Dublin Rock and Roll Half Marathon Race Report
Or, to put it more accurately, ‘How The Pope Ruined My Weekend’. Not that I bear the guy any grudge but all of the arrangements for this race were changed to accommodate his visit to Ireland later in the month, making this very popular half marathon rather unpopular this year with about 99% of runners who took part. Warning: I’m going to spend the next few paragraphs complaining about this race so do feel free to skip to the end when I wax on about how fabulous Dublin is if it’s positive vibes you’re after.
What was wrong with the race?
The route was awful – for the past five years, this race has take place largely in Phoenix Park, amid stunning scenery with massive crowds and bands everywhere. An awesome experience for runners, or so I’m told. This year, on account of the papal visit, the park was out of bounds and the route changed to take in the west of the city. This is unfortunate, as there is not that much for runners to get excited about in the west of Dublin. Except hills, that is, very big hills. And not even glorious hills with spectacular views, but long, monotonous ones that you plod your way up, turn around at the top of and come back down again. It felt like someone had suddenly thought ‘Argh, we don’t have a race route. Office junior, go and drive around until the clock hits 13.1 miles!’ No thought at all for what that would mean for the runners. I appreciate that road races can be boring but this one was spectacularly dull.
There were supposed to be bands every mile – that’s the Rock and Roll Series’ Big Thing, its USP, after all. If there were, half of them were taking their tea breaks when we passed. The ones that we did hear were fun and enthusiastic but, as there were very few spectators, they were mostly playing into a void.
Now, at this point I do have to take some responsibility for my miserable experience at this race. Ah, feck, we were in Ireland after all and I had a drink – four drinks, in fact – the day before, which I’ve never done before, not even for a 5k. Some people seem to get away this. Indeed, some positively thrive on it. I have one friend who often bosses her age category when she’s had a heavy night on the sauce. Having now tried this technique, I’ll not be adding it to my training regime. I felt lifeless and below par the whole way round (some might refer to this as ‘a massive hangover’). Lesson learned: I can’t drink one day and run the next. Disappointing but true.
I feel the pope should take his share of the blame too, even if he doesn’t know how much he messed up the weekend for runners. I wonder if he ever wonders what gets shunted for his visits. If he doesn’t, perhaps he should, what with us all being equal in the eyes of god and all that (or so I’m led to believe). How would he like it if he’d got bumped up the big, boring hill with no cheering crowds for motivation or giving him jelly babies? I’m not 100% sure that’s what happens on a papal visit but you get my gist, right?
The organisers have to bear the brunt of the blame, though. The race was a shambles, truth be told. The bag drop was pandemonium, so much so that the race started 15 minutes late (something I’ve never seen at any race, ever). Everyone had their race numbers pinned to their fronts, of course, but some clever soul had decided that bags would be sorted by surname. Okaaaay… Except the letters were inside the tent and no one could see them, resulting in absolute chaos. There were still hundreds of people waiting to drop their bags when the race was due to start and the whole thing turned into a frantic free for all, with runners chucking their bags into the tent and hoping they’d be able to find them at the finish.
One good thing, the snacks at the end were healthy for a change. This was handy, as it gave everyone something tasty to munch on while they stood in the chaotic queues to pick their bags back up.
We heard mixed reports about whether the Dublin Rock and Roll Half Marathon will move back to Phoenix Park next year. Some people said that this was a one off, just for the papal visit. Others said the city council is trying to move races out of town, as there are too many and they cause too much disruption. I really hope they do move it back into town. I couldn’t recommend this year’s version to anyone – they’d never forgive me! – but the Phoenix Park version might be worth a go if it comes back next year. I hear it’s lovely…
We had some savage craic in Dublin, as our Irish friends would say. It was a fantastic weekend with a great bunch of friends (and I definitely can’t blame them for leading me astray, however much I’d like to!)
We had great cheap digs at Destiny student accommodation (thankfully no students in residence!) They have these in lots of cities now and, while they’re not luxury hotel standard, they’re clean and have great facilities (even if you do have to hire your towels).
We had some delicious vegan food – I’d recommend Pog for breakfast and Eatokyo for dinner. I found both of these via the Happy Cow app, which is the best app ever if you want to avoid shlepping all over the place to find vegan and vegetarian eats.
Obviously, having beer for lunch the day before was a mistake but, hey, we live and learn. I can’t even regret it, really. There are so many great pubs in Dublin it would have been churlish to ignore them. I’d recommend some but the rule seems to be that if they have millions of flowers hanging outside, they’re worth checking out. It’s just that next time I’ll remember to wait until after the race to put on my shamrock-shaped party hat…
Thanks Kerry, other Jayne, Marie, Ian and Julie for the craic and the post-race cider yoga.