Belfast City Marathon Ltd want Council to take lead on Sunday Marathon decision

Organisers want Sunday Marathon

By Conor McLoughlin

Hopes are rising that the 2015 Belfast City Marathon will be held on a Sunday, as organisers urged Belfast City Council to support the plan.

The Belfast City Marathon Ltd, which has the power to decide when a marathon is held, is in favour of a Sunday race, but will defer to Belfast City Council to make the decision.

A new Belfast City Half Marathon, to be held on Sunday 22 September 213,  was launched this week with no opposition from Councillors or church leaders.

Danny O’Connor, chairman of the Belfast City Marathon Ltd board, told the Belfast Media Group that his company are supportive of switching the city’s biggest sporting occasion from Monday to Sunday.

“Nobody on the board [of Belfast City Marathon Ltd] has any concern about switching from a Monday to a Sunday morning, as far as the full marathon is concerned,” said  Mr O’Connor.

“However, Belfast City Council need to make a decision. What we don’t want to be doing is sticking our head over the parapet if we don’t have the full support of our main sponsor.

“So as soon as they decide it’s a good thing, we’d be happy to face into it, because it would be a bit of a challenge.

“Sunday is a marathon day throughout the world, as are many other major sporting events.

“The one thing we’d be concerned about is that we have a brilliant event on the Monday, so what we have to ask ourselves is that we are not going to spoil something that is very good.

“At the moment, we have a three-year commitment to our sponsors, ending after the 2014 race.

“So any change won’t happen until after that, particularly if there’s controversy involved, that wouldn’t be fair on the sponsors we have lined up behind us.

“We have a commitment to them, we’ll honour that and then we’ll look at it more seriously.

“Hopefully by then Belfast City Council will have taken a step with the traders and churches and brought everyone on board who needs to be brought on board.”

Mr O’Connor made his remarks at the launch of the first-ever Belfast City Half Marathon, at a snow covered Mary Peters Track on Tuesday morning.

The half marathon will be run at 9am on Sunday morning, September 22 – the same day as the All-Ireland football final.

The half marathon will start at Belfast City Hall and finish at the newly-refurbished Mary Peters Track on the Malone Road.

The track has benefitted from a major Belfast City Council-funded facelift that has seen it extended to eight lanes and the completion of a new stand as well as other improvement.

The exact route is yet to be designed, but will be announced in the near future.

“We’re doing our best to design a route that won’t bottleneck the city’s traffic,” said Mr O’Connor.

“We’re starting at the City Hall and we’re happy with that, and we’re finishing here at the Mary Peters track, which will be open by then. We are trying to get a route that will incorporate as much of the city as possible, but it’s not easy.”

Mr O’Connor conceded that holding the half marathon on a Sunday morning was likely to face opposition from church organisations, but stressed that no other time was suitable for such an event.

“I am sure there will be controversy, there always is here,” said Mr O’Connor.

“Having said that, we spoke with the Roads Service and the PSNI and we’re left with no option.

“When can you do a half marathon? Mid-week? Saturday would just clog the city up because we want the half marathon to incorporate as much of the city as possible.

“We’ll be talking to the churches, we’ll keep them informed. A half marathon will pass any point in the city fairly quickly, unlike the full marathon. We will have a good idea what time the half marathon is likely to disrupt an area and we actually hope that churches will work with us.

“The main bulk of participants in the marathon itself are relay runners, and a large number of relay runners do it for themselves, but also for charity, and we know many of the church-based groups are charity focussed.

“I know there’s a clash there on Sunday morning but there’s also a great opportunity to make a positive contribution to charities, including our chosen charity, Cancer Focus NI.”

Mr O’Connor was speaking a fortnight after this newspaper carried a full-length feature calling for the marathon to be switched to a Sunday.

The view was echoed by MLA Conall McDevitt, himself a committed marathon runner.

“All the best marathons that I have witnessed take place on a Sunday morning,” said McDevitt, who ran the 2012 London and Belfast marathons as a fundraiser for type one diabetes research.

“I understand some church leaders might be a little concerned about a Sunday morning marathon, but I’m sure that could be worked through. I think there is such opportunity for our marathon and I would like to see it showcasing the city much more than it does.”

The half marathon will cost £18 to enter and will also include a children’s Fun Run. There is over £3000 in prize money available. An entry form and other details are available at www.belfastcitymarathon.com

 

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