|River Rock Belfast City Marathon|
|Date: Monday 1 May, 2017|
|Coverage: Radio Ulster from 07:00 BST and BBC News and Sport Online|
Laura Graham goes into Monday’s Belfast Marathon aiming to become the first winner from Northern Ireland in 18 years.
The last NI winner was Barbara Brewer in the 1999 women’s race.
As was the case last year, Graham, 31, is set to run in Belfast eight days after competing in the London Marathon.
The Kilkeel woman was runner-up in Belfast 12 months ago and her time of 2:48.55 was marginally slower than her earlier London run.
Graham clocked 2:42.38 last weekend in the UK capital and a similar time could prove good enough to win on home soil.
The home hope set her personal best of 2:41.53 when winning the Irish National title in Dublin last October.
Kenyan duo Pamela Jelimo Kosgei (2:39.50) and Salome Kimutai Jepkoech (2:38.27) have faster lifetime bests than Graham, but it remains to be seen whether they will be able to produce those kind of times in Belfast.
Belgian Els Rens, who represented her country in the Rio Olympics marathon, is likely to be another contender with her personal best of 2:38.16 set two years ago.
The men’s race looks likely to be another case of African domination.
Scotland’s 2002 winner Simon Pride was the last non-African male winner in Belfast and since then Kenyans have clinched 12 victories in addition to two Ethiopian triumphs.
Last year’s Belfast third-placer Dan Tanui is being tipped as the men’s favourite even though his fellow Kenyan Bernard Rotich is the fastest in the field with a 2:10.18 clocking.
Rotich ran his personal best in Frankfurt seven years ago and while he also produced a 2:10.51 at the 2013 Brighton Marathon, he could only manage fourth in Belfast three years ago when he posted a time of 2:23.29.
Tanui clocked 2:18.46 last year which left him behind compatriots Joel Kositany (2:17.39) and Eric Rotich (2:18.43).
Kositany’s win last year was his third Belfast triumph but he is not competing on Monday.