13.1 things to know for Belfast Half Marathon first-timers

I love running half marathons and after last years terrible attempt I am going to make up for it by actually finishing Belfast half marathon, but for a lot of people it may be their first one and so please enjoy 13.1 things (get it) you should know before you race in September.

1.       Go to the toilet a few times before you get near Ormeau Park

I am pretty sure me and a few hundred others caused the delay of the race due to needing to go to the loo. That was on me, I got there late and needed to go. But there is never nearly enough toilets for everyone and as all races advise, go to the loo before you leave. Double and triple go if you need to, as there is nothing worse than being caught out and needing to go a few minutes before a race has started. I found that out to my detriment and actually started the race late with a good few others.

2.       Get used to Ormeau Park and the embankment, you will see it a lot.

When I say a lot I mean a lot, if you have seen the map you already know, but you start the race on the embankment and it is actually a great start, nice and wide for everyone and going down back in is again, nice. By the end of the first mile, the field has stretched a little for runners to have a bit of breathing room as they go through the park, and Ormeau Park is lovely to have a nice run through!

3.       I mean get really used to the Ormeau Embankment

But, when you think you are turning elsewhere, you are directed back down the embankment, the way you came at the start and a bit of confusion reigns, as you go the entire length of the road, there has to be a better route that does not utilise this much of the embankments right? Well, we will come back to that little topic…

4.       Victoria Park is lovely and should be used more for races

I have run a 12 hour race around Victoria Park and it is a drive for your feet, it is just over a mile in length which is great (we will only see half of it, but that’s okay it makes you want to return) If the sun is shining then you really are in for a treat during this portion of the race, getting there might not be as enjoyable, but it is worth it. With that said…

5.       The Victoria Park bridge will give you a panic attack

I remember my first half around this route and going over this bridge, it is a suspension bridge and that means one thing. It moves and boy does it move with a vengeance when a number of runners are on it. You will bounce, so be prepared and do not worry, it can support you all and you will be alright, but for a few seconds, it feels like you are on the Carrick-a-rede Bridge!

6.       You will run through random parts of the city centre

Ever want to run down the High Street and then up cornmarket? What do you mean no? Well tough, you will be running through this utterly random bit of routing and you will see bemused tourists looking at you (because they don’t know our Sunday opening hours) You then come briefly to City Hall, but you can’t stay long as you now have to go down another random street (this isn’t the routes fault the Primark fire caused this redirection). Off to the West, we go team!

7.       Who thought going up this hill was a good idea at mile 9

If you know the marathon or have taken part in the relay, then you will know the utter hate this part of the course has for runners… 9 miles in and someone decides to make us all run up the Falls Road for close to mile who really thought of that and do they hate us? If they hate us,, why do they? We are lovely… Anyway.

8.       Oh, so we can have this lovely downhill during mile 10

Grosenvor Road is next and goodness it Is nice to rest the arms and legs and enjoy that downhill. Though a word of warning, you are less than 5k away from the finish, so do not think you should bolt it down to make up lost time, you will get hurt and it will not be pleasant this far out. Enjoy it and let it be a chance to refocus your mind for the last portion!

9.       You realise you haven’t really seen much of Belfast, but that’s okay

11 miles in and you think you haven’t really seen much of Belfast, yeah you see things from a distance, but it is a Sunday and you will think you should really be seeing more landmarks at this point in the race, but hey, what can you do?

10.   You have never seen Dublin Road or Botanic without any traffic before

Roads that are always busy are now quiet… Too quiet really (well other than the cheering which is nice), The calmness will be strange, but very welcome!

11.   You never realised the incline going up Botanic road before

Running up this little bit of incline will feel like the Falls Road all over again and you will hate it and everything about it, but fear not a lovely easy downhill awaits and then. The finish!

12.   You somehow don’t go through Botanic Park!

This does mean that you are not going through Botanic Park which is a damn shame, but other than doing a loop (which no one likes) or cutting up to the front of Queens and then through the park and out the side, there really isn’t much of a choice planning wise.. (note the second option is totally a route that I figured out that should be used) It is a great park to go through near the end of the race as it is a decline also.

13.   There is no way this part is just half a mile!

Surprise! You are running back down the embankment… Sucker! You know this road now though and you know where the finish is and everything is good with the world, but with any half marathon or marathon that last half of a mile feels like it is 2 miles. You can’t help that feeling, but you are struggling a little and you want to kick, but not too early, you want to finish strong, but what happens if you finish strong too early!? The finisher photos will look terrible when you see the pitches (depending on how you are doing) kick through the gears again there to get past that person who has been in front of you for far too long!

13.1   You should stay a bit to cheer on the other finishers, the back of the pack like to be cheered too.

You did it! You finished! Get that medal, water and other goodies, hug the fam and relax, but before you inevitably go, hang around for a bit and cheer on some others who are finishing, they would love that last straight to be filled with noise and encouragement, give it to them!

Well, there we go, a bit of a silly post, but one with a little information on the route. Enjoy it and I hope everyone’s training for it is going well! Until next time!

If you want to chat more about any of my posts, please follow me on TwitterInstagramand Facebook to also receive updates. Until next time, thanks for reading and I hope to see you again soon!

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