In short: If you fancy a laugh and want to run a relay with a couple of mates then have a go...otherwise avoid like the plague! In full: I couldn't resist the allure of this race as it gave me an excuse to return home to Ireland for a visit but that's where the fun stopped. My complaints have been listed by pretty much every other review stated which is a testament to the stubbornness of the organisers.I completed the Manchester marathon a few weeks previous and it really was a case of chalk and cheese in terms of organisation and support.
Pros -The medal was decent
Cons -lack of water bottles in favour of plastic cups (This issue gets raised every year and the organisers spout the same rubbish about health and safety although it seems to work ok with the majority of other marathons. It's also worth noting that they have no problem distributing energy drinks in bottles...) -The relay runners. They heavily outnumber the marathon runners and are really demotivating as you are constantly surrounded by fresh faces speeding past you. -Relay changeover points. There is heavy congestion at the changeover points with the relay runners stopping (usually in the middle of the road) to find their partners. There were no barriers here and spectators and waiting runners spilled into the road further reducing the available space. At one point I actually had to shout at a runner to move when she blocked the road to take a 'selfie. -Lack of aid. I was promised several aid stations with energy drinks but found they had ran out at every single one by the time I got there (Relay runners again). -The route. Belfast has so many fantastic landmarks so why on earth did we get stuck with the dual carriageway next to city airport and a sewage treatment plant in an industrial estate at mile 20 !?! -The support. At Manchester upon entering a new area we were greeted by cheering crowds and all sorts of bands and roadside entertainment which really helped keep us going. In Belfast the only distractions were a boy playing drums (he didn't seem like he'd been playing them for very long) and a radio tent playing Hozier- Take me to Church (whoever thought this would lift a flagging runner's spirits needs to have their head examined! The spectators themselves generally stood stationary and silent looking on as if it was our jobs to amuse them...
I could go on but it's all been said before. This had the potential to be a decent race but the organisers seem content with mediocrity. It would be an improvement to list the marathon as a purely relay race with the option of a solo entry so entrants would know what they are in for. Date of review: January 17, 2016
In short: Belfast City Relay Race! In full: First marathon attempt, close to home so convienent. Commuting, pack collection and parking no issue at all. Kind of other runners to top up parking tickets for us! Busy start, good atmosphere.
From here though it really was a relay race with the option for marathon runners to join in.
Cons, Relay walkers starting at 4 hour line, having to swerve past these people. Changeover points relay runners stopping in middle of road instead of moving to side. No power drinks at 20 miles, guess who got there first? Relay runners having completed their 6 / 4 mile whatever run using all toilets (good one organisers placing these at relay changeover points). Told to join the line. Surely this could have been better thought out?
Route. Hectic climb at Cave Hill but good support here. Cobbled stones at Clarendon docks...20 miles in seriously! Nice one to see the finish line at 22 miles and then have to run past it!
Pros Crowd at Falls Road fantastic, really helpful. Nice finish area for kids and families. Pleasant enough route, flat after 16.
In short: needs better organisation In full: as has been said before drinks stations a real prob..small cups of water from a stand pipe. not enough energy drinks so you have to carry your own..and queuing at 21miles as they give relay runners one mile into their jog powerade! start hampered by letting walkers stand at the start line it really is just a relay race with preference given to them but will do it again as it is my local! Date of review: June 1, 2008
In short: Great city, mostly well organised race, but PLEASE listen to the feedback about cups at water stations! In full: Pluses: The route is a pretty good compromise, after chopping and changing for a few years. The inclines are manageable, but the steep descent between the Zoo and the Shore Road is tough. I don't know an alternative, without a major route change though. Crowds and atmosphere were OK - better than I expected, but not spectactular. The relay stations seemed very well behaved and organised when I passed them (3:15 pace), but I'm quite sure they must have got more frantic further down the field. Personally, I didn't mind that this was a relay event simulataneously - I thought that I would, but it wasn't too bad. There were lots of water stations - great. Although what they were handing out is a different matter.... see below. Finishers medal is nice, and the finish area generally and bag transfer all worked fine.
Minuses: Biggest issue I have - small plastic cups at water stations, instead of bottles. Cups are OK for small local 10k races, with no budget and fields of 200. But not for a big city marathon. Especially with Deep River Rock as the main sponsor (I don't suppose it will be upsetting Coca Cola shareholders too much to have lost my custom, but they have now). Every year this feedback is provided. And it still isn't fixed. If other marathons can get this right, why not Belfast?? If there is going to be a marathon walk on the same course, same day - then it MUST have a different start time. The (otherwise OK) start was spoiled by walkers setting off at the same time ahead of runners. I was positioned around the 3:30 / 4:00h predicted finishing time in the start area, and had to sidestep to avoid dozens of walkers in the first 200m or so. It's not just inconvenient and stressful, it's also dangerous. Just start them an hour before (or 10 minutes after). How hard could that be? Mile markers weren't clear enough. Some were only painted on the ground. They need to be up high, both sides of the route, and in a very bright colour. Finally - If I was a visitor, then the trip out to pick up the race pack would have frustrated me too. There must be somewhere more central that could be used for this. Date of review: May 15, 2008
In short: A tough race on a hot, hot day..... In full: A wee bit demoralising for the full marathon runners as a stream of relay runners overtook every six miles. Crowd needed a good shake-up too - cheer,clap, shout encouragement, don't just watch me suffer! Date of review: May 9, 2008
In short: Good support, let down by route In full: Although this was my first marathon, i got the impression that it was more for the relay runners than for marathon runners. Date of review: May 9, 2008
In short: Good run, need to sort out the relay changes, and small bottles instead of cups would have been better. In full: This was my 4th marathon. A few things need to be addressed. The relay change over points, what a nightmare that was, especially the first one, things did get a bit better at some of the others, but the relay runners (sorry more like walkers, as most seemed to walk as soon as they started, don't think a lot of training was done for some) they were all over the place, just stopping in front of us marathon runners, looking for their change over! Also, what was with the cups of water, I have never had cups on a marathon, there is a technique to drinking out of a cup, which I have not quite got the hang of, sometimes (on half marathons) you can squeeze the cup, but these were polystyrene! But saying all that I did get a PB, as I had a disaster run at London last year with the heat, I was out to prove something to myself, and I found the route really quite challenging but good, we run in the Forest of Dean, its hilly and it did us proud all that training. Overall the crowds were great, apart from the stupid woman who crossed over in front of me just as I was going around the corner to the finish in the park, I nearly fell and had to grab hold of her! Date of review: May 9, 2008
In short: mixed thoughts In full: This was my first full marathon, so I've no other marathon events to compare to. On the plus side, I didn't find the course as hilly as I had read about. There were a few minor inclines (nothing compared to the Donegal mooathon!), and a steep descent at one point, but overall the course was flat. Also the croud support was welcoming, especially through the last couple of miles! There were plenty of water stops and first aid points en-route too.
A few points which I feel could be improved upon, most of which has already been covered:
1. Collection point for race number was quite remote and difficult to get to. 2. The mile markers need to be bigger and clearer - I must have missed over half of them, especially towards the end. 3. The run over cobbles around mile 22 ish was difficult on tired legs. 4. Lack of energy drinks throughout the race, especially earlier on. 5. Having to dodge walkers at the start - couldn't they start in a different zone at the back? 6. I though the packet of crisps at the finish could be improved upon. I got a flapjack at Omagh 1/2 and that was better for me. 7. An early start at 9am, a little later would suit those having to travel in.