Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Belfast Marathon Report 

from Bernie Twomey 

Belfast City Marathon 2022

After an early start, trying to force food into our nervous stomachs, we set off on the free buses provided and arrived at Stormont at 7.30 am.  The weather forecast betrayed us, and we had to take shelter under the impressive oak trees surrounding this magnificent Victorian structure in the presence of Edward Carson.  Many a time I’ve watched this building on the news representing both the good and the not so good of the North’s history but its magnificent is a sight to behold.  Though that wasn’t what was on our minds when we cowered together in our newly bought plastic bags (recyclable) the night before in Tesco.

Atmosphere  wise it is not a touch on Dublin but running down the Prince of Wales Avenue surrounded by the exquisiteness of the Stormont Estate will get the tear ducts moving. We then turned right, and our marathon began in the North to end in the East of Belfast.  Mags Jones was ahead and Loveness did her best to run with me but after 1km she fired off into the distance.  We glided past mansions and I gazed ahead watching the other runners’ heads bob up and down in a sea of colour. 

The route is not flat, there are many challenging pulls along the way but then what does one expect in Ireland.  If you are like me and love to take in your surroundings, Belfast is cloaked in its past and future history.  Murals representing the contrasting cultures and posters of the upcoming election kept my mind busy and off the task before me.  At 10k my watch failed, I had been having problems for a while, but I was happy to run along in the pace I was now use to and chat to fellow runners.  

We curled around the outskirts of the city, with some places standing out more than others, e.g. The Falls and the Shankill.  The support overall is mixed.  Though when it is good, they are electric but there were times they looked at us with bewilderment i.e., the Shankill, where they waved their British flags with pride but no clapping.  From there we headed back into Belfast City, passed the splendour of the City Hall finding ourselves next running through a picturesque landscape park.  Here the mood, which had died, came back to life. I’m convinced, Dave, who was running in front of me for his dad, had the whole family out as he was greeted like a Knight of the Realm (we visited Game of Thrones the day before).  We continued our pace down the embankment, pass the Big Fish structure where I first saw runners feeling the pressure and beginning to fall apart. The cool breeze off the Lagan River wasn’t helping and to be fair we did have plentiful water stops along the way, but the heads were down. 

The most challenging part of the Belfast marathon is unfortunately the Relay runners who to be fair are raising thousands for charity. But, and especially towards the end, they will challenge your ability to keep zen.  Some, not all, love to take selfies and will stop mid run to do so. Others will take off like the hammers and are wrecked after 1 mile and then there was the saga of Christopher who didn’t turn up for his leg of the marathon.  His now ex-buddy, who was not slow to vent his dissatisfaction over his mobile for all to hear, kept myself and a guy from Derry entertained.   Anything to keep one’s mind off the route ahead. 

At mile 24 we all met our match as I would defy anyone to run up that hill, but the crowd were astounding and if they could have pushed us up, they would have done so.  Mile 25 like all marathons went on forever but when the 26.2 reared its lovely head, I headed for home.  I was done and took little notice of the spectacle that was Ormeau Park.  I was so glad to see our great supporter, Gillian.  She was a Godsend running round the route as I have to admit at times, and the others felt it as well, lonely, longing for someone to call out your name.  She saved me at mile 22, when I couldn’t even put a sentence together and she had to read my mind.  I was looking for the top of the bottle to be taken off and to put in a zero tablet as our veteran marathon runner Mags had recommended. After much hand gesturing the act was accomplished. I was beyond parched at this stage.

Mags stormed home as usual even after getting Covid a few weeks beforehand and forever the trouper didn’t let it beat her.  Both I and Loveness were so grateful for her guidance over the past few weeks.  Loveness, our Queen of first-time marathon runner in six weeks, imagine what she could have done with more training, also flew home.

Would I recommend the Belfast marathon? I’m not sure, ask me in a few weeks’ time but give yourself a treat, head up North for a visit and drink in its fabulous atmosphere.  And head to Banbridge, to visit the Game of Thrones studio.  Tell Big Stevie, our mad taxi guy, and Pete an extra in the show, we sent you. The payment of the ticket is worth it alone for the amazing opening.  All it was short was the dragons sweeping down to greet us.