Sunday 15 July 2018

Family of runner who died in Belfast Marathon appeal for privacy

Belfast Marathon
Belfast Marathon

A runner died yesterday after taking part in the Belfast Marathon.

It is believed to be the first death at the event in six years.

The tragedy comes amid fears that this year's Belfast Marathon will be the last, following news that in the future organisers may have to pay up to £120,000 to cover policing at the event.

The man, who was aged in his 50s and understood to be from Northern Ireland, was rushed to hospital after collapsing around six miles into the race.

It's understood the man was a keen runner but was taking part in what was his first marathon.

He collapsed while running along the Sydenham bypass in east Belfast, close to Victoria Park. Race officials assisted him and also visited the man in hospital, but he later died.

A spokesperson for the event said it was deeply regretful and added that the man's family have requested privacy at this time.

"It was around mile six, which is very early in the race, and we responded very quickly with our first aid teams providing the best care that they could," they said. "He went to hospital but sadly passed away."

The NI Ambulance Service said they received an emergency call at around 9.55am for a man who had collapsed on the Sydenham bypass.

"NIAS were on scene within four minutes having despatched a rapid response paramedic and an A&E crew," he said.

"The patient was assessed and, following initial treatment at the scene, he was brought by ambulance to Royal Victoria Hospital."

The PSNI confirmed that the runner's death is not being treated as suspicious and that a post-mortem examination will be carried out.

Last night David Seaton, chairman of the Marathon board, offered his sympathy and condolences to the grieving family of the runner.

"Having visited the man's family in hospital at the earliest opportunity - which they appreciated - I wish to abide by their desire for privacy at this time of sudden bereavement, so I will not be making an further public comment other than to express, on behalf of the Marathon board, out deepest sympathy and condolences," Mr Seaton said.

Vice president of Athletics NI John Glover told the BBC: "It makes it all the more tragic that he set out this morning to achieve what was obviously a dream.

"You don't enter 26 miles lightly and I would imagine the man has done a lot of training to take on the task.

"Speaking on behalf of the athletics community, we are all deeply sorry for what has happened."

Former Lord Mayor of Belfast Brian Kingston - who has run the Belfast marathon three times - said the runner's death was "very sad news".

He said: "It's desperately sad that a man has died during the marathon. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy go out to the man's family."

Meanwhile, the organisers of the Belfast Marathon have said yesterday may be the last time the event is staged due to new legislation. Mr Seaton said the future of the event is in jeopardy as organisers may have to pay for policing.

He told the BBC: "Last year we had about 120 officers, that's £120,000. We couldn't take that hit. That would be the end of the marathon."

Yesterday was not the first time that tragedy has touched the Belfast Marathon.

In 2012, Newtownards bus driver Eric Watson, who was in his early 50s, died hours after taking part.

Yesterday's tragedy was the second recent death at a marathon. Last month, MasterChef finalist Matt Campbell (29) collapsed at the London Marathon and died in hospital.

He had reached the 22.5 mile mark. Runners later paid tribute by completing the last 3.7 miles of the marathon route in his memory.

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