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Marathon effort deserves better

By Staff Reporter

The road certainly rose to meet the 20,000 hardy souls who turned out for the Belfast Marathon and relay on Bank Holiday Monday. Unfortunately, also rising up to meet them was the foulest weather experienced on a May Day holiday for 50 years. Battered by the elements — the coastal pathway at Newtownabbey was a veritable Hurricane Irene — the runners who made it round the windswept, arduous 26.2 mile course really earned the coveted title of ‘marathoner’.

And while weary legs may take some time to recover from the marathon exertions, the generosity of the runners is being enjoyed immediately by the many charities enjoying a boost from their fundraising efforts. Chief among the beneficiaries, of course, was the premier marathon charity this year the NI Children’s Hospice which does unbelievable work.

How sad then that the briliance of these civic heroes is not matched by the route of the marathon itself. One doubts if there’s another city in the world which diverts its participants past its biggest sewage treatment plant — as Belfast does.

Similarly, no other major marathon pushes its runners out of the public sight as Belfast does first by its meandering route along the costal pathway, then through the wilderness of the Duncrue industrial estate before accessing the Lagan towpath. On all those sections of the route, it is nigh impossible for supporters to cheer on the valiant marathoners.

And yet the success of Monday’s marathon in the most atrocious conditions shows that this annual race enjoys a special place in the heart of the citizens of Belfast. It’s to be hoped, therefore, that the continued success of the marathon will inspire Belfast City Council to raise its sights for this landmark event in the years ahead. Moving towards a city route which avoids the barren coastal pathway at Newtownabbey and instead passes by those splendid icons, Titanic Building, Cultúrlann and Lyric would be one way to celebrate the new Belfast.

And we suspect a more uplifting route might also help marathon numbers grow to the dizzy heights enjoyed by Dublin while giving the city’s economy a much-needed economic boost from the presence of visiting marathoners and their entourage.


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