Eddie McGinley in form to clinch City win
Top distance runner Eddie McGinley and marathon specialist Gladys Ganiel are hot favourites to win the second Deep RiverRock Belfast City Half Marathon on Sunday (Kings Hall, 9am).
This event has captured the sporting public's imagination with a new flat course taking in the City Centre and Titanic Quarter before returning to the Kings Hall.
The success of last year's inaugural race is reflected in a very high entry of 2,350 males and 1,400 females.
In last year's race McGinley expressed frustration at finishing some distance behind winner Stephen Scullion in what was, for him, a relatively slow time.
However this year the 31-year-old Annadale ace has risen to a new level with a huge personal best when winning the Omagh Half Marathon in 66 minutes 35 seconds plus a recent fastest ever 10 miles time of 50.35 in Dublin.
McGinley should therefore win on Sunday with the same ease he showed in taking the Northern Ireland 10K title last weekend.
That should prepare him perfectly for his main priority this season which is to lower his best marathon time of just under 2.25.
McGinley is hoping to achieve this in next month's Dublin Marathon to elevate himself into possible Ireland international contention.
Triathlon specialist Brian Campbell has made a return to road racing this year and should be in contention for a rostrum place.
The former multi Northern Ireland cross country champion was fourth in the Laganside 10K last weekend and will be hoping to get closer to his sub 69 mins PB from a few years ago.
Also in the mix should be Annadale's Keith Purdy who was second in the Ards Half Marathon in June in a PB of 71.12.
Willowfield's Paul Rowan should also be well placed although he has not raced over the distance in three years.
The absence of North Belfast's Breege Connolly leaves the way clear for Commonwealth Games marathon runner Ganiel to take the women's title.
Gladys has taken some time out following her impressive 2.40 time in the Glasgow Games.
In view of this break she is unlikely to achieve a time similar to her season's best of 76.42 from the Reading event.
However she should still get the better of team mates Heather Foley and Louise Smith.
Foley has completed seven half marathons this year, her fastest being a win in Cookstown in just over 80 minutes.
Meanwhile, in an unfortunate clash of dates, the 33rd Waterside Half Marathon will also be taking place this Sunday.
There is a record 1,700 entries with defending champion Keith Shiels again in the line-up.
The Foyle Valley athlete will be hard pushed to win again as he faces Gary Murray of St Malachy's who was second in the Omagh Half Marathon this year behind McGinley.
In that race former Northern Ireland cross country champion Murray comfortably defeated City of Derry's Declan Reed who just lost out to Shiels in last year's Waterside event and is racing again this year.
Given this scenario, Murray should be the favourite to win on Sunday with Reed, Shiels and Foyle Valley's Scott Rankin – who was third last year – all in contention for top finishes.
In a quality women's line-up, Strabane-based Anne Marie McGlynn – who has had a successful track season – should have little difficulty making a successful defence of her title.
The 2012 winner, Fiona Stack of Raheny, is also returning following her good marathon time this year of 2.47. Lifford's Clare McGuigan is also racing.
It promises to be an intriguing weekend.