Race Report by Martin Judge
Belfast’s half-marathon starts by the River Lagan in the leafy Ormeau Park just a 15 minute’s walk from the city centre. The route loops the park and river before heading out towards the city airport and Victoria Park. Victoria Park is another attractive park and is roughly at the 6 mile point on the route. The run leaves the park going towards the city centre. From there it heads up the course’s only significant hill on the Falls Road. Runners pass an impressive republican street mural on their right as they run up the Falls Road with the imposing Bobby Sands mural staring at them from the top of the hill. Once the symbol of so much hatred and division, Sand’s mural is now a tourist attraction with visitors from all over the world photographing it. The perplexed faces of some American tourists made me realise they had no idea there was a race going on!
There is then a 3 mile gradual descent back to Ormeau Park and the finish. My legs were jelly at the top of the hill so the descent was quite a relief. If you save something for the finish you should be able to get a really good time. I did my best half-marathon time this year and I would definitely recommend Belfast as a potential PB course.
The run is becoming more popular each year with over 3500 runners this year. There were faults: there should have been more toilets at the start and runners should have started from timed penned zones instead of a “free for all” start. There were plenty of drinks and gels available but the first drink station wasn’t till about 6 miles-it should have been at about 2-3 miles. Despite these failing, I enjoyed the race and the atmosphere. Belfast is a much changed city with many attractions: I would say it beats Dublin for a week-end excursion. The surrounding North Antrim countryside is quite stunning with Giant’s Causeway only an hour 15 minute drive away. On a sunny day it is hard to beat.
If you want to run a PB and enjoy an exciting, value for money week-end, then the Belfast half-marathon is just for you. Book it next year!