In the space of ten days I ran in two of the country’s most renowned half marathons. These are two very hilly half marathons, with Ards being the bigger test. In spite of the extra exertion the Ards Half Marathon absolutely kicks Lisburn‘s ass in nearly every way.
Lisburn: 6:50pm on a Wednesday night – Not too bad, but with it being midweek traffic is hectic at tea-time, you have been at work all day and know you have to go the next morning too… 5/10
Ards: 6.30pm on a Friday – Traffic not as bad at tea-time on a Friday and you have the Saturday off (most people). In addition, the slightly earlier start than Lisburn means you have time for a jar afterward! 8/10
Both have easy online entry but no alternative method unless you enter on the day and pay a late reg fee. 6/10
Lisburn: steep enough at £18-20 (I can’t remember the exact amount) but not unusually high. However for what is on offer at Lisburn – or rather lack of – this is actually expensive. Furthermore, late entry at Lisburn is an obscene £30. I missed online entry by a couple of hours and the staff would not let me enter over the phone. Seriously? Wise up, Lisburn. This greed gets Lisburn my first ever 0/10.
Ards: The same online price as Lisburn (£18) but for reasons that will become clear below, this is not expensive for what you get. Late entry is a more palatable and reasonable £25. I never tried phone entry here so I can’t comment. 8/10
Lisburn: This is a big annual event and thousands take part. There is a 10k, a fun run and a Half Marathon on at the same time. However, it is simply too crowded and this detracts from the enjoyment. Greedy Lisburn packs as many runners in as possible.
I’m not sure if the staff en route are volunteers or council workers, but there was ample staff.
The mile markers at Lisburn were frequently inaccurate and this is off-putting.
The ‘goody bag’ contains an excellent technical t-shirt and you get a nice medal for running this race, but aside from that there is no post-race hospitality (someone correct me if I am wrong?) or if there was they certainly did not advertise it. Lisburn simply want the money with as little hassle as possible! 2/10 (2 marks as a lot of work goes in to organising an event, but no points for actually making an effort to cater for runners needs)
There is a half marathon and a walk (no 10k), so this is not an overcrowded race and this makes it a much more enjoyable experience than Greedy Lisburn.
There was loads of marshalls en route providing plenty of encouragement up the decidedly steep hills and the mile markers were all very visible and accurate. Also, I get the impression that there was more water stops and more lucozade stops. There was music/welcome party at the finish and at some points en route – all this helped create a better atmosphere en route and at the finish.
In the Ards Leisure Centre you could get a massage at the finish for a small charge and there was a very good spread of scones, buns, tray bakes, cocktail sausages, tea, coffee etc!
Finally, the ‘goody bag’ contains an excellent technical t-shirt and you get a medal at the end (I happened to get a top 200 finisher medal – a first for me!!). Thanks Ards for an enjoyable experience! 9/10
Lisburn is not as hilly as Ards, but it still lacks soul and is too crowded. The price, with little in return, also makes it hard to like. 5/10
Ards: It is just too hilly as you run not far short of the Scrabo peak, but the roads are not too crowded and the locals come out in support (probably sympathy) as they can see the size of the hills! The accurate mile markers and the more frequent water and energy stops just make this better than Greedy Lisburn too! 6/10
Ards kicks Lisburn’s ass. This is not hard considering how miserable Greedy Lisburn is. The points total is Greedy Lisburn 18; Ards 37!! I will drop Lisburn from my race calendar in future, but will look forward to dreading Ards – if that makes sense 🙂