Belfast Marathon: Thousands take part in 36th annual race

image source, Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye
image captionLaura Graham broke an 18-year drought for Northern Ireland by winning the women's race

More than 15,000 runners have pounded the streets of Belfast for the city's 36th annual marathon.

The city was a flurry of colour for the event, that included relay teams, wheelchair racing and a fun run.

Kilkeel mother-of-four Laura Graham won the women's race in a personal best time of 2:41:47.

Bernard Rotich won the men's race in 2:16:04, beating Kenyan compatriots Daniel Tanui and Emmanuel Kiprotich.

The event started at Belfast City Hall and finished in Ormeau Park, with many competitors raising funds for this year's official charity Mencap - and lots taking part in fancy dress.

"It doesn't feel real," she told BBC News NI. "I feel I've yet to wake up!"

image source, Press Eye
image captionBernard Rotich took control of the race at the 21-mile mark

Rotich broke clear at the 23-mile mark after a leading group of five finally began to fragment.

"In 2014 I was here, I was not well prepared because I had an injury, but today I was very impressed with the time I ran," he told BBC News NI.

At the scene: BBC News NI's Ciaran McCauley at the Ravenhill Road

It was understandably slower going at Ravenhill Road, over 25 miles into the race.

Determination powered most runners as they edged closer to the finish line, along with the prospect of sweet relief.

Thankfully, they were getting plenty of support from those at the roadside.

"C'mon, you're almost there, keep going!" was the urgent chorus to the steady beat of pounding feet.

A local church offered free burgers and pumped out Eye of the Tiger - if it's good enough for Rocky, then it's good enough for a marathon.

Just around the corner and into Ormeau Park, the finish line was in sight - cheers, applause, fast food and massages for tired limbs.

A sweet reward for a marathon effort.

The weather was good for running conditions: A cool start, warming up a little later in the day and with little wind to throw runners off course.

image captionThe race starts at City Hall and finishes in Ormeau Park
media captionThe route the 2018 Belfast Marathon will take

All Belfast quarters were represented in the route, which was relatively flat going - although organisers say miles nine through to 14 were hillier.

media captionWatch the 26.2 mile course... in 2 minutes

There were 12 water stations which distributed energy drinks and energy gels for runners.

media captionRunners start the 26.2 mile course from Belfast City Hall

Organiser David Seaton said the mix of events had been key to Belfast marathon's success over the years.

media captionWhy is the marathon 26 miles and 385 yards?

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