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Olympian Jennings for Belfast Marathon as Kipsang goes for 3rd Victory

29 April 2016

Former Irish Olympic marathon runner Catriona Jennings is the latest big name to be added to next  Monday's 35th Deep RiverRock Belfast Marathon (marathon start 9 am at the City Hall.)

The organisers are once again delighted with the number of entries for what is the largest sporting participation event in the Province with a total of 14,400 taking part. This includes huge entries once again of 2,800 for the main  marathon plus 1,900 teams in the 5 person Relay event which raises substantial sums for the many charities including Mencap.

35 year old Jennings is a late entry for Belfast following her race in Rotterdam less than 3 weeks ago where she recorded a time of 2 hrs 44 mins. Catriona who was tailed off in the London Olympics Marathon has a PB of 2 hrs 36 mins. It is very unlikely however that she will be able to match this time over the difficult Belfast course particularly in view of her recent Rotterdam run. If she succeeded she would in fact oust North Belfast's Breege Connolly from the key 3rd place Irish slot for the Rio Olympics.

Jennings should however be able to make a rostrum position on Monday albeit behind overwhelming favourite and defending champion Berhan Gebremichael who has never lost a marathon race. The classy  Ethiopian enjoyed a massive 10 minutes victory margin last year to finish 8th overall .This year's result is   likely to be similar especially after her huge PB win of 2.36.31 in the Castellon Marathon in December. This time is slightly faster than the course record for Belfast which Berhan said a year ago she would like to beat.  However the windy conditions which are forecast make this something of a long shot.

Other names in contention include Katalin Garami of Hungary who was 3rd last year, team mate Helen Csonge, Fantu Jifar of Ethiopia, Amy Van Den Broek of the Netherlands and England's Shona Crombie-Hicks who finished 2nd two years ago. North Belfast's Roisin Hughes who was 5th in 2013 is also racing.  

In the Men's race all eyes will be on Kenya's Joel Kipsang who will trying to emulate the great John Mutai in achieving a hat trick of victories in Belfast. The 29 year old has once again prepared carefully for Belfast following his one minute victory margin last year from fellow Kenyan Gideon Kimosop who has had to withdraw this time because of injury. Joel who also won in 2013 is in top form as shown by his 4th place in Germany last autumn in a fast 2.13.15.  

However Kipsang will need to be in top form as the competition this year is one of the fiercest yet.  A phalanx of Africans will be challenging him with the result as usual hard to predict.  Kenyans Daniel Tanui (PB of 2hrs 15 mins) and Eric Koech (PB  of 2 hrs 16 mins) are sure to  challenge along with new 19 year old star  Zeleke  Bekele of Ethiopia who just lost out by one second in his marathon debut in China in a time of 2 hrs 15 mins.   

Also racing are Hungary's Tamas Nagy and Mustaffi Channi of Morocco who were 2nd and 5th respectively last year.

The best of the local participants include Ben Morrow of Ballymena who was 10th last year in 2.44 and East Antrim's Clive James (14th in 2.48).