The annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin is a showcase of Ireland’s generosity.
Melissa Beach was running late. Her hotel three miles from the start of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon, Beach tried hailing a cab. But they sailed past, fares in tow. Then a gentleman approached, a local not running the race but simply a spectator. He had reserved a cab and invited Beach aboard.
“He paid for the cab and wished me luck,” recalled Beach, who works for Delta and has done her share of traveling.
“The Dublin people go out of their way to be friendly,” Beach said.
Ireland offers many lures for the vacationing running tourist. There’s the rolling green hillsides, the spectacular Cliffs of Moher, about a three-hour drive from Dublin. There’s the Guinness factory, cathedrals, cobble-stoned streets and stone facades.
But Dublin’s strongest magnet is its people. From cabbies to hotel receptionists to people walking the streets, Dubliners’ attitude seems to be “Welcome to our home. Live large.”
Kevin Bliss works as a federal corrections officer, specifically teaching inmates, helping them earn high school degrees. He, too, has traveled often and says he has found no one friendlier than the Irish.
“Oh my gosh, they’re ridiculously nice,” said Bliss, who finished Sunday’s race in 1:47:30. “The nicest people I’ve ever encountered. The nicest culture. And I’ve been around.
“In New York or Miami, you talk to someone about business then you’re on your way. Here, they actually care. They want to talk to you. They want to get to know you. It doesn’t seem business is their prime concern. It’s getting to know you.”
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Mike Michalski lives in Portland and works as a nurse. He’s a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series veteran, having run six races this year with plans to knock off four more. He stayed with friends who made sure his linens were clean and that he had all the comforts of home. “If they didn’t have a bed, they would have bought one,” said Michalski.
He drew a line though with the hosts’ hospitality.
“They tried not to let me buy pints at the pub,” he said, “but that wasn’t going to happen.”
The race begins at The Point Village, conveniently located at the end of a tram line. The first three miles parallel the Liffey River. At the Saint James Guinness Brewery, the course veers away from the river, past stone walls, cathedrals and the Museum of Modern Art.
Few races can match Dublin’s finish, the last five miles winding around and through 176,000-acre Phoenix Park, Europe’s largest park. Picture shades of green as far as the eye can see – trees, grass and open fields. While men’s winner Paul Pollock and runner-up Mick Clohisey were waging their one-on-one footrace, late in the half marathon a deer bounded beside them in a field, then cut in front of them across the road.
Beach offered the best description of Phoenix Park.
“Oh wow, this is a place where you’d just like to come and have a picnic.”
Regarding the course as a whole, Beach added, “It was beautiful. I love all the sites. The day before I was on a bus, taking them in. Running today, I got to see them up close again.”
Whether you’re a Guinness fan or not, a tour of the beer factory is highly recommended. Beer aficionados will enjoy the videos detailing how the dark beer is brewed. Quick fact: 100,000 tons of Irish barley are used every year in making Guinness.
The Guinness tour costs 18 euro (about $20 U.S.) and includes a pint of beer. Be it psychological or not, many claim beer downed at the factory is the best tasting Guinness in the world. If you take in the tour, make sure to sample your free pint atop the Gravity Bar, 151 feet above the ground, which affords a spectacular 360-degree view of the city and surrounding landscape.
You’ll take in brick buildings, steepled churches, green and blue domes, the 51,700-seat Aviva Stadium, rolling hillsides, a shipyard and every shade of green imaginable.
There are 565,000 reasons to visit Dublin, which is the estimated city population. Because should you visit the Ireland capital, it’s the people who will bring you back.