If you have read this blog a few times you will already know that I dabble in some running. The race I have run the most and had some serious emotional times at has been the Belfast marathon. It is my home marathon and as such, I have always felt duty-bound to run it, and I have 5 years in a row. I have mixed feelings about the race itself (which I will get into) but recently it was revealed that it was going to be a lot different in 2019. So, I thought it would be the ideal time for me to share my thoughts on the changes! Shall we?
Bye bye Bank Holiday Monday race
One of the contentious aspects of the marathon was the fact that it was held on May Day (Bank Holiday Monday) which personally, I had to qualms over as a race day is a race day. But for fellow residents of Belfast, it was a nuisance as they couldn’t really travel freely into the city and for shop owners who didn’t like the race taking away their sales.
In fact, the Bank Holiday issue came to a head this year when it was revealed that the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland for those not from here) would be charging a crazy sum to help police and block roads etc. because it was held on a Bank Holiday Monday. Move it to a Sunday and voila the price drops by half. It should also be noted that shops in Northern Ireland do not open until 1pm, so the traders were much happier to have the race on a Sunday seeing as the majority of runners would be clear of the city centre by the 4th hour.
As said, I had no dog in this fight as I was happy either way. If it was on a Sunday it just meant I had an extra day off before work. My only issue was if I had to get the bus home as then I would have to wait a little longer than I would like for said bus due to Sunday times. But that is a very minor issue to worry about! So yes, if it pleases the organisers, traders and residents, move that sucker to Sunday!
*Deep breathe* I will be honest, I have hated the marathon route since I first ran it. It just isn’t a nice route that shows off the city as best as it could. It would be one of the main reasons why I would deliberate on whether to actually take part in the race. Did I really want to go up 6 miles of incline with limited support? Did I want to go down a towpath that can sometimes be akin to a wind tunnel at mile 17? Do I want to continue until mile 19 to 21 through an industrial estate with zero atmosphere… Ya know because it was an industrial estate (despite the attempts of a few music stations). No, I most certainly did not want to bother going through that grim escapade again.
But then, rumblings occurred, was the route changing? What parts? Surely they are getting rid of the horror show of some areas. Proposals would be seen and shown around and discussions would start. Is this route better? Everyone had an opinion on where the route should go. I was among them, “hit the famous places so you get more tourists runners” Go to Titanic Belfast, Go to Queen’s University. But more importantly, go through as many parks as you could! Why not? Show off Belfast for the great city that it is, hit every section of the city (South Belfast has always been criminally underutilised in my opinion). I know it would be hard to work out and in Titanic’s case, have a turnaround point… But if London can do it, so can we! So, you may ask… What did they go with? Have a look at the proposed 2019 route below.
Is it better?
It most certainly is. But I feel the organisers had their hand tied behind their backs when they chose the previous route I do think it could still be a little better though, here are a few examples. Firstly, it again dodges the landmarks. I firmly believe that not going through the Titanic Quarter is a mistake. People would love to run near the Titanic building or H & W cranes. Not going near Queen’s University is also a mistake as going through Botanic Park and past the front of Queens towards Boucher would be an option too. I feel this could be achieved in the new route if they were dead set on going to Boucher Road… Speaking of which…
Replacing Duncrue Industrial Estate with Boucher Road… Ehhh. We are potentially now going to another dead section where no one will be around to support the runners at around the 10-mile mark… It will be interesting how that one goes atmosphere wise. I sense it would be better as it is the perfect place for the relay changeover. Lots of people about cheering on will get everyone pumped hopefully.
I really wish West Belfast was a bit flatter (hahaha) but it isn’t and some hill training will be done to get through those few miles. At least with the new route, it doesn’t seem overly bad. It’s placement at miles 16 – 19 (I think) is a tad debatable as that could be “the wall” for some runners (lots of people to cheer them on before the downhill will be required!) I would have suggested that the route doesn’t need to go as far up as it might do, so help slice some of those metres off the big incline, but as I said, it’s better.
I am disappointed that North Belfast has been effectively cut out of the marathon and the half marathon as I am a North Belfast resident I feel the area has more to offer runners than the past and proposed route offers.
The last thing I had a slight grievance with was the lack of parks in the old route. I think going through some nice green sections would keep the focus of a runners mind distracted. Sometimes looking at brick and grey and concrete the entire race can be a little boring! Dublin counter this with Phoenix Park. I like that we are going through Ormeau Park and the Waterworks, but I don’t necessarily understand why we are going through Ormeau Park twice? It seems like a waste of potential given how large the city is. I had a route devised that actually went through 4 or so parks (see below)
I am excited to see what the final route will be an even more excited to see take part in the race. This was desperately needed and I applaud the organisers (I know they are a very small team and deserve all the credit for achieving as much as they have with the resources they have). I will be there on the start line on the Sunday morning excited for something new. Will you be there?
I have just read an article saying that the new route is rubber stamped! (timely)
Next time I will chat about what I think could be done extra for the 2019 edition of the Belfast Marathon, until then, sign up for the half marathon here, you have 10 weeks to train! Plenty of time to be able to run 13.1 miles! It is lovely out, get a runners tan! Until next time.