A South Belfast MLA has encouraged Belfast City Marathon organisers to rethink the marathon route, and to move the event to a Sunday morning.
Conall McDevitt, who completed both the Belfast and London Marathons in 2012, feels a new route would invigorate the race as well as the city’s local communities.
“I ran the London Marathon and it was an incredible experience, a real life-affirming event,” said Conall.
“You’re cheered not just by supporters and charity groups but by all the communities that make up London: Jamaicans, Irish, Pearly Kings and Queens. You see London in all its great diversity. We’ve a city with a huge amount of culture, a huge amount of diversity and a huge amount of community spirit but our marathon doesn’t give our communities the opportunity to showcase themselves, and for it to become a major civic event.
“I think it should cross all the great historic parts of Belfast, and that it may be disruptive to the main arterial routes should be the least of our worries.”
Like London and New York, Conall feels a Sunday morning would be the most appropriate time to host the Marathon.
“All the best marathons that I have witnessed take place on a Sunday morning,” said McDevitt, who ran the 2012 event as a fundraiser for type one diabetes research.
“It encourages you to get to the city on Friday night or Saturday morning, to see the city before your race, and then have Sunday night at least, if not Monday as well, to enjoy the city to the full.
“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.”
Like many runners, Conall is dissatisfied with the current route of the Belfast Marathon, which includes an uninspiring leg alongside the M5 and M2 motorways, before turning in to Duncrue Industrial Estate.
“I think there is an awful lot could be done with the route,” said Conall.
“I understand why its kept relatively fast and relatively straight but the route does not show up the best side of the city and certainly the journey in from Gideon’s Green to the North side of he city is not showcasing Belfast at its best. Duncrue Industrial Estate is a depressing place to reach at a critical time. It’s flat and it’s straight, but it’s not pleasant and I would strongly support anyone looking at redesigning the route to make it the city’s marathon.”
However, despite the flaws Conall identified in the organisation of the marathon - which also included the familiar complaint of a lack of bottled water - he was in praise of the way Belfast manages to fuse the marathon race with the popular five-person relay.
“The Belfast City Marathon, as a hybrid marathon and relay, is a unique event which should be supported and celebrated, and is a testament to the organisers.”