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Marathon runner in scathing assessment of Belfast City Marathon

“The route is absolutely dire”

Marathon runners struggle to drink from plastic cups Marathon runners struggle to drink from plastic cups
By Conor McLoughlin

An experienced Irish runner, who has competed in numerous big city marathons across the world, including New York and London, gives us his take on the Belfast Marathon…

It’s terribly badly organised, from start to finish. The route is absolutely dire. If they are trying to make it a big city marathon, they shouldn’t be sending runners along coastlines or through industrial estates, with no-one there. The biggest flaw is that it goes out to Newtownabbey, so far away from the city centre.

You spend a disproportionate amount of time way out the Antrim Road and then back along the motorway, with no one supporting you. You have to ask why the top local guys don’t do it.  OK, you get mid-level guys maybe making the top ten, but they wouldn’t be foolish enough to think that if the top locals were competing, they’d be anywhere near the front.

First local is always coming home in what is considered a mediocre time at best in terms of world marathons. Why is that?

It wouldn’t be so bad if the organisers flew over some elite English or Kenyan runners, that the public knew or could relate to. But these guys are not that level.

Kenyan John Mutai is maybe becoming famous in Belfast because he has won the Belfast Marathon three times but he hasn’t been heard of anywhere else. He’s 42 or 43, coming over for an easy win and taking prize money from our top local runners. This year Derry are having a marathon at the start of June and there’s 900 signed up for that. Only 40-50 runners will do both, so why aren’t those other 850 Derry runners taking part in the Belfast Marathon?

They need to change the route and to make it a faster marathon. I could maybe understand the route if it incorporated parts of Belfast that you’d want to show off to the world. Look what we’re famous for.

The route should be going up the Falls and up the Shankill, round the Titanic Quarter, maybe taking in some of the parks. I think the Lagan Towpath is probably too narrow for a marathon, but there’s the likes of Botanic Gardens, Lady Dixon.

If you’re a fast marathon runner, or looking to get a PB, you’re not going to get it in Belfast. That Antrim Road section is just far too long, too hilly, and then you’re coming on to a sharp, sharp downhill in Newtownabbey. You shouldn’t be running on sharp downhills, it shakes the knees and hips off you.

Then you go straight onto the coast, where nine times out of ten the wind is in your face. That is probably an athlete’s worst nightmare with the wind resistance.

The organisers have to know that is where most athletes are going to hit ‘the wall.’ 19-20 miles in and you’re stuck beside the dump or in an industrial estate. It’s not pleasant, and what’s there to lift you up? Nothing.


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