WALLED CITY Marathon winner, Eric Koech insists he will return next year in an attempt to break the record after his impressive 2hrs 23:47 run clinched victory at the 2016 event on Sunday.
Last year’s winner, Freddy Sittuk was supposed to be going for a hat-trick of victories but was instead still in Nairobi with visa problems. He holds the record with his classy 2hr 22m 34s from 2015.
Koech had set his sights on breaking that time on Sunday in only his second ever marathon in Europe.
Koech, who finished second in the Belfast Marathon this year, came in just three seconds ahead of fellow Project Africa runner, Dan Tanui as thousands turned out along the 26.2 mile course in the sun to cheer on runners.
The Kenyans had battled all the way as they came round the city with Koech proving the stronger in the finishing straight at Guildhall Square to cross the line.
While he was delighted with the win, he felt he could have done better and vowed to return to defend his title in 2017.
“Next year I’m coming for that record,” smiled the Kenyan. “It was a very hilly course and a lot of it downhill,” added Koech. “This is my fourth marathon. I’ve done two in Kenya and two in Europe. But I’m not so happy with the time because I didn’t break the record. My aim was to break the record but it wasn’t to be.
“I’d be very happy to come back next year. I loved the course and I love the people here and the climate was good.”
Donegal runner, Ciaran McGonagle of Rosses AC finished third in 2:41:24 while Foyle Valley’s Chris McGuinness was first Derry man home in 2:48:31 with Benny Mullan, James Crampsey and Mark Mullan following.
This is the third time I’ve done the Derry marathon. I ran 2:44 the last time I did it. I got 2:48 this time, so I’m disappointed to run slower but the heat had a big part to play in it.Chris McGuinness
McGuinness was well positioned at the 20 mile mark in fourth place but the soaring heat and the effects of a disrupted training programme due to injury held him back as he approached the daunting hill at Fahan Street.
His time was just short of his 2hr 48mins finish at last year’s event and he was disappointed with his overall performance.
“Right up until the 20 mile mark I felt okay and then my legs went and my head went,” he explained. “I was on my own for far too long and, mentally, it’s tough. Any other year I’ve done a marathon I’ve been in a group or I’ve been able to chase after someone but because I was mainly on my own it was tough going.
“This is the third time I’ve done the Derry marathon. I ran 2:44 the last time I did it. I got 2:48 this time, so I’m disappointed to run slower but the heat had a big part to play in it.
“Every time there was a water station I would have a few mouthfuls, little and often, and get going again. That’s all you can do. I was fourth two years ago and then seventh overall this time but I’ll be back next year.
“About three weeks out I started to get some hamstring problems and training has been a bit all over the place. I thought I had rested enough to get through this but obviously not and it caught up on me.
“At the 20 mile stage I was in fourth and I thought even if I backed off a bit I could get sixth, but those last couple of miles were tough. I enjoyed the people cheering, clapping and supporting me on the way around but, I must say, I didn’t enjoy the run at all.
“The Dublin marathon is the main aim in October but I’ll do a few 5ks and 10ks over the summer but I’ll take a week or 10 days off now and take it easy.”
Female Record Smashed
2008 Olympian and 2015 winner, Pauline Curley from Tullamore was first female home in a new course record of 2:47:23, shaving six seconds off her own time from last year.
“It was nearly 10 seconds faster than last year and I didn’t think I was at that pace at all,” she said. “I just wanted to finish it and see whatever time I came in at. It was particularly warm for the last four or five miles when the sunshine came out.
“I must say the organisation of the event and the sprinklers around the course was top class.
I was running on my own and a lot of things go through your mind when you’re on your own. That last three or four miles were a killer but the crowd lifted me.
“There’s always somebody (to challenge her), you never know who turns up. You could be in the best shape coming into it so you take a win no matter what time you do it in. I’m very grateful to be invited back again.”
Hannah Oldroyd (Saltaire Striders) finished second in the female race in 2hrs 56m 19s and Claire McGuigan (3h 07m 16s) from Lifford-Strabane AC crossed the line in third. It was another tremendous success and there was one very popular happening at the end as first time marathon runner, Bogside man, Joseph Kennedy dropped to one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, Eimear Kelly of Armagh, who accepted to a generous applause.