As I mentioned in the overview post about my eachtra aisling Éireannach (Irish dream adventure), the original premise for the trip was to participate in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin half marathon, my first overseas race. I hesitate to use the term race, though, since I primarily participate in timed events to have fun and give myself a goal to work toward, rather than to achieve any placement within my division – in other words, I could say that I race against myself, but not anyone else. This was only the second year that a Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon has been held in Dublin, but the Rock ‘n’ Roll organizers have lots of experience and the event was a blast and a success.
A very special aspect to this event began to unfold the previous morning. In my hotel’s breakfast room I happened to get seated near two couples who had also traveled to Dublin for the half marathon. Three, all American Army civilians stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, had been training together and would be running. We had a great get-acquainted conversation and agreed to share a taxi to the start area the next morning. We ended up warming up together, waiting for each other at the finish, and sharing the fun and excitement of the event. For two of the runners, it was their first half marathon ever. And the other spouse was a great sideline support and cheerleader, who stationed himself along the route to watch us pass and then came to the finish also. It was a really special aspect to an already memorable event!
The half marathon route started on the north side of the River Liffey, passed by the center city area, crossed the river twice, and proceeded to Phoenix Park, where the second half of the route was located.
Phoenix Park is a beautiful 1752-acre park, one of the largest enclosed recreational spaces in a European capital city. It is almost as big as New York’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park combined! It was established in 1662 and was conceived as a royal deer park: indeed, a herd of fallow deer has lived in the park since the 1660’s. The park also contains the official residences of the President of Ireland and the United States Ambassador, among other buildings and monuments and several special habitat areas.
The route included a few hills, though nothing that I considered very steep. The longest hill, between mile 8 and 10 in Phoenix Park, was adorned with a sign that said “It’s a hill, get over it.” My GPS recorded about 450 feet of total elevation gain. Of course, the official distance was 13.1 miles.
There were a few notable things about the half marathon. First, the start area emcee was delighted to announce that there were participants from 46 countries. I thought that was fantastic. There were about 5000 finishers, so it was a relatively small / comfortable event. Perhaps the most notable thing was the fabulous weather. Never mind Ireland’s reputation for rain, the fact that there had been light rain the two previous days, or the forecast, which was for rain every day for the following 10 days. For the half marathon we had dry, sunny weather – a fine day indeed!
After our taxi dropped us off we had just a short walk along the North Wall Quay to the start area. We had time to enjoy a few sights, including the beautiful Samuel Beckett Bridge, which crosses the River Liffey.
We had plenty of time to find our corrals, stretch, and pose for a picture in front of the start line.
After a bit of debate before leaving home, I had brought my tutu. Mine was certainly not the only one. There was a nice assortment of colorful wigs, crazy socks, shirts with shamrocks, and so on. Also, there was a group of 3 women with shirts that said “Durham2Dublin” on the back. Assuming they were from the UK, I asked one of the women where they were from and was surprised at her reply: North Carolina!
One of my favorite “costumes” was a couple of women in running kilts. As is typical with costume photos taken during the event, this was shot from behind. It’s not well-focused because I did not stop – and tried not to slow down – for pictures.
The route was along the North Wall and Custom House Quays, crossing the River Liffey via the Talbot Memorial Bridge next to the Custom House. We then proceeded along a few more quays past Temple Bar and then took a short detour a few blocks away from the river to pass Christ Church Cathedral and St Audeon’s Church before returning to the riverfront. About 2.8 miles from the start we passed the large and famous St James Gate Brewery of Guinness, which has been a brewery since 1759. While quite a few runners stopped to take and/or pose for pictures at the brewery gates, I kept going without stopping.
After passing the brewery the route again turned away from the river, this time to pass the Irish Museum of Modern Art, housed in the former Royal Hospital Kilmainham, which is not far from one of the famous jails, the Kilmainham Gaol. In this area all of the runners passed through a very interesting-looking gateway. I haven’t been able to figure out what the gateway is part of.
As we passed through one neighborhood, I noticed a woman who had come out to watch and cheer the runners on. It looked like she had decked out in her Sunday finery!
About 5.6 miles from the start we again crossed the River Liffey and shortly entered Phoenix Park. One of the highlights of a Rock ‘n’ Roll event is the bands. Often there is a local flavor to the bands, or something else unique. The band near the halfway point was a samba band.
Near one of the water stops I encountered (for about the third time) another costume that I enjoyed. This young woman had especially decorated her tee shirt to say “Pat my back, it’s my first half marathon.” She seemed to be having a good time.
The area of Phoenix Park where our route took us was often quite open, with beautiful lawns and trees. In the background there is a distinctive monument, the Wellington Testimonial, which, at 203 feet tall, is the largest obelisk in Europe.
After a couple of fairly large loops in Phoenix Park, we arrived at the finish line. Part of the finish line fun is seeing some more costumes as others finish their race. Kudos to the gal in the middle of this trio, who completed the event in a wheelchair with a cast on one leg!
At the beginning of this post I stated that I hesitated to call this half marathon a race, because I race only against myself (and my goals). Having said that, I do usually hope to achieve a new PR (personal record). A training buddy has suggested that one should only track PR’s for a given course. In that context, by definition I achieved a PR, since it was my first time on this particular course. My time was actually about 2 min 30 sec slower than my fastest half marathon on any course (and I think that course might be a little bit short…). But when I consider the time change, the fact that I carried a camera and took pictures – and was slightly less focused on my pace – as well as the modest hills and the additional fact that my summer training season was rather different from my usual training, I’m really quite satisfied with my time. The most important things were that I had a good time and that I met some new friends!