Belfast City Marathon over the years

By Nuala McCann
BBC News

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Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption, Greg Hannon crosses the finishing line in the inaugural Belfast marathon in 1982

It was Belfast 1982. The hair was big and the runners' shorts were small, skimpy and often made of nylon.

Lycra had not quite made the grand entrance.

Thirty-seven years ago, velour was hot but velvet was hotter. The skirts were ra ra and you wore your leg warmers scrunched, like the kids from Fame.

The national news featured the Falklands, the prime minister's son who went awol in the Sahara and the women of Greenham Common.

In Northern Ireland, the Troubles still raged.

Image caption, Who got a chopper for Christmas then?

However, the pause button was pressed for a single Monday May bank holiday - and the very first Belfast City Marathon.

Old BBC footage from that day shows that things were a little more clunky about the starting point at Maysfield Leisure Centre.

You can pick out a boy who clearly got a chopper bike for Christmas and still had not quite got the hang of those handlebars by 3 May - Marathon Monday.

The organisers had an enormous digital clock that counted down the seconds. They had a jeep that drove in front of the runners bearing the big, clunky clock on top. There was a "shower" at one point on the route - but it was really a hose pipe to duck under.

Children dashed out of side streets and dodged in front of the runners... you had to forgive them, they had never had a real marathon passing the door before.

Image caption, Mike Nesbitt has a Kevin Keegan moment or is it Terry McDemott?

The marathon distance of 26 miles has not changed down through the years, even if fashions have.

Marathon May day 1982 arrived with showers, gale force winds, as well as hail and thunder predicted over the hills. There were no fears of heat exhaustion - it was wind chill and cold exhaustion that gave rise for concern.

Image caption, Come on Glengormley Galloper - get a move on

But it was exciting. There was a small glitch when the organisers decided to disqualify Tess McHenry - after all, she had four legs and barked. Dogs were not allowed.

And there was humour too. Who was that "Glengormley Galloper" whose loved ones waved a big notice urging him on?

Image caption, It was tense on the floor at the makeshift hospital in Maysfield

Inside at Maysfield, the old leisure centre had all the drama of a field hospital. Sleeping bags were spread out on the floor and doctors went from runner to runner.

The foot doctor was kept busy on blister duty, but the most common complaint was exhaustion.

Media caption, About 17,000 people are expected to take part in the annual event on Monday

And then there was the winner.

Greg Hannon won the inaugural race in a time of two hours, 20 minutes and 25 seconds.

"Coming down the Cregagh Road the crowds were urging me on and that kept me going," he gathered the strength to say in his post-run interview.

Image caption, Susan Boreham was the first woman to win the Belfast marathon

Susan Boreham was the first woman across the line - just 108 women actually ran in that first race.

"The first lady home... I told you it would be a red head," said the race commentator over the loudspeakers. Things were a little less politically correct back in 1982.

Image caption, Gerry O'Rourke took his wheelchair around the two laps

Gerry O'Rourke took the honour of being the first person to win the wheelchair marathon - he went on to take a silver and a bronze in the 1984 summer Paralympics, won the men's wheelchair race at the London marathon in 1986 and won the Dublin marathon three times.

The Belfast City Marathon - or the Deep River Rock Belfast City Marathon - has also gone from strength to strength.

It now features an eight-mile walk, a team relay and a fun run. It is a serious competition - last year's winner was Kenyan Joel Kipsang Kositany - winning his third victory in 2:17:39. He is aiming to make it four this year.

There are a few mysteries... what happened in 2003 as there is no result for that year on the official website?

And what was the story of the west Belfast route - a hill too far that was dropped and then reinstated following people's objections? Is the trend for barefoot running catching on?

Nowadays, marathon day is still a family day out and a time when long distance runners need never feel lonely as there's always someone to cheer them on.

It is also a charity event that has raised millions of pounds down the years.

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