I got a bit tired of the heat wave and I was looking for a half marathon as a training run for the New York City Marathon, so I decided to sign up for the Rock ‘n Roll Dublin Half last minute. I’ve heard good things about the Rock ‘n Roll running series and the reviews of the Dublin race also seemed to be positive. Main thing people complained about was that they had to get back to the start with busses after they’d finished.
When I looked at the course for this year the start and finish were both at the Royal Hospital so that seemed to be sorted out and the weather in Dublin would be around 20 degrees. Perfect. I did notice they’d also changed the rest of the course, but having never been to Dublin, I didn’t really think about it much.
Race Packet pick up was really easy. In the centre of town in Trinity College with clear markings where you had to go. Picking up my bib and t-shirt were also easy. They also had some merchandise with every race participants name on the back, but unfortunately I had signed up too late so my name wasn’t on there. But it is a smart move from the merchandise department, it feels a lot more personal and people are much more likely to buy it.
The Royal Hospital was pretty easy to reach on race morning (although I did need to take the first tram and I was a bit worried it might be late, but it was right on time). But the bag drop was a bit chaotic. For some reason the bag drop was based on the first letter of your last name instead of equally divided by race number. This caused some confusion, because when the lines got long you couldn’t really tell which letter you were actually queuing up for and it also meant that some lines were much longer than others. I also saw some people taking their drop off bags along with them on the course, so I assume they ran out of time to drop them off and decided to take them along with them. Although they weren’t easy bags to take with you (no handle or easy way to hang it over your shoulder).
There were 14 corrals, and I was in the last one. But there wasn’t that much time before the 10k would start after the half, so they decided to let several corrals go at once. In my corral were the 2:45 and 3:00 pacers and I had planned to follow the 2:45 pacers. But from the start I had trouble keeping up for them, but in the beginning they also seemed to be running a 2:30 pace. So after 4k I decided to let the pacers go and just run my own pace. We ran along the Guinness factory and soon after we left the city and ran past Phoenix Park, but we never went into the park. Almost all the roads during the half had signs saying either “uneven surface” or “ramps”. Hardly anywhere was there a smooth even surface.
Around 8k into the race there was a very steep hill. So steep that there was no running involved, everyone around me was also walking. And this hill basically went on and on. Then around a school campus and steeply down hill. After which we turned around at roughly the 13 kilometre mark. The route then went along the river for a few kilometre until we ended up back at the same steep hill, just on the other side. So you needed to get over the hill again. At that point you had a few relatively flat kilometres left until you ended up at the Royal Hospital again. So, most of the route went through the middle of nowhere and after the race you can’t really say that you’ve seen Dublin.
Because of all the steep hills a fast time wasn’t possible, so instead of running 2:45 I ended up running 2:54. Not my worst half, but a long ways away from my PB. But I’ve heard more runners say afterwards that they didn’t get the time they wanted or that they found this the hardest half they’ve ever done. I also was running out of energy a bit the last few kilometers. I had my pre-mixed bottle of Tailwind with me but I had mixed it a bit too strong so I decided to discard it after 14k and after that drink water at the aid stations, but that left me with not enough energy at the end. Need to mix the Tailwind differently next time. I also expected more live bands on the course. Rock ‘n Roll promises that there’s a live band every mile, so technically there should have been 12 bands. But I’ve only seen 7, of which two where just speakers next to the course.
All in all a bit disappointed. I’ve heard good things about the Rock ‘n Roll races and also about the race in Dublin. Turns out they had to change the route, because the Pope would be coming to Dublin two weeks later and therefore we weren’t allowed to run through the park.
I’ve also heard it’s taken the organisation a long time to clean up the route. I don’t mind the organisation using bottles, personally I actually prefer them over cups, but it would be better to use smaller bottles and have enough bins to discard them in. But during the half there were hardly any bins. Technically, there were no litter zones outside of the aid stations, but not many people seemed to abide by this rule. So the bottles were still everywhere along the route.
Would I run this race again? Maybe. If they change the route back to a course that is flatter and where you get to see more of Dublin, then I might give it another try.