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price is right for 'fast race

Although Dublin and Belfast are only 100 miles apart, the two biggest cities on this island are different worlds when it comes to the road running scene.

Next Monday's 32nd RiverRock Belfast Marathon had the complete co-operation of Belfast City Council from its start in 1982 and, these days, has a solid sponsor. Entry fees started at a bargain €39.

Dublin has the full support of the city council, but it comes at a price. So also do the Gardai, who must approve every course change and are present on the day. Dublin is into a second year without a sponsor. Result? The starting entry fee for the race is €75 – that's almost double Belfast.

brilliantly

When it comes to prize money, Belfast offers £3,000 to the first man and woman down to £100 for 14th place, plus £1,000 for the first Northern Irish runner to finish and £400 for the first man and woman over 35. There are voucher prizes for the hugely popular relay race, which works brilliantly well on the Belfast course and attracts up to 12,000 runners.

This year, Dublin will offer €10,000 to the first man and woman, but if Belfast is anything to go by, that won't make much difference either to the quality of the racing or the numbers signing up for the race.

Next Monday, the defending champion Urga Negewo from Ethiopia returns to Belfast; he aims to improve on the course record of 2 hrs 13 min 41 secs he set last year.

Negewo's running career started with the support of Running Across Borders (RAB), a charity based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that helps talented east African athletes earn a living through their running, whether on the international road running scene, or in sports-related jobs. He made his marathon debut in Belfast in 2010.

Also running next Monday is Wosen Zeleka Demse, who has already run two marathons this year, most recently Rome in 2:12.10, and the Kenyan Joel Kiprong Kositany who ran 2:12.56 at the Tiberias Marathon in March.

Leading the local entry is US-based Thomas Frazer, who moved up to the marathon in 2011. Last October, Frazer ran 2:18.37 in the Chicago Marathon, becoming the first Northern Irish athlete to break 2 hrs 20 min since 1995.

Leading the women's entry is Lellem Berbe Yachem aged 21 from Ethiopia, with a marathon best of 2:34.38.

• Scheduled for Sunday, September 22 is the inaugural Belfast Half Marathon; entry fee €21.


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