Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Looking ahead to the Cork City Half-Marathon...

Friday, May 31, 2013

Looking ahead to the Cork City Half-Marathon...

This will be the third year that a Half-Marathon event has been included in the Cork City Marathon. In 2011, they had an entry limit of 1,000 runners. Last year, it was 1,800 and this year, it's 2,000.

While the full Marathon and Relay event will start at 9am on Patrick's Street in the centre of Cork City, the Half-Marathon will start about 6 kms to the east in Mahon at 10:30am. This is 30 minutes earlier than the 11:00am start of last year (2011 was 11:30am).

The map above shows the route of the Half-Marathon. From mile 2 onwards, it joins the Marathon route so we'll have a look at those sections in later posts.

From the City Hall, there will be a free bus service taking relay and Half-Marathon runners to the CSO office in Mahon. See map below...(Half in Pink, Full in Green)
From here, it is a short walk to the holding area which is likely to be at the end of the Skehard Road. This will keep the Marathon route free until the runners are moved out to the start of the Half which is just around the corner.

The start of the Half is roughly at the 10.5 mile mark in the Marathon. IF everything starts on time then the Half should start 90 minutes after the full Marathon.

What that means is that the Half should be starting around the time the 3:45 Marathon pace group will be going through. The Marathon field will be pretty crowded at this stage and then consider another another 2,000 runners joining them on the road....with a relay changeover up ahead!

For Marathon runners, it will mean that for those running with the 3:45 pace group or maybe a few minutes slower are going to have to run through a lot of slower Half-Marathon runners as the road will be nearly full.

For relay runners near the 3:45 pacers or just after, you are going to have to try and find your team mates in those crowded conditions. The average pace here is about 8:34 so there are going to be plenty of relay runners waiting.

For Half-Marathon runners, the road ahead for about 1km is going to be very busy, regardless of what time the Half starts.

This is the start of the Half-Marathon.....nice wide road. Except...they will have to partition part of the road to leave the Marathon and Relay runners pass. Eventually though, the partition will end and the fields will merge.

After passing the relay changeover, the course turns right and heads towards Blackrock Castle.

Just before the Castle (~1km in the Half), the course splits. The Full Marathon and Relay runners turn off right onto the walkway and runs alongside the river. The Half-Marathon runners stay on the road and run up a short hill past the Castle.

If you are a relay or Marathon runner and you run past Blackrock Castle then you are on the wrong course!

From what I understand, the split will be well signposted. This however is the one area where the earlier Half-Marathon start may cause problems. There will be a lot more Marathon and Relay runners this year at the split once the Half-Marathon field arrives. Will some runners go the wrong way??? If you were to watch the Half-Marathon race just around the corner from Blackrock, would you see a trickle of runners with different colour race bib's coming through?

For the Half-Marathon runners, once they pass Blackrock Castle they run downhill slightly before tackling this short climb which is about 300 metres long. After that, it's down into Blackrock village, right onto the Marina.....

....and then dead flat for the next mile.

Near the 2 mile mark in the Half-Marathon, the two courses merge again. The Marathon and Relay runners will appear from the left at what is near the 15 mile mark for them.

Assuming that both the Full and Half start on time, then this is the relative pace for both groups...

a) For Half-Marathon runners doing 6 mins/mile pace (~1:19 Half)....the Marathon runners will be doing an average of 6:48 per mile....i.e. those trying to run under 3 hours. For half runners, the course ahead till the finish line is relatively empty. For full  Marathon runners, the faster half runners should be passing them initially but in the later stages, they will end up running with half runners going roughly the same pace.

b) For Half runners doing 7 mins/mile pace (~1:32 Half)...the Marathon runners are doing an average 6:56 per mile). Essentially both fields are going at the same pace. The numbers from both races will still be thin enough at this stage so there should be no real congestion for the rest of the course.

c) For Half runners doing 8 mins/mile pace (~1:45 Half)...the Marathon runners are doing an average 7:04 per mile (3:05 Marathon). The Marathon runners are likely to join a very congested road full of Half-Marathon runners. They will have to work their way through although the relative speed difference isn't too great. Should be busy until the finish.

d) For Half runners doing 9 mins/mile pace (~1:58 Half)...the Marathon runners are doing an average 7:12 per mile (3:08 Marathon). The full Marathon runners will join a congested field of half-marathon runners who will be running 2 mins per mile slower. Could be lots of weaving, especially early on with the field thinning out later.

e) For Half runners doing 10 mins/mile pace (~2:11 Half)...the Marathon runners are doing an average 7:20 per mile (3:13 Marathon). The Marathon runners are likely to run into the back of a field of Half-Marathon runners. Possibly slow going, lots of weaving again.

As you can see from the times above, the trend will continue with Marathon runners doing 7:30 per mile or slower having to contend with a field of slower half-marathon runners to run through. The slower the Marathon pace then it just means that they will meet the half runners later along the course. For example, the full runners doing 3:45 probably won't see any half runners when the courses join but they will see them later.

Start of the Mardyke walk

To get an overall feel for the half-marathon course, you can see it in this video clip from 5:17 onwards...

Overall.........that's a quick guide to what the Half-Marathon might be like. In previous years, the problem was for the faster half-marathon having to work their way through a field of slower Marathon runners, especially on the Mardyke walk around the 25 mile mark.

This year, the congestion should be further out the course. The faster runners of both races should have plenty of free road while this time, it's the Marathon runners doing say 3:10 to 3:30 may see the congestion.

The slower Marathon runners doing say 4 hours may not see much until the later stages while those doing say 4:15 plus may never see any Half runners.

No matter what way it is organised, there is always going to be some congestion somewhere. How bad will it be this year? Will a 3:15 Marathon runner join the route at 15 miles only to find a road full of slower runners? A lot of the assumptions above are based on the races starting at their correct times but almost matter what the start times are...a segment of Marathon runners are going to hit heavy traffic ahead.


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