The May bank holiday weekend seen me take a train north to take part in the Belfast City Marathon. There were highs and lows to go with the trip. The highs being the many many hills and the lows being the dodgy toe and poor finish time.
Belfast was my second marathon. My first being Venice. It was however my first time running as part of a team of two. I had been training for the marathon with my buddy Roy. The last couple of months had us out in the Phoenix Park before 8 a.m. on Saturday mornings completing long runs. We thought we were fairly well prepared to take on Belfast, but it appears we were not as ready as we thought.
We arrived on the Sunday afternoon to a wet and miserable Belfast. The marathon was Monday morning and as luck would have it the sun was shining brightly on the morning of it. We were up early to get a decent breakfast into us before we set off. Inspired by the Runners for Yes Equality I decided to do my bit and have a t-shirt printed up with the logo on the front and a message of support from EatDrinkRunFun on the back.
The Belfast marathon attracts a surprisingly small number of runners who complete the full distance. There were about 2,200 in total. The majority of those running were part of relay teams.
So how did we do?
Well we rocked up to the start line at City Hall at 9 a.m. and passed it at about 9.04.
We were dramatically under prepared for what was to come. Belfast is not, as I thought completely flat. No no, it has all manner of hills cleverly hidden. Ok so maybe they were not hidden at all and I completely neglected to look at anything relating to elevation on the marathon website. Dear Baby Jesus there were so many hills. The first 13 miles felt like it was all uphill and neither of us had trained well enough, or smarter enough to be able to cope with them. They drained us. Had we not been running as a twosome it would have been hard to stay motivated.
I did not like the course at all I have to say, although that is not really an excuse for being as unprepared as we were. The suspiciously low number of people completing the full marathon does however make me think it might be considered a tough course and is more suited to the large number of relay runners taking part.
The cons as I see them are as follows:
I managed to get a bloody awful blister on my toe only a few miles in.
The cross over points where the relay teams were meeting meant the road was narrowed with people on both sides crowding to meet their team members. It was inconvenient for the full marathon runners to get through.
The energy drink and nutrition stations located along the route were pretty much depleted by the relay runners by the time the marathon runners got there.
The hills I mentioned !
At one point we were running through housing and part of an industrial park. Signage was poor in some areas. I heard one quite angry runner shout ‘is this orienteering or a bloody marathon’.
The route back into the city itself is on a narrow tarmac path along the motorway. Narrow in that it was literally the width of three people across. Not very practical when you also have a guy in a wheelchair trying to get by. There was no where for people to move out of the way.
At about mile 23 you get to see the finish line across the water and then you have the pleasure of running three miles around it, which is up another hill.
The pros as I see them:
There was great support on the route with the natives of Belfast out in force to cheer us on.
The first half of the course did seem to have plenty of water stations.
I seen plenty of signs outside locals houses that said ‘marathon runners are welcome to use our bathroom’ which I thought was just exceptional.
There was no shortage of kind folks handing out jellies along the route.
We did manage to finish it.
While Belfast was tough we both know we also need to work harder in advance of Cork which is just three weeks away. (I better check for hills) We had hoped for a time of about 4.30 but we both came in at exactly the same time of 5.01:47
Belfast was however lots of fun. It’s a great city and there are plenty of great bars and restaurants to visit. Would I do it again? Not a chance. Roll on Cork.