Northern Ireland

Belfast City Marathon 2017: All you need to know

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Media captionWatch runners start the 26.2 mile course from Belfast City Hall

Marathon - just reading the word will either make you want to grab your runners or simply run away.

Either way, the annual Belfast City Marathon is under way and whether you're running, watching, or escaping the city we have everything you need to know right here.

The marathon has become a May bank holiday institution and is just as popular this year with thousands of participants and spectators out on Belfast's streets.

Here's everything you need to know about the big day.

On your marks

This year is the 36th edition of the Belfast City Marathon - back in 1982, when the race started, Northern Ireland's locals were more likely to travel by space hopper than run 26 miles and former Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt rocked the best moustache this side of Magnum PI.

This year about 15,500 - more than the population of Banbridge - are hitting the road for the marathon and associated events, including the team relay, marathon walk, wheelchair marathon and fun-run.

Image caption Mike Nesbitt at the inaugural Belfast City Marathon in 1982

Chariots of Tired

If you're one of the thousands pounding the 26-and-a-bit miles of pure Belfast road, then here's what you need to know.

The race kicks off at 09:00 BST on Monday, 1 May, from Belfast City Centre and finishes in Ormeau Park.

If that sounds a little easy, runners are not be running the simple 1.65 miles distance direct from A to B.

Image caption Thousands of runners set off from Belfast City Hall on Monday morning

Instead, they're tackling a full marathon route that not only knackers the body but also acts as sweat-drenched, whistle-stop tour of the city.

East, west, north, south - all Belfast quarters are represented in the gruelling route.

Mercifully, it's relatively flat going although organisers say miles nine through to 14 are hillier - so while you won't actually be trekking up Cavehill, you'll be skirting its lower slopes. That could be the section that many runners hit the dreaded wall.

Want to get a sneak peak of the route? Then check out our two-minute time-lapse video.

Run, grab it, run

OK, so our grandparents may have told stories about running two-hour marathons after an Ulster fry breakfast and a night on the stout, but remember - those born before 1955 are both four times tougher than you and 10 times more likely to exaggerate.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Batman would surely recommend staying hydrated during the Belfast City Marathon

Runners should remember to stay hydrated: rink as much water as possible along the way. If it's helpful, just think of Alec Baldwin giving you the Glengarry Glen Ross treatment: "ABDW - always be drinking water."

The route has 12 water stations as well as nutrition, energy drinks and energy gels for keeping those legs going. So fuel up, you'll need it.

Racing in the street

Image caption The race started at City Hall and finishes in Ormeau Park

Maybe you're not taking on the race but you want to cheer on those brave souls putting their limbs on the line.

If so, you'll want to get yourself a prime pavement position. The start and finish lines - at City Hall and in Ormeau Park respectively - are proving popular, with a fun fair, food vans and entertainment on site at the finish.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption A good spot to eye up the marathon is a must

There is no parking allowed at Ormeau Park, so your best bet might be to hop on one of the free park and ride services being offered from Belfast City Centre - they leave from Ormeau Avenue and Cromac Street between 10:00 and 16:00 approximately every 10 minutes.

Alternatively, you could always try a vantage point along the route. Check out the official event website to find out when runners will be passing by certain points in the route.

Shade runner?

As ever, the big question is whether or not the marathon will be sun-kissed or a wash-out. And the answer is - it's looking good for running!

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Media captionThe latest forecast for Northern Ireland

The sun is shining and while it may be a little too warm than some might like later in the day, there will be little wind to throw runners off course!

No cars go

Marathons do not go hand-in-hand with freely-moving traffic so expect plenty of disruption if you have plans in Belfast on Monday.

The majority of roads are still open during the marathon but the area around City Hall was closed between 06:30 and 10:00, so there might be delays.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The roads are packed with runners

Motorists should expect disruption in the city centre until about noon; and along the Albertbridge Road, Holywood Road and Sydenham Bypass.

Disruption is also expected around the four changeover points for the relay event - at Bridge End, Hillview Road, Gideon's Green and Corporation Street.

If you're catching a ferry from the Stena Line terminal, bear in mind that some disruption is expected around the Duncrue Road.

For full details and traffic advice, check out the marathon's website.

All the way

We're providing marathon coverage of the event, with Radio Ulster and BBC News NI Digital across the race from the starting gun to the finish line.

Radio Ulster is broadcasting along the route from 07:00 to noon, with reporters at City Hall, the relay changeover points and Ormeau Park.

On the digital side, we have a special live page with pictures, video, reports and live streaming, as well as Facebook Live broadcasts speaking to those doing the real hard work - the runners themselves.

We're also following the fortunes of BBC News NI's own relay team as they tackle the 26-mile course.

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