Ah, Lord Didsbury I think you are too lenient! The Belfast City Marathon is a well established race with huge potential. They have too many basics wrong for me to be as understanding as you. Some further thoughts:
Water in cups cannot be carried. Therefore you can't drink between stations (not a huge deal, but on other courses I always carried a bottle with me, and used the station to re-stock). This is standard practice in Dublin, Connemara and iirc, Edinburgh.
I did bring gels with me, but I could've done with a couple more. A marathon is an endurance race, it is irresponsible of the organisers not to provide nutrition.
Your comments on the relay team are valid - I like relays in general - if for no other reason than it multiplies dramatically the support on the street and the number of participants. However, there is a way of managing it, and a way of not managing it. Can I be cynical and suggest that the only reason they bothered segregating @ mile 17 was because they wnated to give Lucozade only to the full particiapants?
Re: Mats - how bizarre to use the technology in the fashion they did. No mat at start, one randomly placed on the course, and one at the end. Why?
George, there is more discussion here http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/forum/forummessages.asp?dt=4&UTN=48151&last=1&V=6&SP=
The consensus seems to be anything from 1200 metres to 2400 metres (3/4 to 1.5 miles) extra. My GPS watch was out by 1.5 miles from 'Mile 13' on, and measured about 44.3km at the finish (Marathon distance is 42.2 km); allowing for normal discrepancy (in the past my GPS overestimates marthons by something like 600m), I reckon we did about 1 mile extra.
I am sorry to add to the negative remarks already listed here, but I do think it was a poorly organised event overall.
While the first half of the event was great (running down the Falls / Shankhill, for example, is something you may never do again!), the last 10-15 miles was completely uninspiring. There is a case to call this the 'transport marathon' - 5 miles of motorway, 4 miles of dual carriageway, 2 miles of docks, 3 miles of industrial estate and the full front of the airport.
Secondly, the decision to run 3-4 miles along a narrow path with a motorway on one side and the sea on the other was madness - how would anyone receive emergency medical attention along there? No support either. Though I suppose we should be grateful that the path was closed (I was still expecting to see some one out, walking their four dogs on four leads in the opposite direction!).
Water stations. Organisers of all marathons please note: Drinking from a cup is almost impossible on the move. You spill some picking it up, you can't sip it and you can't carry it with you. Next time you agree a deal with a water company, make sure you tell them you want bottles, okay? (Some marathons even get the bottles sepcially labelled for them).
Also, you should provide for some kind of nutrition. Gels, snack bars, sports drinks are all very important when you are dealing with endurance events such as marathons. I seen a lot of people 'cramping', and I put this down to a lack of nutrition, combined with the heat on the day.
Relay Race. I will hand it to you. You got one right. Learn from the 17 mile marker and in future segregate the relay runners from the marathon runners. Otherwise it creates mayhem trying to negotiate narrow strips of path broadsided by anxious relay teams looking for their teammates. It also prevents the guy in front of you stopping dead when he finds his.
Crisps at the end? How about fruit, snacks, bars, etc?
What is the point of having a split mat at 14.3 miles (even if that became 15.3 miles due to the bomb scare?)? What is the point in any split mat or any chip if you don't have one at the start? Spend the money on nutrition instead.
Finally, I think the BCM is run as a relay event. Reports say that 14,000 runners took part, but of this only c. 1,500 did the whole run. I think if the event is to develop and grow in future years, it needs to redress this balance.
Yeah, it is going to be a fine balance. In order to get a good overall time I will have to do well on the bike, but in order to complete the marathon in good shape, I will need to conserve some effort during the cycle.
Incidentally, some of my PBs have been set the day after cycling too ...