The Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon was an event, if I am honest, I had not really been looking forward to. Having ran the race last year I was excited for the weekend as a whole, the atmosphere, and spending some time away over the bank holiday; but the actual running side of things not so much. Those who read my blog often will know I have been struggling with my legs recently, and since the Manchester Marathon in April, my pace has yet to pick up/return. From the few longer runs I had done in prep for this event I knew I was not going to challenge my PB of 1.47, and was more on track for a sub 2 hour time. The only thing in my favour I guess was that I was not putting any pressure on myself to do well.
As soon as I started my journey to Liverpool on Saturday my dread about running began to switch to nervousness, I wanted to enjoy the run, so I really just needed my legs to feel ok. My sister, who lives in Liverpool, was also running the race along with a whole hoard of runners from her run club – The Dockside Runners. We met early on Sunday morning for a pre-race team photo and chatting to others helped dispel my nerves a little. People kept asking me what time I was hoping for and what pace I was going to run at – I honestly had no idea! It was a beautiful day in Liverpool though, blue skies and glorious sunshine, so we were all mutually agreed it was going to be a hot race however fast we were all running.
We started in an enthusiastic surge and I felt happy, I suddenly remembered how much I enjoyed this race last year and my nerves were literally left on the start line. The first section of the route winds around the Liverpool city centre, and as I weaved past the famous 'Cavern Club' I felt comfortable. As the route took a turn out of town though, I had a flashback of what was to come - not a good flashback. Firstly we climbed a long drawn out hill, and then turned left sharply to continue climbing up an even steeper one towards China Town. This was not quite so comfy on the legs. A short downhill section then led us to a third consecutive hill, even longer and even steeper than the others. It hurt and my legs did not like it at all. After these triple tests I struggled for a bit, my legs felt heavy and my pace consequently slowed. The route was kinder now as we started to head through local parkland, but I could not recover fully.
I have to say (excluding those three killer hills) I love the half marathon route. There is no section of it which is boring or dull, and the scenery is varied and interesting. The live bands playing along the route are an added bonus, as are the quirky landmarks such as the little trip we make down ‘Penny Lane’ - of The Beatles fame. It was as I turned out of one glorious parks on the route that I decided from there on I was purely running for my enjoyment. My legs did not have a time in them at all, it was hot, and I just wanted to have a happy run. This decision helped and stopped me beating myself up in my head. I relaxed and just let the miles tick by.
The last four miles of the route follows the dockside path along Liverpool’s Albert Dock. Last year there was a cruel side wind battering us runners, but this time it was perfectly still. Lovely; although we were sitting targets for the beating sun (hello sunburn). It was a tough slog and seemed a bit never ending at times, but there was something peaceful and calming about running next to the water which meant I kept going. By now I knew I was heading for around 2 hours in time, and I was hoping I could find something in my legs to pick up over the last mile and just nip under. There was nothing though, and even when I tried to exert some speed on the final stretch the finish line seemed so far away still! I crossed in 2:02. It’s not a good time at all and shows a massive regression from last year when I ran the same route in 1.49. Back home now I am disappointed in myself; not for the run, as I did the best I could on the day, but for how I have let myself/my legs get to this state. In that moment in time though I was happy to have finished and had enjoyed my Liverpool run – so a good result. Meeting up with my sister and the other Dockside Runners also helped take my mind of my time. Listening to each other recount the race it seemed everyone had found it hot, but there were still some great times recorded. I also eagerly collected by second medal (see image) – yes two medals! – which I had earned from running the race two consecutive years. If you didn’t know, the Rock ‘n’ Roll series loves its bling!
After post-race analysis was complete, my sister and I, proudly wearing our race t-shirts, hopped on bikes (see image on my super speedy hire bike!) and pedaled back down the race route to the Dockside Runners cheer station to await the marathon runners, who had started after us half marathoners. I absolutely loved spending my afternoon in the sun cheering on the runners. I didn’t know anyone running so had no fear or anxiety of trying to spot a friend (unlike the London Marathon!) and simply could just cheer, whoop, chant and high five random strangers to my heart’s content! We were positioned with roughly three miles to go and along the dock, which I knew from the half marathon was a section which had very few supporters on. The runners needed us! We enthusiastically encouraged every runner as much as we could and it was so rewarding seeing those who were walking find the will to run again, a face light up with a smile after hearing us bellow their name, and even have runners thank us saying it was just what they needed. A very rewarding role to play.
After clapping the last runner through it was time to celebrate everyone’s efforts – I was not really celebrating my run, but I was looking forward to socialising with the Dockside Runners, seeing some more of Liverpool (well some of it bars!) and not wearing any form of active wear, which is a rarity for me these days! All in all, the run was not my best performance by a long, long way; but the race weekend as a whole one of the best. See you next year Liverpool!
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...