Kenyans HAVE record PLANS
FOR a third successive year, Freddy Keron Sittuk and Joel Kipsang will face off in next Monday's Deep River Rock Belfast Marathon.
Two years ago, Kipsang came out on top, running a time of 2:19.28 despite a strong wind coming in off the sea. Sittuk finished a distant third; an improvement on his fifth place of a year earlier.
Last year, Sittuk, for whom the Irish weather holds no fears, took a calculated gamble by breaking away from the comfort of the pack at 14 miles.
The gamble paid off and when no-one chased him down, he stretched his lead to win in a time of 2:18.30.
A tired Kipsang came home three minutes later for second place. Sittuk went on to win the Derry Walled City Marathon a week later and in August, was first home at the Longford Marathon.
Apart from his many appearances on the roads, he also ran track and field, competing for Raheny Shamrocks in the league final.
Sittuk, who then took a longer than expected winter break in Kenya, returned to Dublin three weeks ago and helped his club Raheny Shamrock to the bronze medals at the National Road Relays. His time of 14 minutes 28 seconds for the three-mile leg was the third fastest of the day.
Last Sunday evening, Sittuk won the Samsung Night Run 10km, clocking a decent time of 31 mins 29 secs for the difficult and twisting course around Dublin's Docklands.
On balance however Kipsang looks in better shape. Four months ago, he finished fourth on his regular visit to the Tiberias marathon in Israel with a time of 2:12.37. His best time of 2:09.50 comes from the 2012 edition of this race. Sittuk's marathon best of 2:14.54 was set in Mexico in 2011. The pair may well work together to break the Belfast course record of 2 hrs 13 mins 41 secs, which would mean a course record bonus of £3,000 on top of the winner's cheque for £3,000. All will depend on the fickle Irish weather.
Last year's runner-up Shona Crombie-Hicks leads the women's entry. The 43-year Scot has a best marathon time of sub 2 hrs 39 mins from Berlin a few years ago.
Over 15,000 take to the streets of Belfast next Monday, including including around 1,900 teams in the five-person relay
The SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon has won the award for best international event at the 2015 Running Awards, announced before last weekend's London Marathon.
In the London Marathon itself, Breege Connolly of North Belfast Harriers ran a personal best 2:37.29, knocking two minutes off her previous best and well inside the Rio qualification mark of 2 hrs 42 mins.
Best of the Irish men was Greg Roberts of City of Derry in 2:24.05.