Record-breaker Dan Tanui vows to return for three in a row

2018 Walled City Marathon winner and new course record holder, Dan Tanui of Project Africa pictured with his trophy.
2018 Walled City Marathon winner and new course record holder, Dan Tanui of Project Africa pictured with his trophy.

KENYAN athlete, Dan Tanui has pledged to return to Derry next year and go for three consecutive Walled City Marathon victories.

The Project Africa clubman set a new course record for the stunning 26.2 mile course along the banks of the River Foyle in a magnificent time of 2:19:45.

It wasn't a personal best for the talented runner but enough to smash the record held by his countryman, Freddy Sittuk set back in 2015 and was over four minutes faster than his own PB on the Derry course.

Tanui finished just short of six minutes ahead of teammate, Belfast Marathon winner, Eric Keoch who was neck and neck until the latter stages of the race.

Relentlessly, the 2017 champion covered the final miles before breaking the tape at the Guildhall Square finish line with a new record.

And the delighted Kenyan said he was 'grateful' to take the honours, admitting he was motivated by the opportunity to break the course record held by his good friend who pulled out just 48 hours prior to the race.

Mayo's Heather Noone was the first female home in her first ever marathon.

Mayo's Heather Noone was the first female home in her first ever marathon.

"The biggest thing I can say is that I'm grateful," smiled an exhausted Tanui. "I'm thankful to God.

"I was feeling good for the course record and two days ago I was shook a bit because I found out my good friend Freddy was not coming and he's pushing me hard all the time.

"I was hoping to break the course record. Breaking the course record was the real motivation and I'm grateful for everyone who supported me."

Asked if he would be returning to go for three-in-a-row in 2019, he replied: "Absolutely, I'll be back again next year."

Defending champion and eventual winner, Dan Tanui starts to pick up the pace as he moves away from teammate and runner-up, Eric Keoch.

Defending champion and eventual winner, Dan Tanui starts to pick up the pace as he moves away from teammate and runner-up, Eric Keoch.

Noone ever doubted it!

Taking part in her first ever marathon, incredibly Mayo doctor, Heather Noone clinched the female honours in a time of 3:05:33.

She finished almost 40 minutes ahead of her predicted time and nearly five minutes ahead of second placed, Louise Smith of North Belfast Harriers (3:10:14) who ran 2:57 in Belfast last month.

Third placed Denise Ward of Foyle Valley AC in 3:18:18 was the first local woman through the tape!

Up until the final six miles, it looked like Smith was going to claim victory, having led for much of the race.

However, Ipswich-based, Heather came through well to take the lead with approximately four miles remaining and from there went on to comfortably seal a memorable win.

"This was my first time and I thought three hours sounded good but not to win it - I don't know what that's all about.

"I wasn't expecting that at all. It was a bit warm," she said of the conditions. "But really nice most of the time."

Heather didn't realise she was leading the race until the latter stages as her watch, borrowed from a friend, wasn't working.

My watch doesn't work. It's my friend'; swatch and so I only knew from people telling me I was the second person and I must;ve passed the first one/.

"It was the guy on the bike I have to thank he was the best motivator ever.

I'm form Mayo and moved over to Ipswich for my job three years ago.

"I just run myself. I did my first half marathon in Galway last October and I did the Cambridge one in March but this is my first marathon. I'll try get under three hours the next time," she smiled.

Around 1,400 people had set off on the sixth staging of the event in balmy conditions from the Everglades Hotel in Derry at 8.30 a.m. as they tackled the 26.2 mile course along the banks of the River Foyle and across the iconic Peace Bridge at 20 miles with just 1,035 making the entire distance to the Guildhall Square finish line.

Prior to setting off there was a round of applause for two athletes who had passed away recently and for one of the city's most legendary football characters, Paddy 'Smokey Maradonna' Hasson who died suddenly on Friday.

Some of the early starters were a group pushing a hospital bed, led by Bill Duncan, as they raised money for Foyle Hospice while two wheelchair athletes and visually impaired runner, Tony Barclay got proceedings off to an early start. Barclay and his guide finishing in a time of 5:33:39.

There were hundreds of children taking part in the Mini Marathon from the Gasyard Centre to the Guildhall Square and taking top honours were Rosie Byrne and Finn O'Neill.

For full results visit https://www.myrunresults.com/events/sse_airtricity_walled_city_marathon/2613/racereport