A controversial change to the Belfast City Marathon has excluded some runners, Christians have said.
Usually the run takes place on Bank Holiday Monday, but last year Belfast City Council backed the Marathon’s plans to change it to this Sunday.
One Christian teacher who has twice finished third in the marathon says she feels excluded from this year’s event, and children she teaches feel similarly.
Karen Alexander said: “For many years Belfast Marathon has been a highlight of my running life”, explaining that she claimed third overall female in 2008 and again in 2014.
Karen added that many children she teaches had previously taken part but now they “have been very disappointed”.
“Let’s face it. The issue of competing on a Sunday has been a long lasting debate. Eric Liddell is the famous name which comes to mind.”
“I do feel excluded and would love to be preparing once more to compete in the Belfast Marathon”, she said.
Seven Free Presbyterian ministers expressed their dismay at the decision, saying organisers have a “responsibility to be inclusive to all sections of society”.
Christian campaigning group the Caleb Foundation explained that every Sunday is “a reminder both of creation and the resurrection of Jesus Christ” and it is “truly to our benefit and blessing” when society keeps it special.
Wallace Thompson, the group’s spokesman, said the Sunday race would be a sad day for Belfast, adding that a section of society “feel excluded simply because they hold to a high view of the Lord’s Day”.
Callum Webster, The Christian Institute’s Northern Ireland Officer, said previously many Christians had taken part in the race and raised money for good causes.
But now, the “unnecessary change of date has effectively excluded those who want to honour Sunday as the Lord’s Day”.
He added: “Many churches are located along the route of the marathon and local churchgoers may be delayed as they travel to and from their services of worship.”
“This change is not conducive to promoting good relations across all sections of society in our city.”
In June, at the council meeting to discuss the plans, organisers of the marathon claimed most participants were ‘content’ for the event to move to a Sunday.
They also said they would work to minimise the impact on places of worship on the route.