Monday, 19 September 2011

Rest Week Review: National Lottery Half Marathon, Dublin - 17 September 2011

On Saturday I ran my 3rd half marathon in Dublin. The race was suggested by my colleague and running buddy who has family there. It was near the city center and I'd never been to Dublin before so I thought....why not?

Not a huge amount of contact from the race organizers before the race, as the half is just part of a race series leading up to the Dublin Marathon in October. But I got my race number on time the week before the race, which is all I really worry about!

The race was held in Phoenix Park, a walled park at the edge of the city center. Our taxi driver told us that it was the biggest walled park in Europe. There was a shuttle for runners from Parkgate Street, which is near the park entrance, to the race start. Since our hotel was about 2 miles from the park, we took a taxi and asked the driver to take us as close to the race start as possible. Unfortunately they had started to close off some of the roads in preparation for the race. So while we made it into the park, we and others who had parked their cars nearby were left with a good 15-20 minute walk to the race.

The race had a good atmosphere with everyone trying to keep warm in the chilly temps. I headed straight for the toilets and while there seemed to be at least 30 or 40 port-a-loos, it was a good 20 minute wait. By then I had just 15 minutes to get to the race start about a 5 minute walk away through a field.

Runners arriving near the start in Phoenix Park

There were 3 waves for the race: 1) sub-100 minutes, 2) 100-120 minutes, and 3) 120 minutes plus. The 'pens' were clearly marked with the wave times and there was more than enough spacing in between. It was great not to feel like you were being squashed in. No pre-selected pen assignments--you could just find the wave that suited you best. My buddy and I decided to start at the back of wave 2.

Then we were off! The start was a little late but it didn't take us too long to cross the starting line. As always it was quite crowded in the beginning but thinned out after the first few miles. About 8,500 runners meant it wasn't too crazy but consistently busy from start to finish.

The park provided lovely views throughout the run, but unlike street races there weren't too many spectators along the course. Around mile 4 there was a mildly ascending but relatively long hill...and there was also another one in the final mile just before the finish. Otherwise the course was mostly flat with some downhill sections. Water stations were every 3 miles as advertised.

Lots of crowds and cheering at the finish. After we crossed the line we were led through a finishing area where we collected a goody bag, technical t-shirt, bananas, water and gels. The same shuttle buses were available to take runners back to Parkgate Street after the race.

Overall I thought it was a great race. My only small quibbles were:

  1. Organizers could have more clearly stated the distance to the race start from the park entrance (we would have taken the shuttle if we had known it was such a long walk to the start)
  2. There were no race medals! Not the end of the world but always a nice souvenir
  3. Getting an Asics technical t-shirt was great but unisex sizing means mine is actually too big for me to wear!

A well-organized race in a beautiful park, close to Dublin city center. Looped coursed on paved roads. Not a hilly race but a long hill in the first half plus a hill in the last mile to the finish. Worth considering if you are looking for a race just a short plane ride away.

Stats in 2011:
Date: 17 September
Entry Fee: €20
Number of runners: 8,500
Timing chip on race number
Goody bag + technical t-shirt - no medal


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