What a weekend!!! Our time in Liverpool exceeded all expectations and was one of the best running weekends I’ve had in a long time. The city was buzzing and the atmosphere during the races was electric. After arriving in Liverpool the Friday evening, there was a quick chance to explore the Albert Dock before an early night ahead of a busy weekend. We were very lucky to be based right by the Marks and Spencer Bank Arena (formally the Echo Arena) which was the heart of the race weekend. If you’re thinking of running the marathon I would recommend looking at the hotels close to the start, as it really saves time and hassle on race day.
I was up bright and early Saturday for the 5k run. The sun was shining, it was warm and everyone was in good spirits. The race set off in waves which meant a bit of a waiting around but allowed the course to not feel congested despite the volume of runners. The route took us round the Albert dock, up to the three graces (including the iconic Liverbuilding) and back towards the prom where we finished inside the arena. In all honesty the route is a bit of a blur I was too busy enjoying the company, and the 30 or so minutes flew by. My legs didn’t feel as fresh as I would have liked but I reminded myself I wasn’t racing on Sunday. It was just a training run for my ultra (or so I thought).
After a huge breakfast and shower we headed to the Run Fit Expo where Tissy and I were speaking later on in the day. I was really pleasantly surprised by the expo, there was everything you needed and some wonderful companies present. My other half picked up some Oofos whilst I made a beeline for the heavily discounted 2XU tri suits, goodr sunglasses and of course some flapjackery. The expo certainly isn’t on the scale of the big ones like London in terms of number of stands, but in this case the best things come in smaller packages. At London a great deal of the exhibitors are races, medal holders, photographers or charity stands, and the running stores are mixed up in amongst these giving the feeling of a large expo. Whereas Liverpool is much more condensed without compromising the stores and brands you want. I managed to come home with three bags rammed with new kit, accessories, food etc.
We took our places for the afternoon of talks, feeling slightly nervous but couldn’t wait to share my running story. Kelly and Matt were up first talking all things running, marathon stories and goals. Next up Tissy and I were talking about how running has helped us, what it means to us and our running goals and advice. We were interviewed by Esther the editor in chief of women’s running, which was such a fan girl moment as I’m a huge lover and avid reader of the magazine. The talk which followed ours is one I’ll never forget: Andy Grant introduced his story and book ‘you’ll never walk’ his inspirational and very raw account of becoming an amputee and going on to break the world record for the fastest 10k by an amputee (although sadly GWR won’t recognise this incredible achievement unless he pays thousands to fly to Dubai for a medical). After all the excitement of the day it was time for pasta and an early night.
I awoke on race morning, opened the curtains and was completely taken aback by the weather. Strong winds and heavy rain. Cursing myself for packing a vest top to run in I nervously got ready, ate my breakfast and headed to the start with my family. I had promised myself I wasn’t racing this one, that the time didn’t matter as I had already achieved my sub 4 marathon goal for the year at Manchester and this one was a tough and hilly course anyway. However walking into my pen I spotted the four hour pacer Paul Addicott and suddenly felt fired up. Coming out of the start I was flying. It was a battle between my brain and my legs with my brain screaming for me to slow down and my legs taking no notice. We headed out of the city and quickly were weaving our way up the first of the inclines towards Goodison Park and Anfield. Being a Liverpool fan I was disappointed that the route didn’t include Anfield this year (due to it coinciding with the rugby league magic weekend) and the Lap of Goodison Park did amuse me as I kept thinking how disgusted my dad would be! At 7.5km in I had my first gel and pushed on, my body feeling great and my legs feeling strong. We skirted around Anfield, surrounded by homes displaying champions league flags and descended back into the city centre. At mile 10 I spotted my family (definitely heard my mum first haha) who were by one of the bands. Running through the city centre to the melody of Hey Jude whilst the crowd were enjoying a good old Liverpudlian sing along was magical!
We were almost back at the start and close to completing the first half of the course. A few more inclines later and I hit 13.1miles in 1:52, a minute quicker than my Manchester marathon split. Much of the course after this is a blur. The number of parks, especially ones with low trees we had gone through was starting to play havoc with my eyes/ breathing due to the pollen. This made things especially tough around penny lane, but having Chelle and Sam our supporting at this point in the course really kept me going.
Soon I was onto the final 5 miles, still ahead of any schedule I had imagined, however the wind started to really increase and that’s when the wheels began to fall off. As we turned to head towards the final miles to the finish we descended onto an open path along the Mersey. The headwind was brutal, unrelenting and exhausting. I was giving it everything I had but felt like I was going nowhere. My tired body was being blown sideways and backwards and at times it was a fight against the wind just to stay on my feet. In a desperate attempt to preserve some energy I stopped to walk, my tired legs quickly stiffening up. The time began to slip away from me and I thought my final hope would be if I let the 4 hour pacer team catch me as at least I could pack in with the group. Paul’s fun bus caught me, but my tired legs were zapped and I just couldn’t keep up. I battled and battled to the end. I gave everything I had, the marathon is a beast, that final 10k will chew you up and spit you out. I reached the final 500m proud that I had given my all to this race. My decision not to take it easy and listen to my body screaming YES to the pace had worked wonders. My mum was waiting before the finish and all I needed was a quick hug to power me over the line. 4:04:20 on the official timing list and I was delighted. The hills, the weather, the mental battle certainly made this the toughest marathon I’ve ever run and to come away just five minutes behind my personal best which I ran on a flat course in perfect weather conditions felt insane. I was on top of the world (albeit a little exhausted from having gotten there). Finally for the first time in my marathon journey I felt my times had achieved a sense of consistency and knowing that I achieved this on a difficult day makes me excited for what next year will bring.
I thoroughly enjoyed Liverpool Marathon, the atmosphere was fantastic (I wish there had been some more spectator support on the course but the runners all came together and motivated each other), the route was interesting with lots of sights and some beautiful parks, there was plenty of water and SiS gels. Plus I came home with an extensive medal haul! A fab weekend all round!