Rock and Roll Liverpool Marathon

Leading up to this race I had had a fantastic training cycle. I’ve never been in such good shape before a marathon before. I had racked up a good number of long runs and running in general has been very good.

Through this cycle I’ve been consistently running faster parkruns, I got a half marathon PB and a five mile PB. I felt pretty good. Apart from my taper panic when my shin/calf niggle came back I was fully prepared and feeling good. The niggle was a problem psychologically though. I fully admit I’m a paranoid runner and part of me honestly wondered if my niggle would blow up during the race and I would have to DNF or limp round. But when I put that worry to one side, without sounding arrogant here, I knew I could do OK barring any uncontrollable factors (because in a marathon nothing is a given).

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The morning…

Race morning started at 5am. I’d had a good night sleep and was used to this sort of wake up time so was raring to go. My only one stress and, sorry if this is TMI, but I didn’t have a successful loo visit. I wasn’t too concerned as I knew I had hours before the race to get that sorted.

I made my breakfast (porridge) and we headed off. I ate it en route as I wanted to leave it as late as I feasibly could (though it was still about 6am – four hours before the race).

IMG_1457 Oats, chia seeds and almond milk

We stopped at a services about half-way there and I got a coffee. Hilariously the server asked if I was off to play volleyball. I said no a marathon. She looked a bit blank. Ah well.

Anyway we got to Liverpool in more than enough time. In fact we got there at 7am which was a little too early. My dad, a hardcore Liverpool FC fan, suggested we drive to Anfield so he could see the stadium as he wouldn’t get to see it otherwise. In the end it was lucky we arrived so early because it was a nightmare trying to get to the car park we wanted. We parked in Liverpool One shopping centre car park which was right near the start and also near where we were going for lunch afterwards (but it cost £13!). Thankfully though they had nice toilets and my previous situation was amended 😉

At 8am I had a Beet It flapjack to keep me ‘topped up’. I didn’t want to eat too much closer to the race but knew I needed something.

IMG_1461 In my ‘volleyball’ gear mid-mouthful

Like normal the only thing I drank that morning was a small Americano. I’m always so worried I’ll need to pee mid-race otherwise.

The weather was chilly but it was humid and ‘close’. I started to panic over what I’d decided to wear for the race. It wasn’t as warm as I thought it would be and instantly felt stupid only wearing a crop-top.

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But there was nothing that could be done about it at this point. I kept my layers on though as we walked to the race village. We met up with my grandparents, who had travelled from Llandudno in North Wales, and had a mosey around.

IMG_1463My dad was great at pointing out the different landmarks to me and humorously explaining to me that when I’m running I was to ignore the Everton FC stadium but enjoy running near the Anfield Stadium (of which we had seen that morning) 😉 He wore his Liverpool FC shirt especially for the race.

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The half marathon started at 9am so there were loads of runners and supporters heading to the start. I only saw a few other marathoners (wearing green bibs) around as we were so early. But this was great because it meant I found another proper toilet nearby and got to use it twice. I didn’t use a portable loo all day!!Liverpool marathon start areaThe start area was easy to get to and very low key. Having previously done the Paris and Berlin marathons this was SO different. Berlin and Paris were like military operated in order to get into your pen – in Berlin it was VERY strict.

IMG_1473We have yet to find the photo of my dad taking my photo!

Here they were very blasé and there weren’t actual physical pens. Obviously Paris and Berlin are massive races so I guess that makes sense. There were around 2.5k runners for this compared to 40k for Berlin! Your bib number corresponded to the corral area you should be and mine began with a ‘2’ which meant it was quite near the front (when I entered the race I put a faster time than I realistically expected to ensure I could run easily and not have to dodge people). It wasn’t crowded at all and the pacers basically just found the best open spaces they could without regard to the corrals. I positioned myself in front of the 3:30 pacer only because he had such a crowd around him and I didn’t want to use the pacer or get caught up.

Originally my dad and grandparents were going to leave me 30 minutes before but as it was so relaxed we found they could stand next to me (behind the barriers) and actually see me off. This also meant I could remove one layer at a time, acclimatising to the temperature, rather than stand shivering.

