Kenya's Kipsang sets his sights on record fourth Belfast crown
Kenyan athlete Joel Kipsang will be targeting an unprecedented fourth victory in Monday's 37th Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon.
There has been an increase in the number of participants this year, with organisers aiming to release official figures later this week. Last year there were 2,600 marathon entries and 1,800 five-person relay teams.
Kipsang (30) is from the famous Rift Valley area of Africa, which has historically produced a plethora of world class distance runners.
He came to the fore in Belfast back in 2013 when he took his first victory from fellow Kenyan James Rotich in a time of two hours, 19 minutes and 28 seconds.
Kipsang took his second title in 2015 in a similar time and then achieved his treble the following year with a win over Eric Koech in a fast 2.17.39.
Kipsang, who considers Belfast his favourite event, has used his local knowledge to his advantage in the past by making key breaks for the lead on Corporation Street with only three miles remaining.
Monday's race will be the last time he will be able to use that tactic as significant course changes are proposed for next year.
Kipsang trains in excess of 100 miles a week.
The softly spoken runner explained in the past that his prize money of £3,000 for each Belfast victory went a long way towards the construction of his bungalow in Eldoret.
However, one significant threat is 32-year-old Dan Tanui, who will be determined to deny Kipsang another victory.
He had to settle for second 12 months ago in two hours, 17 minutes and 40 seconds, which in most years would have been good enough for victory.
However, the Kenyan was some way behind Bernard Rotich, who won in 2.16.02 - the third fastest time ever.
Tanui was third in the 2016 race when Kipsang achieved his treble. He is part of Ciaran Collins' Project Africa team designed to provide opportunities for up and coming runners.
The women's race will see the return of Radka Churanova of the Czech Republic.
The 40-year-old also considers Belfast a favourite venue with third place in 2016 and fourth a year ago behind local winner Laura Graham.