WALLED City Marathon organiser, Noel McMonagle is confident the popular endurance race can become an annual event after hundreds of runners took to the streets of Derry on Sunday morning.
Kenyan, Freddy Sittuk set a new course record in 2hrs 25m 44s to win Sunday’s race as he became the first to cross the line at Guildhall Square.
The visiting African athlete, who has forged a friendship with local athletics club, City of Derry Spartans, completed an outstanding double of marathon victories this year as he followed up his Belfast marathon success with Sunday’s impressive run.
The event was a huge success as 1,334 runners finished the gruelling course, and race organisers claim it proved to be even better than last year’s City of Culture showpiece.
“I’m very, very proud to see how everything came together with all the community getting involved,” said McMonagle. “With the team of race organisers and the volunteers and of course the public of Derry were fantastic. This has been a bigger and better event than last year and who would have expected that?
“That was the challenge when we set out doing the marathon for a second year and this could actually be an annual event now and that’s what we’re seeking to do.
“We’re going to talk to the relevant bodies and see if we can put it into the sporting calender for next year.
“So hopefully everything will go to plan. I’m fairly confident we can.”
I’m fairly confident we can make it an annual event. Derry City Council have a great appetite for it and why wouldn’t they when the city is showcased at such a high level.”
Mr Monagle was full of praise for 2014 winner, Sittuk who repeated local runner, Paul Craig’s 1983 heroics by winning both the Derry and Belfast marathons in the one year.
However, the Kenyan just missed out on a bonus prize for finishing in 2hrs 25mins.
“Freddy has been coming here the last couple of years and wears the red vest of Sparta when he does race here.
“He’s very proud of how he is received in Derry and he’s very grateful. It was a great feat to do Belfast and Derry in the same month.
“It was Paul Craig, a local runner here, who was the last runner to do that. He ran a course record but unfortunately he just missed out on the bonus for breaking 2hrs 25mins.
“He found the course a bit tough but I think he just misjudged the final stages but he said he’ll be back next year if he’s fit and well.
“So if this marathon goes ahead again next year, he’ll be here to defend his record.
Sittuk romped home in 2hrs 25m 44s, some 15 minutes ahead of his closest challengers, Inishowen AC’s Pauric McKinney on 2hrs 41m 34s and the 2hrs 43m 45s of the City of Derry Spartans’ James Crampsey.
The amiable Kenyan, no stranger to this city, was delighted with the win and new course record, but a shade disappointed not to have broken the 2hr 25m barrier.
Anne Curley of top Dublin club, Donore Harriers was an equally impressive Women’s race winner, her new course record of 2hrs 57m 50s, getting her home ahead of the battling local Spartans Marina Campbell’s 3hrs 8m 17s and Lifford AC’s Clare McGuigan on 3hrs 11m 10s. Good performances here from the leading females!
The threatened rain failed to materialise and the runners took on the the testing 26.2 miles in somewhat humid, overcast conditions with a challenging wind on some sections of the course.
Once again the spectators turned out in force, initially cheering home the 400 or so Kids Mini Marathon runners and then the marathoners, from first to last, as they made their way around the city.
There were 1,334 marathon finishers in all, with a full five hour plus time differential between the Kenyan winner and the last pair to make it into Guildhall Square, Owen Loughlin from Dublin and local lady Shirley-Ann Brown, who crossed the finish line together in 7hrs 27minutes!