Just before the start I saw my friend, Matt, who I knew from the Marathon Talk weekend and Twitter so it was nice to chat to him too (he won a place, lucky him!). We wished each other luck and got ready to start (he scored a nice PB – well done him!).

The race…

The course isn’t flat though it isn’t crazily hilly either. But having only done flat marathons I knew this would add a bit of uncontrollability to my race plan.Liverpool Marathon Elevation

My plan was to run the first 10 miles at just under 8min/miles, which should feel easy. I see it as a way of respecting the distance. Personally, getting in those first miles shouldn’t feel hard otherwise you’re going to blow up later. Every good race I’ve had has started slower and got faster. (This is my personal opinion, other strategies are out there!)

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By and large I stuck to it. There were a few sneaky inclines but also some down hills so it felt good. Most of the time I was stopping myself from going faster. Unlike Paris or Berlin, there weren’t swarms of runners around me all the time. I was rarely completely alone but it was sparse. This was actually quite nice. Yes Paris and Berlin are amazing races and feel hugely epic because of how big they are, but it was nice doing a smaller marathon. There seemed less pressure. There were also fewer spectators, but those who were there cheered and shouted with fantastic enthusiasm.

On the first mile I felt chilly but then as I was running it got very warm. I was grateful to have stuck with the crop top…plus in my head it made me feel speedy and elite 😉 Channelling my inner Paula!

Much to my dad’s annoyance I actually didn’t see Anfield – or at least I didn’t notice it, whereas I fully noticed Goodison Stadium. I think this is because we fully ran around Goodison whereas we just ran past Anfield. He was not amused. Stanley park was lovely and scenic, though a little undulating. There was some great live music around the course as well – really fantastic! There was also a great point in the course where you could see the entire city skyline which was amazing.

I could feel my shin/calf but not worryingly so, though I did worry about it. I pushed it to the back of my mind knowing there was nothing I could do but hope it would disappear and not blow up. Spoiler alert: it did disappear after 10 miles. Other than that discomfort, everything else felt good. I felt nice and comfortable, though I was looking forward to my podcast which I would listen to after 10 miles.

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I tried to split the marathon into manageable chunks so it wasn’t as insurmountable. My first milestone was 10k just because that’s a significant distance, then eight miles because that’s when I had my first gel. Handily because it was such a smaller race I had given my other two gels to my dad so I only needed to hold on to one until mile 12 where they were going to be. Then they’d give me my other two gels and by mile 13 I would take the second so I really didn’t have to hold too much the entire race.

IMG_1496(Source: Liverpool Echo)

At mile 10 I put the BBC 5 Live film review podcast and was (like a super geek) excited because it had the Jurassic World review (I’m a huge Jurassic Park fan). This helped the monotony of the race as the scenery wasn’t hugely exciting.

What I will say though is Liverpool scenery is really no less exciting at these points than Paris or Berlin really. I mean, there are buildings, some are significant, some aren’t. You’re still running a stupid number of miles. Paris was probably a bit more ‘pretty’ but really it didn’t matter too much to me. What was significantly different was the fact that the supporters were far more enthusiastic and supportive – even though there were less of them. For most of the time I was surrounded by male runners so it was nice to see the supporters get really excited when I passed shouting things like “you go girl!” or “do it for the girls!”. Honestly I lost count how many times people cheered something at me because I was female. I also got called “lass” a lot. This truly made the race for me. It made me feel like an individual, not just one in a huge crowd. I smiled, waved and gave thumbs up all the way around the course.

I knew there was a significant hill around mile 12, but I also knew somewhere afterwards my grandparents and dad would be there. That hill was tough and seemed to go on forever but there were lots of support and a samba band which really helped.

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I got to the top and turned the corner and saw my family from afar. Ahh what a sight for sore eyes 🙂 My granddad had my gels and ran with me a little like a relay runner to hand them to me. It was lovely. I told them it was going well and off I went.

