18 September 2016

Laura Graham and Kenya's Freddy Sittuk confirmed the pre-race favourite predictions with victories in today's 4th Deep RiverRock Belfast City Half Marathon. While Graham was a comfortable winner of the Women's event Sittuk had to fight all the way before overcoming Foyle Valley's Scott Rankin.

There were some 3,200 competitors many of whom were raising funds for the official charity Mencap. Participants took advantage of the flat, fast course and perfect weather conditions.

The Graham band wagon rolls on with the 30 year old Mourne Runners athlete recording her 10th Half Marathon victory this year. The result was never in doubt as last year's 4th place finisher had forged a one minute lead at the half way stage over North Belfast's Louise Smith in a fast time of 38 mins 36 secs. Graham who was set for a huge PB then slowed in the second half but still crossed the line for a convincing win in 78.24, which was some 17 secs slower than her best time.

Graham commented;

"This was a good day for me but I am cross I didn't get a PB. I was advised not to look at my watch too much and I now regret I didn't keep closer tabs on my pace. However, things are going well at present and I am training 80 miles a week for the Dublin Marathon in which I was 3rd last year." 

Smith took yet another runner up spot in 81.43 followed by new up and coming athlete Amy Bulman of Willowfield who secured a huge PB of 83.14. The top six were completed by North Belfast's Margaret Meade (83.44), Rachel Parker (83.54) and Helen Carbin (86.43).

In the Men's race there was the expected neck and neck battle between 2014 winner Sittuk and Rankin, which was only resolved in the final 200 metres. These two broke clear from the gun with Rankin forcing the pace for the entire race.  

35 year old Sittuk only broke clear of Rankin as they approached the finish line where he managed to secure a 3 secs victory margin in 67 mins 52 secs. Rankin in turn was a long way clear of London's Adam Kirk Smith who took 3rd in 69.14.

Laganside winner Mark McKinstry of North Belfast was 4th in 71.10 followed by John Black of North Belfast (72.32) and Stuart Donald of North Down (73.22).

The victorious Sittuk said;

"I was fairly confident I could beat Scott in a sprint finish even though my legs are heavy due to my 100 plus miles a week training. I am preparing for the Dublin Marathon and may also race at the Antrim Cross next year."

 A philosophical Rankin observed;

"I am happy enough even though I lost after leading virtually the whole way. Freddy's sprint finish is better though my speed endurance is now quite good."