I swore last year that this was the last time I would do this marathon. I really don't like much about it. I find the course quite boring with its long sections of dual carriageway, narrow tow path and industrial estate (that normally smells). It also has 5 relay sections with in excess of 10000 relay runners making for a very busy course with all levels of runners with you at all times. This is quite disconcerting at the later portions of the race. It also has had significant problems with lack of water and security issues in the past.
But I signed up and it was my 7th time over the last 11 years. But there seemed to be a bit more excitement this year with EAMS putting together a Star Wars themed team in fancy dress to celebrate Star Wars day and the "4th" was with them.
|Star Wars Day and EAMS out in force|
Also DBRC had a big travelling entourage with Andrew Greany and Brian O'Kelly going deep under 3 hrs for top 20 positions. Collette, Seamus, Brenda and Derek were attempting 3 in a row after a dreadful day in Ballyhoura that involved 7hrs 45mins traipsing through mud and rain on the mountain and getting lost.
|DBRC on tour|
My running buddy Kristy was also going to be there and was great company on the way up and down. Kristy got very close to her PB achieved on the much easier course in Edinburgh in 2014.
Over the last couple of years they have started mailing out the numbers which makes this event so much easier to manage logistically and there is no need to visit what has always been a small exhibition. After picking Kristy up early doors we headed for Belfast. It was motorway all the way and after a quick toilet break in Sprucefield (where we met Brian O'Kelly and Dipak) we got to Belfast early enough at 7:45. Brian was coming of his brilliant 2:42 in Boston and would go on to do 2:50 today and 17th place overall (an improvement of 12 places and 8 minutes on 2014) on a much hillier course than Boston.
The weather was beautiful and after parking near the start it was off for lots of photos and meet up with the groups who had arrived. As usual I knew a lot of starters. with 2.5K in the marathon and another 2.5K relay teams it was busy enough at the start but it only took a relatively short period of time to get over the line. At 9am we were off.
|And we are off|
I went off too fast of course and was through mile 1 in 7:45 ahead of even the the 3:30 guys. I kept the pace going and by mile 3 the 3:30 guys passed but I was still on 3:30 pace. This continued through 10K which was just under 50 minutes. Ronan Misteal passed looking comfortable and ended up with a 3:57 (despite a couple of long toilet breaks). I kept with the 3:30 guys until the Falls leisure center when Leslie Crawford passed me. Leslie and I were both in our new virtual club colours (Globe Trotters) and are 2 of only 3 members in Ireland. Leslie was on 8min mile pace and did brilliant with a 1:46, 1:45 negative split for a 3:31 and 5th in his age group. At nearly 60 that is incredible running.
|Leslie in his new Globe Trotter top en-route to a 3:31|
We started the long climb up West Belfast and the Ardoyne before hitting the Antrim Road, always climbing.
|At the start of the Falls|
I hit the tow path and hit a head wind that would be with us for 10 miles. It wasn't that bad but I'm sure it had an affect. Climbing off the tow path we entered the worst part of the course the industrial estate at the port. Normally it stunk of sewage but today it was fine. I came through 20 miles in 2:51 still on target and it was at this stage that the 3:45 pacers came past. I had a chat with Tom Enright who was doing his 96th marathon with the big 100 coming in Cork. I couldn't keep with them so Tom headed off.
I steadily knocked off the miles till we came to the Lagan side and could hear the finish. This is cruel as you still have 3 miles left. Quickly we were off the embankment and onto the Ormeau Rd. Emer my sister and family was there and it was high fives for Aine and cheers from Aoibhinn and Conor and it was the last push up the hill past the Ivanhoe pub and the Nazereth Lodge. I was delighted to still be going well when I hit the 25 mile mark. I knew that 4 hrs was in the bag but wanted 3:50 badly and put in one last effort. It turned out my pace was back to 8:30 at this time and I was passing other marathon runners and relay runners all over the shop.
|Waiting patiently for Uncle Leo (Aine, Aoibheann and Conor).|
Everyone was happy and probably my best experience in Belfast.
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