My plan for 10-20 miles had been to increase the pace to around 7.45min/miles, but I started to lag a little from 14-18 miles. I find those miles the dead miles. You’re not far enough along to be out of the woods but you’ve still ran quite a way to be tired. The inclines and the heat were taxing me psychologically and physically. I made sure to drink lots on the way round.

My last gel was just after 18 miles. The 18 mile point is great because you run a tiny out and back up Penny Lane and obviously the Beatles’ Penny Lane song was at full volume. It lifted me a little. I just had to get to 20 miles, my next check point.

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When I got to 20 miles I switched the podcast to music and went into race mode. The first song was a Linkin Park track (Bleed It Out? I can’t remember now) and it was like a jolt of energy surged through me. Now was the time to increase the pace, let myself go a little. Not too soon though – 10k is still a way to go.

I found myself overtaking people and getting lots of cheers from spectators. I felt fantastic and really got into the music. I tried to smile as much as I could to trick myself into thinking there was no effort or fatigue. My soundtrack was pushing me along and I felt confident. A line of traffic was on one side of the road as we ran along it and I waved and smiled at people in their cars and some of them tooted their horns or shouted out the window – it was great!

Around mile 22 we turned to go along the river front and found the wind blowing against us. Ahh this was tough. Mentally I was in a great place but physically it was hard work. My watch seemed to be completely out from the mile markers now as well. I reckon going through all the parks and tall buildings messed with the satellites. I couldn’t take what it was telling me for certain so I just ran on feel ignoring it completely, just waiting for each new mile marker.

I expected to see my dad sometime around mile 22 but as I kept running and running along this long stretch of path along the water it was clear he wasn’t there. This path seemed to go on forever! When I got to mile 23 I attempted to work out the maths of what time I could get if I ran 8min/miles to the finish. A PB was a certainty at this point but how much sub-3:30 could I manage? My brain hurt thinking about it.

I kept pushing and finally we moved slightly off the waterfront (mile 25?) and I saw him on the road. He cheered me on and I remember shouting “I’d like to stop now please!”. I just kept thinking “8 minutes or less till I finish”. Then back to the waterfront again with the wind.

As I saw the finish ahead I surged forward. I had overtaken a number of people and ran down the finishing straight on my own. Now bear with me, allow me to have my self-indulgent moment…I imagined myself to be like Jo Pavey finishing a race, to the crowds cheering me. The only thing to kill the moment somewhat was an incredibly painful stitch in my side. It was agony! But I tried to smile and not grimace as I ran across the finish line – the announcer person saying “and she’s smiling – she certainly does have something to smile about with that time!” which was lovely.

I remember walking and feeling very dizzy and tired, and the stitch still there. But then a medal was given to me and I saw my grandparents and all was right again. It was so lovely to see friendly faces so soon after finishing!

Two different men came up to me, one thanking me (I have no idea what for!) and shook my hand, and the other said I had a great finish. Always nice to hear 🙂

I then had to head into the Echo Arena and collect my goodie bag and T-shirt.

IMG_1483 I found someone to take a photo of me (and I returned the favour to them) and grabbed a banana, a Lucozade, the bag and my T-shirt. They had extra small!!! I was so chuffed as I was convinced it would be another T-shirt that wouldn’t fit me.

IMG_1477 Then like a bad joke we had to walk up the steps to get out. I saw lots of people just sat down but I wanted to get outside to see my family. Those steps, I mean, come on people!

IMG_1487I would like to thank the Liverpool marathon for having such a great coloured T-shirt as it matched perfectly with my headband 😉

I was sore, tired and needed water as I was so thirsty but otherwise I was OK. I sat down and just smiled. My dad appeared a few minutes later (remember he was at mile 25) looking slightly harassed and sweaty, bless him (at that point he’d walked almost 30,000 steps!) He asked how I did and, do you know, I wasn’t even sure! I knew I’d gotten sub 3:30 (my goal) but the exact time I didn’t know. I checked my watch and was just so pleased!

image Official results

17th female!! I’m over the moon 🙂

We headed (slowly) back to the shopping area and it was like I was walking on a cloud of happiness (a painful cloud, but happy nonetheless). I wasn’t limping, my calf/shin felt fine, I just felt general fatigue and muscle soreness.

