NI Vets runner, Sharon Barlow, of Ripon, took fourth in 2.56.58 with Ireland's Hannah Oldroyd fifth in 2.57.15.
There was much surprise at the sixth-placed finisher, Theresa McCluskey (2.57.17) who is in fact the current NI marathon record holder. Shona Fletcher, winner of the York Marathon, whose father-in-law hails from Newtownards, was seventh in 2.59.54.
Gebrehmichael said after her victory: "I'm very happy with my run and I'm particularly pleased that there was no rain.
"I felt very comfortable throughout the race even though I was entirely on my own for two-thirds of the distance. If I had a proper pacemaker I could have broken the course record (2.36.49)."
Fourth-placed Barlow said her specialism was the half-marathon and was happy to ensure that Belfast was her one and only marathon.
McCluskey set her impressive NI record of 2.35.27 under her maiden name Duffy back in the London Marathon in 2001.
North Belfast won the Ladies Relay event with the anchor leg being covered by Breege Connolly, who ran a superb 2.37.29 behind Paula Radcliffe in the London Marathon nine days ago.