Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon to support Athletics NI Marathon Potential 2024

18 October 2019

Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon to support Athletics NI Marathon Potential 2024

The Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon event organisers have announced that they will support Athletics Northern Ireland with Marathon Potential 2024, a special project that will deliver Olympic standard marathon runners for Paris 2024 and beyond.

The project has been inspired by the Dublin Marathon Mission, which was put in place in 2009 after a dearth of Irish representation at the Olympics in the marathon event.  It identified athletes with potential for the marathon and provided support with coaching, group training and training camps with the purpose of raising the standards of elite Irish Marathon running to a level where all places on teams for Major Athletics Championships are qualified for and Irish elite athletes become increasingly committed to and competitive in the annual Dublin Marathon.  Good progress has been made and in 2016, six Irish athletes qualified for the event at the Rio Olympics with more in contention. The Marathon Potential 2024 Project will aim to support athletes, and their coaches, that have not yet fully moved to the marathon distance but have the potential to do so and hope to bring the next generation of Northern Ireland’s marathon runners through.


Northern Ireland has a strong tradition of marathon running and can lay claim to the 1912 Olympic Marathon Champion, Kennedy Kane McArthur. Although McArthur became a native of South Africa, he was born in Dervock, Co. Antrim and celebrated his success in the town, where he was greeted with a torchlight procession, just eleven days after winning the Olympic gold medal. This was followed with a silver Olympic medal at the LA Olympics in 1932 from Sam Ferris who hailed from Dromore. Marathon champions are as inspirational today as they were then, and their stories provide motivation for the hundreds of people who sign up to run or walk the revered 26.2 miles that make up the marathon distance.

Over the years, Northern Ireland has produced several international marathoners including John McLaughlin (2:15:43), Tommy Hughes (2:15:39), Marty Dean (2:16:49), Greg Hannon (2:13:06) and, on the women’s side, Teresa Duffy (2:35:27).

More recently, Athletics Northern Ireland has enjoyed supporting the progress of Paul Pollock (2:15:30), Kevin Seaward (2:13:39) Stephen Scullion (2:14:34), Laura Graham (2:37:05), Breege Connolly (2:37:24) and Gladys Ganiel (2:37:55).  In addition to contributing to the targets that Sport NI set for athletics, they have encouraged others into the marathon and into more active lifestyles as we enjoy this current ‘running boom’.


It is expected that some of these athletes will continue to improve and represent Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics, but it is unclear where the next cohort will come from for Paris 2024 and a strategy is needed to make sure we have a pipeline of talented endurance runners who have targeted the marathon as their long-term ambition.

The Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon organisers have come forward to offer financial support for the Northern Ireland & Ulster Marathon Development Project. They will provide funds for the hire of training and workshop venues and for athlete travel and accommodation expenses to competitions. The inter-area road competitions have been identified as competitions where athletes involved in Marathon Potential 2024 will take priority for team positions.

John Allen, Chairman of the Belfast City Marathon said, “We are looking forward to working with Athletics Northern Ireland on this exciting project. Northern Ireland has a long tradition of producing top class marathon runners and we are more than happy to play our part in trying to ensure that our present and future cohorts of possible elite runners are given every opportunity to develop their potential to the full.”

Jackie Newton, Director of Coaching and Athlete Development at Athletics NI said, “We are delighted that the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon are coming on board to work with us on this exciting Marathon Development Project. This extra support for performance-minded athletes and coaches will help us to improve standards and performance levels in the marathon event. With six marathon runners currently on our Podium and Commonwealth Potential Programmes, we recognise a need for succession planning and for a clear pathway for young endurance runners towards the marathon.”

For athletes and coaches interested in being a part of the Marathon Potential 2024, please fill in an expression of interest form here

The required standards to have been achieved in the last 12 months are:


Half Marathon – 70 minutes; 10k – 32:00


Half Marathon – 78 minutes; 10km 36:00