Northern Ireland

Belfast marathon: Runners complete city race

Runners wear fancy dress to compete in the marathon, Belfast City Marathon, 1 May 2017 Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Many people got into the spirit of the event and dressed up as superheroes

They came in their thousands.

Mostly in trainers, shorts and vests although some took on less traditional attire - the Smurfs were well represented, and cow onesies were another popular choice.

Armed with bananas, energy gels and inspiration-boosting iPod playlists, more than 15,000 runners gathered at the front of City Hall for the 36th edition of the Belfast City Marathon.

Early on, the usually peaceful early-morning bank holiday streets were bustling with runners ahead of the 09:00 start.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Bright colours lined the streets of Belfast throughout the duration of the race

There was both anticipation and anxiety in the air: 26-and-a-bit miles of Belfast road is no joke and these runners knew they had it all ahead of them.

Talk quickly turned to the weather - would the (gasp!) sunny start turn to rain? Our weather experts said no, and so it proved with sunshine becoming the theme of the day creating beautiful conditions for the big event.

Eye of the Tiger

Not that it necessarily made the going any easier. Close to the first relay changeover at Bridge End, a water station was doing brisk business as runners took on as much fluid as possible under the May Day sun.

Ethan Nordmann, a volunteer, was busily stocking a constantly diminishing supply of bottled water. "It's busy, but you don't want to get in anyone's way of a fast time," he said.

Image caption Paul Boyle is Head of Sport at Belfast Met. He made this hat to raise aware of student mental health.

Spare a thought too for fire-fighter Al Murdoch, who was running the marathon with a 29lb air tank strapped to his back.

"I've run marathons before but never in the full kit," he said.

"But I've done the training and I feel prepared."

They came. They ran. They conquered

Al was taking on the challenge for a charity supporting children with life-threatening medical conditions - and had a determined mindset for a good cause.

He wasn't the only one. Brightly-coloured T-shirts were the unofficial uniform for the race, with people sporting logos of their chosen charities for the day: Thousands putting legs, muscles and sanity on the line to raise a few bob for those in need.

Image copyright Matt Mackey / Presseye
Image caption The struggle was all too real as runners approached the finish line.

Then they were off - those at the front bolting along Chichester street, clearly looking for a fast time.

Others - including relay-team members, fun runners and wheelchair racers - all headed off looking fresh-faced, eager and determined.

Over three hours later with just under a mile to go, those faces had turned to grimaces but determination had not lessened.

Supporters lined the route cheering, clapping and urging runners up and over the line.

One man draped in a Portuguese flag accompanied a compatriot on the road for the final stretch.

A local church supplied free burgers and pumped Eye of the Tiger out of a PA system.

They came. They ran. They conquered.

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