Sunday 3rd May was due to have been one of the first Belfast Marathons run on a Sunday, until the annual event was cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown.

But a man who has run in the event 19 times decided to substitute the official race with his own private, isolating marathon for charity in Africa.

Nigel Quinn, a former barrister, on Saturday cycled the equivalent of a marathon (26.2 miles, or 42.2km) and then walked the same distance round his house on the outskirts of south Belfast.

Nigel, 62, completed the feat 32 years to the day after he ran his fastest Belfast Marathon, of two hours and 34 minutes. He was 14th in the race back then, in 1988 (and jokes that his time that year would have made him the gold medallist if he had run it in the 1948 Olympics).

Now retired from running, Nigel would have been assisting to marshal the marathon this year, as he does each year. He is chair of the NI Masters Athletics association, for athletes aged over 35 (the oldest is 97).

A member of St Patrick’s Church of Ireland in Drumbeg, Nigel had last night raised more than £10,000 for a school and community project at a Nyapeya village in Uganda, funded by friends and parishioners of the church (in partnership with the Diocese of Northern Uganda and facilitated by Fields of Life).

Nigel has visited the project site six times. He said of the current situation in Uganda, which is also in lockdown due to Covid-19: “People are trapped at home starving. Locusts are swarming and destroying crops.”

The walk involved around 570 laps of his house and garden.

“As a younger man I made the marathon journey 19 times. I never thought I would do it again,” he told the News Letter. He was, he said, tired on Saturday night after the feat, but back out on his bike again yesterday.


Article first published in the News Letter on 3 May 2020.

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