I was going to head back to the car to change but decided I couldn’t be bothered so we headed to the restaurant of choice for the post-marathon meal.

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Of course it would be Jamie’s Italian 😉 It was the obvious choice and close to the finish and our car (fate). We’d pre-booked the week before to avoid disappointment as well. It was quite busy so this was a smart move. I had a quick wash of my hands, arm and face in the bathroom and started to feel human again.

I don’t even look at the menu anymore, I already know what to have: Turkey Milanese. As I have a Gold Member’s card we got a little bruschetta starter as well for free. Very tasty: mozzarella, basil, sundried tomatoes and bread. We also shared between us polenta chips and ‘funky’ (herby) chips.

Jamie's Italian LiverpoolFor pudding I had my usual brownie with caramelised popcorn and vanilla ice cream. Ahh heaven. I’d say refuelling was absolutely spot on – eating all this about an hour after finishing was perfect. NO HEADACHE!!!!

And then it was time to say goodbye to part of my super support crew. My grandparents were awesome support and it was lovely to see them and for them to see me run (they’re very sport-focused). I’m so grateful they came to watch!

Then into the car for a delightful four hour drive home.

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My dad listened to some football, I watched Downton Abbey on my iPad – perfect!

The take away…

Training for a marathon makes recovering from a marathon easier. Who’d have thought, eh? 😉

IMG_1507This race was fantastic. The organisation, the course, the support, the goodie bag, the medal…all really good.

Liverpool marathon goodie bag Lots of High5 goodies and the medal glitters!

My only two disappointments were that I couldn’t really smash (relative term here) the pace out more than I tried on those last four miles because of that damn wind. But I didn’t feel like it sucked my spirit as some windy races have done. I still felt in the zone and in control, to some extent. And (apart from the stitch) I felt awesome.

The second disappointment was hearing a rather lukewarm review of Jurassic World…

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Have you ever done a Rock and Roll race before? It was great to have so many live bands/music round the course.

How quickly do you refuel after a hard race/workout?

Has a race ever sorted a niggle/injury out for you? My niggle seems to have disappeared (for now)! I haven’t run on it yet though…

**I feel cheeky stealing and including the official photos in this post without paying for them. I know I’ve done it before in other posts but I’m having a change of morals. If you’re interested you can look at them HERE on the website**

23 thoughts on “Rock and Roll Liverpool Marathon

  1. BOOM!!!! Oh Anna I’m so pleased for you!! I was taking part in a race the same day you were running your marathon but the first thing I did on my way home was to see how much you’d smashed the race by (I knew you’d PB, I just wasn’t sure how significantly!)

    Great report – I bet it was lovely to have your family with you, especially as the race wasn’t local for you. I love that you got called ‘lass’ a lot 🙂

    Major t-shirt envy going on here too by the way 😉

  2. Well done! Awesome stuff! Internet high fives etc!!!!
    17 th female is amazing!!! You smashed your target too! It is so good to see that all your training left you with such a brilliant day (and I know you can have good training and be unlucky on the day)- you really deserved it after all your strength training and coming back after injury.
    I really REALLY want to do a rock and roll race- we had signed up to the Oslo half last summer, but it was cancelled. Then we looked at Nice (they did a 10 mile one) but that was not on either. The medals are just so cool, and I love races with live bands anyway.
    I think Liverpool sounds like a good balance- a big enough race to have some good crowd support and a good medal etc, but not so big that it is scary (like London or something).
    After Brighton I was hungry but I seem to get a weird stomach (sort of a bit bloated) so I can’t normally manage a big meal- we had a nice meal at Bill’s and then I had a cinnamon roll and some snacks later, although I woke up really hungry at about 5am.
    Although my legs were pretty smashed, they were not as bad as after Stockholm so I knew I had trained better (and I think with more years running behind me my body was more used to recovery too).
    So happy that it went so well for you 🙂
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…St Albans Half 2015- for the love of an ice lollyMy Profile

    • Haha I love the Internet high fives!
      Initially I wasn’t fussed by the whole Rock n Roll thing – I thought it would be a bit pants. But I was pleasantly surprised. There were so many bands, and really good as well!
      Yeah the marathon tends to mess my tummy around a lot. It’s usually the next day I get seriously hungry though, and generally through the week.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Rants and Raves #14My Profile

  3. Epic recap! I’m glad that Rock N Roll finally sorted out the live music for the marathoners this year: when I ran the race last year, most of the bands packed up after the runners from the Half had gone past!

