WALLED CITY MARATHON: Organisers hoping main sponsor returns ahead of crucial talks

A section of the support pictured during Sunday's sse Airtricity Walled City Marathon. DER2216MC052
A section of the support pictured during Sunday's sse Airtricity Walled City Marathon. DER2216MC052

WALLED CITY Marathon race organiser, Noel McMonagle says he was ‘overwhelmed’ by the success of the 4th running of the gruelling 26.2 mile event on Sunday.

Almost 1,300 runners lined up for Sunday’s race at the Everglades Hotel and 1,270 ‘toed the line’ at Guildhall Square in testing conditions.

We’ve got SSE Airtricity as our sponsors but if they don’t come on board, what do we do? “If (Derry City and Strabane District Council) decide they need to cut back, we would have to say the marathon can’t happen.

Noel McMonagle

Kenya’s Eric Koech was first across the finishing line in an impressive 2:23:37, just edging out fellow Project Africa runner, Dan Tanui.

Despite the soaring temperatures, a new record of 22 runners finished inside the three hour mark while former Olympian, Pauline Curley broke her own record in the female race with an impressive 2:47:23.

While Mr McMonagle claims he was ‘anxious’ about how the event would unfold as temperatures reached 26 degrees, he was delighted as it passed off without major incident.

One man was forced to retire and taken to Altnagelvin Hospital where he was treated for dehydration while 16 competitors were treated for minor incidents in the medical triage area at Guildhall.

Over 400 volunteers manned gel stations and water sprinklers and Mr McMonagle praised everyone for their huge efforts in making the event a massive success.

“I hardly slept for three nights thinking about how the heat would impact it,” admitted McMonagle.

“It’s a big responsibility when you bring so may people out on the road. I’ve competed in similar conditions to that so I know what it’s like. But the St John’s Ambulance team were absolutely brilliant.

“We had 16 incident forms from St John’s for those treated in triage. They were all walking wounded. We also had one casualty taken off the course at 24 miles who was running around the 3hrs mark. He was transferred to Altnagelvin but he received medical attention very quickly.

“We had a very robust medical plan in place because of the weather.

“The messages of support we have received have been overwhelming. We’re delighted but we had a big team of people working on it and without them it wouldn’t be possible.

“I shouldn’t be surprised by it because that’s what Derry people do. They get behind these events.”

Sponsorship

Mr McMonagle is hopeful his team can get sponsors, SSE Airtricity back on board for next year for an event he feels the city ‘can’t afford to do without’.

“We’ve got SSE Airtricity as our sponsors but if they don’t come on board, what do we do?

“Derry City and Strabane District Council has backed us to the hilt and are very good in the sponsorship end of things as well. But if they decide they need to cut back, we would have to say the marathon can’t happen. I don’t think Derry people would let that happen.

“You couldn’t get a room in Derry on Saturday night in hotels or B&Bs. You can’t say that about many events.

“We’re delighted with the partnerships we have. If we can get SSE Airtricity back on board it would be brilliant.

“We’ll talk to them next week and see what they think. I feel the city can’t do without it now and we plan on adding something else into it now next year.”

The Walled City Marathon medals this year were designed in honour of the late record Derry City goalscorer, Mark Farren,

And Mr McMonagle explained the reasons behind the decision to honour the Greencastle man, saying he was inspired by the former City striker.

“It was a personal decision. I’ve watched Mark Farren on the terraces for years and he did a few things for me like helping me launch the Foyle Hospice Male Walk and doing promotional photos for the Hospice.

“When he was diagnosed with his illness he proved a great inspiration and gave people a lot of strength. He inspired me.

“I just felt we had to do something with the medal this year. I asked his family for permission and got it designed with his image on it just as a mark of appreciation.”