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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
My 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.
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!!The 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.
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!).
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!)
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
For 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.
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? 😉
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…
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**