The Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Marathon
My marathon journey started in 2013 after watching the London Marathon and deciding “why not, I’m going to have to do one at some time, it may as well be London”. Easier said than done and after losing out in the ballot and then later in the club draw, I thought ah well, maybe next year. Then in September I noticed the Rock ‘n’ Roll series who run a number of events worldwide were setting up their first marathon here in the UK, in Liverpool. I was sold, and on the 3rd September 2013 I was paid up and in. I immediately ramped up the mileage, got injured and that was me up to Christmas.
Training resumed on January 1st 2014 and after finding a 16 week schedule to start the beginning of February I was back on track and looking forward to my first crack at the marathon.
On the morning of the marathon my alarm was set for 5.45am so I could eat my porridge pots in good time before the 9.00am start. I looked out of the hotel window and could see people already making their way to the start and started to feel really excited about what the day was about. I made my way out of the hotel, saying a quick goodbye to the family who had made their way to the restaurant for their breakfast and started my short walk along the Mersey to the start.
There was also a half marathon that started at 8.00am and the PA was whipping the crowds up to a frenzy, and the first band of the day could be heard entertaining the crowds. A spectator passed by and she still had her rollers in her hair, and I thought only in Liverpool!
The event had taken over the entire Echo Arena which meant there were plenty of toilets and designated areas for changing, I didn’t have to queue once, and even the baggage area or “gear check” as they call it was seamless. I left the arena and after a short warm up I made my way to the start. They operated a numbered coral system which worked on your predicted time, it was 15 minutes before the start of the race and I walked straight into my coral and practically to the start line. After noticing a few ironman tattoo’s I took a couple of steps back and stood next to the guy in the carrot outfit!
By this time the weather looked favourable, virtually no wind with some light cloud cover and no sign of the showers that had been promised all week. The race started at the World Heritage Site, The Albert Dock on Liverpool’s Waterfront and at about 9.01am Austin Healy sent us on our way.
The first couple of miles were spent snaking along the riverside and through the city centre passing the Liver building and running along Mathew Street, home to the Cavern Club. We were then heading north out of the city on a dual carriage way to Everton which was one of the less scenic parts of the race. We did an entire lap of Goodison Park before heading back in the direction we came along and this was our first opportunity to see people running in the opposite direction, which heralded lots of encouragement back and forth particularly from the Penny Lane Striders. We then took a left into Stanley Park where we would reach 10k (42:19), we completed half a lap of the park and exited to the east to run up Arkles Lane and turned right to run past Anfield and rows of flowers laid at the memorial for the victims of Hillsborough. We then took a right and we were back in Stanley Park for a small stretch before making our way back up one of the toughest uphill sections “St. Domingo Road” which had a Batala band playing Brazilian Samba Reggae (one of the better bands on the day). We were then back on the dual carriage way heading back to the city centre and at approx. 9.5 mile two people in front of me crossed the carriage way and headed off down the opposite side of the road. I decided to follow them and it was a good job I did, there were no marshals at this point and had they not been in front I would have surely lost time heading the wrong way. We were then in the city centre and there came a section where there seemed to be cars on closed parts of the road and we were presented with a crossroads with multiple directions to go. Again I followed the people in front and after a sharp left, right, right and left we spotted a marshal and were relieved that we were still on course!
We passed through the city section and were heading back along toward the docks and the arena, the support was definitely at its most vocal in this area, where it had been more sporadic out on the other parts of the course. It was here when I first caught glimpse of the half marathon finishers with their medals and t-shirts. We made our way through China Town and an impressive Chinese arch, where the locals had come out and were waving red flags in support. We were then heading out of the city once again, but this time to the east and what you could only call the park section. I crossed half way in 1:28:31 but it was clear in my mind that I was not going to be keep that pace up, as I had started to feel cramp in my calf from 11 mile and I had a stitch threatening since before Goodison Park. First we did a lap of Princes Park, and then came Sefton Park which I am sure were beautiful but by this time I wasn’t enjoying the experience and couldn’t help but notice the lack of bands on the course. The clouds never materialised and we had run the entire route in the Sun and it was really taken its toll. I went through 20 mile in 2:22:44 and was at one of the furthest points from the finish, we headed back along a road for a mile before what was a truly horrible little twisty underpass section and into the final park of the day, Otterspool Park which at its highest point had glorious views over the Mersey. We headed down to the river and along the promenade for pretty much 4 miles except for a Wharf that you had to navigate which got the hips twisting. This brought us out on to Kings Parade for the last 400m to easily the largest crowd of the day and to the finish in 3:18:38.
I got my medal (seriously heavy metal!) and a bottle of water, before making my way into the arena to collect my Lucozade, banana, energy bars, crisps, haribo and the all-important t-shirt. I made my way up the arena steps (yes, STEPS!) to exit the arena, claim my free pint of Cobra and enjoy the rest of the day in the glorious sun with a free concert as the newest member to the marathon club.
In summary I think it was a brilliantly organised event that probably lacked a couple of marshalls, but had plenty of water, Lucozade and PowerGel stations. The best medal (and heaviest) I have seen and on a really good course, albeit a bit hillier than I was expecting. But not very Rock ‘n’ Roll during the race.
Now for 4 weeks of taking it easy, then St, Cuthbert’s Way and then to start all over again for the Yorkshire Marathon in October. Don’t have nightmares!