    I was tracking you live as the trail race I was going to do wasn’t viable due to it sheeting it down with rain and my hamstring strain, so I had Facebook updates whenever you passed a particular marker. I wasn’t sure how you were pacing though and I always find your splits really interesting: you don’t run like anyone else I’ve ever seen (and I mean that in a good way). Most people either have fairly significant positive or negative splits, but you can have a ‘bad’ (for you, not me!) or slower mile and bounce back from it straight away. Unless it’s due to a huge difference in terrain, once I slow down I go down. My spirit just drops and I rarely speed up again. I need to learn some resilience from you.

    It’s strange to see such familiar scenery but with someone looking strong and smiling in their photos: I certainly wasn’t in mine! I hope I wasn’t misleading when I said the course was quite flat: I remembered it as such, and looking at that course profile/elevation, I can’t equate it to the race I ran at all! I only even remember going up a hill at mile 8 and mile 12, and everything else seemed totally flat for some reason. That bit along the river at the end is always windy: the Liverbird Marathon I’ve done twice at the end of December runs up and down that stretch five times and in the depths of winter the wind is enough to drive you absolutely insane. You’d think it would be behind you at some point…but nope.

    Your porridge photo reminded me to thank you for telling me how to make it – I’m addicted to ‘Anna-style’ porridge now, even though I let it cool off completely while the weather is so bloody humid.

    Fantastic time, equally amazing recap. Well done 😀
    Jess @ One Step Closer recently posted…Posts That Piqued My Interest #8My Profile

    • It was really strange because I honestly felt I was flagging around 18 miles but when I got to 20 miles and put music on it felt like a whole different race. The music definitely helped!
      Yeah the course wasn’t flat, but it wasn’t hilly. It did make it interesting though as pancake flat races can be a bit monotonous. I don’t remember the hill at mile 8 but mile 12 was tough.
      Ahh so glad the porridge is working well for you 🙂
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Rants and Raves #14My Profile

  4. Hahaha love the takeaway!!
    Congrats on an epic time there 🙂 reading this makes me all the more excited to tackle GNR in September! But tell me, how on earth to you remember what happens in each mile so well?
    Pip {Cherries & Chisme} recently posted…From AboveMy Profile

    • GNR will be AWESOME. It’s on my bucket list for definite!
      I just remember certain landmarks I guess. Things that bring back memories. It’s a long time to be running and when something of interest happens it sticks out a bit!
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Rants and Raves #14My Profile

  5. Smashed it! Woop woop! I sat waiting at parents evening on Thursday night hooked on reading your recap on my iPad – didn’t even notice the first child sit down in front of me!
    How random that you were asked if you were going to play volleyball?! Is that even a big thing in the UK?! Also, how great that you were picked out by spectators for being a ‘lass’! Big booster right there! And a lovely comment as you came through the finish too.
    I kept an eye on your progress on race day and was so happy to see you achieve such a big PB! Definitely deserved after all your hard work this year. And you are smiling in all of your race photos. It’s clear that everything worked for you on the day and that you were loving it!
    17th female? Hell yeah! 😀
    Mary recently posted…Colworth Marathon Challenge – Day 1My Profile

  6. Well done again! I love this race so much, it was my first marathon and pacing the half this year was also just as special. I secretly was wishing I was running the marathon last week though so I’ve only gone and entered next years at the early bird prices! I LOVED the penny lane loop, obviously being a penny lane strider 😉 I was pleased with the x-small t-shirt too, actually a half decent fit for a change!

    You have done amazing Anna, I’m so pleased that all your hard work and training came together on the day and you got a result you really deserved 🙂
    Helen recently posted…Rock n Roll Liverpool Half Marathon – pacing dutiesMy Profile

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