The top Northern Ireland athletes will once again face stiff African opposition in the third Titanic Quarter 10K Road Race on Sunday, starting at 2pm from NI Science Park, Queen’s Road.
This popular event has again attracted a record pre-entry field of over 1,000, with the final figure likely to exceed 1,300 on the day.
Dubbed the ‘City Run with a View', the event will live up to this title more than ever this year with a new starting point and changes to the route, which will see runners get a close-up view of HMS Caroline and other landmarks at the ever-expanding Titanic Quarter development.
In the men's event, last year's Kenyan winner Simon Tonui makes a welcome return en route to an anticipated hat-trick of victories — he also won in the equivalent race in 2004 — and the ever- consistent 31-year-old is in his usual top form.
In January he ran a very useful sub-two hours 18 minutes marathon in Mumbai, and a month ago he was third in the high-quality Bath Half Marathon, finishing ahead of GB Olympian Dan Robinson. With such recent form Tonui is odds on to repeat his 29 minutes 45 seconds victory from last year.
His main challenge is likely to come from Jean Ndayisenga of Burundi, who last beat Tonui in the 2007 event. Ndayisenga won the Swansea 10K last autumn, and finished 7th in Bath in early March, although he was well beaten by Tonui.
Best of the locals is likely to be Paddy Hamilton, who is currently in good form following a top 10 place in the Irish Inter-Club Cross Country, plus a win in the Queens 5K race.
A repeat of his third place finish from last year seems likely, with Willowfield's Paul Rowan striving to equal his fourth place from a year ago. Annadale's Eddie McGinley and Dave Morwood should also be well to the fore.
In the Ladies event, the 2008 winner Kerry Harty has withdrawn because of a tendon injury. She would have provided ideal opposition for Ethiopian Genet Measso, who is now firm favourite to take the first prize award of £400. Measso won the Cardiff Half Marathon last October in a PB of 76 minutes 55 seconds.
In Bath recently she finished eighth, a mere second ahead of Abbey's Gladys Ganiel-O'Neill, who recorded a PB by over two minutes. Gladys is giving the Titanic a miss as she is preparing for the London Marathon.