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Plans in place to host Belfast Marathon in September

 

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Runners at the 2019 Belfast City Marathon

Runners at the 2019 Belfast City Marathon

Runners at the 2019 Belfast City Marathon

While no implementation dates have been mentioned by the NI Executive's five step recovery plan for sport, it does nevertheless raise the possibility of this year's Belfast Marathon taking place on the proposed revised date of Sunday, September 20.

The advice is that in step five there can be the resumption of "close physical sports which spectators could attend on a limited basis with social distancing measures in place". A marathon could arguably comply with these requirements as spectators would be spread over the entire 26-mile course and marshalled appropriately.

There would, of course, have to be particularly strict controls at the start and finish areas.

This could also be facilitated at the start of the marathon by athletes being released in a series of waves relative to their previous best times. In such a scenario while the start could take perhaps an hour or longer for completion, runners would be spread out over a lengthy distance.

The hope in athletics circles is that activity could re-commence in September with the start of road races and park runs.

Sport Ireland and the Irish Government have already sanctioned that, from Monday, athletic clubs can return to limited small group activity where social distancing can be maintained and where there is no contact.

Athletics Ireland stated: "It is a privilege for us to be one of the first sports returning to club activity. We continue to plan and prepare for competition and events from August onwards subject to government directives."

There is a strong argument that Northern Ireland should introduce similar arrangements as quickly as possible and move to steps one and two in order to at least involve club activity.

This is particularly important as walking and running are seen as key activities in maintaining and improving the health of people, especially in the current difficult coronavirus situation.

Belfast Telegraph