I came into this weekend having not specifically trained for this marathon, however, with starting my Berlin Marathon 4 weeks ago and starting my 150 day run streak challenge 31 days before this weekend, my fitness levels were probably at the highest they have been for any of my races to date. I was hoping that this would help me get around the marathon with fewer issues than I had during my first marathon in Paris last month. My main goal for this marathon was to beat that time 4:05:06 time I set in Paris and hopefully run under 4hrs. After suffering with the heat in Paris, I was watching the weather like a hawk before this weekend. When I first checked the weather we were set for a scorching 26c race day, but as the week went on this warm weather thankfully came forward a couple of days. Leaving me with 22c for Saturday’s 5k and a pleasant cloudy 14c for the marathon, ideal weather, although I hadn’t factored in how humid it would be. This was my first time running a Rock n Roll event, I did have my eye on the Las Vegas marathon later in the year having watched some YouTube clips of the runners going down the Las Vegas strip at night and the spectacular finish in front of the Mirage with the volcano erupting and lasers flashing across the finish. I was expecting big things from this week.
Rock n Roll Liverpool 5k & Expo (Saturday)
I began my weekend with a 45 min drive into Liverpool on Saturday, I got there early to collect my bib for the 5k race. I had a wander around the expo whilst waiting for the 5k corrals to open up. The expo was pretty small, especially in comparison to the Paris Marathon expo but they had a few good stalls and there was a guy doing a talk about the Breaking2 attempt by Nike which I found really interesting, so interesting I had lost track of time and had to make a dash to the 5k.
The 5k race started alongside the river Mersey and ran around the docks before finishing up inside the Echo Arena, I was hoping that the finish would have some lasers.
I was in corral 3 having entered an estimated finish time of 25 mins, I wasn’t planning on running a quick 5k with running the marathon the following day. I would need all of my energy for that PB attempt. I managed to get right to the front of corral 3 and we were held at the start line as corral 2 headed out on their way. I have never lined up at the front before and this persuaded me to run a little quicker at the start. Two other guys set off fast in front of me, I let them go but ran my quickest ever 1 mile at 6:06, followed by a 6:08 and 6:23. The course was perfectly flat so I managed to keep my pace going all of the way around, beating my 5k PB by 1:52 clocking up a 18:06, the Rock n Roll app put me in 161st overall. I later learnt that the 1st wave had been lead on a slightly different route running under distance which must have been gutting for those guys, especially the ones who ran a PB only to find they had ran short.
After the 5k race I headed back into the expo to collect my bib for the marathon then headed back home.
Rock n Roll Liverpool Marathon (Sunday)
Marathon day started off the same as the Saturday with me driving into Liverpool, however, this time I set off a little later with already collecting my bib and the later 10am marathon start. This time I came across traffic on the way and only made it to the arena with 40 mins to go, still needing to do the bag drop, load my gels etc and the all-important toilet break. Given the increased security checks the queue to get into the arena for bag drop or gear check as they call it in America (Rock n Roll is an American company) was massive, I did have a little panic moment that I wouldn’t make the start line at this point and began to wonder whether I would be able to run with my back pack, I was using the drop bag we were given at the Paris marathon which was small but with it containing all my post-race recovery drinks and food it would bounce too much. Fortunately the queue was moving pretty quickly and I got into the arena, emptied out my gels and got my belt loaded ready to run. The toilet queues were big but again, luckily with staging out of an arena, there were a lot of toilets so this wasn’t a problem either. The weather this morning felt chilly so I warmed up inside for 15-mins before jogging over to the start line, to find the start had been delayed by 15 minutes due to the increased security checks, I panicked over nothing in the end. I killed the time by having a slow jog around the car park before stretching out some more. I was in corral 4 today which went off in the second wave.
Mile 1 – 6: 8:14, 8:29, 8:16, 8:08, 8:17, 8:23
Here we go, race time. On your marks, get set and go for a slow steady run for the next 3 – 4 hours. The start line was quite narrow but we were split into around 20 corrals, I was starting in corral 4 which went off with corral 3, 1 minute after 1 and 2 had gone. This spread the runners out really well, meaning I was able to find my own space and go at the pace I wanted to. I hadn’t given a huge amount of thought around my pacing for this marathon, I was happy to just run at what felt comfortable but keep it quicker than the 9-min pace I ran Paris in. As you can see above, I went off at 8:14 pace and thought to myself straight away that this is far far too fast for me but I would go with it and just slow down later on. 3-miles in was one of the low-lights of the whole marathon for me, a nice piece of road kill on the running line, guts hanging out and brains splattered, had I ate my breakfast any later than 6am, it would have been on the road with the hedgehog too. Not nice, I would have thought things like that would be cleared up? Maybe I am being picky there. Anyway, the first 5 miles went by and felt comfortable despite running at what I thought was a too fast pace, so far it had generally been all up hill with mile 6 ran in Stanley Park going from Goodison Park to Anfield. That first 10k was done in 51:44, a time which is quicker than my first ever 10k race exactly 12 months ago this weekend.
Mile 7 – 13: 8:15, 8:23, 7:52, 8:19, 8:06, 8:26, 8:02
Continuing on for the first 6 miles, I was able to keep the pace in low – mid 8 min/mile and starting to gain more confidence in my ability to run at a fairly decent pace, obviously, the training over the last 4 weeks was showing here. At the 8-mile mark we reached the high point on the course and began a 2-mile downhill section, now I’m not sure if it is just me or not but I have a love hate relationship with downhills, I love that they give me a rest and I can get my breathing sorted again but then also I hate the knee pain I get from running down and no doubt holding myself back. Needless to say, these 2 miles were 2 of the quickest. By this stage, we were back in the city centre again and the atmosphere was electric! So many people out cheering us on giving us all such a huge boost, from here we headed out to China Town and again the crowd were amazing here too. I had reach the half way point in 1hr 48mins, a time good enough for my 3rd faster half marathon ever!! I did think to myself when that flashed up on my watch, “I have gone out far to fast here, this is going to come back to haunt me”.
Mile 14 – 20: 8:16, 8:08, 8:28, 8:26, 8:33, 11:58, 8:47
Miles 14 – 18 were mostly through Princes Park & Sefton Park, the crowds had thinned out a lot by this point and I was starting to feel it, I am not sure whether I was actually getting tired and fatigued or mentally from the start of the race I had mile 16 in the back of my mind, this was as far as I ran in Paris without stopping but then had a wobble between 16 – 20, so all along I kept thinking, run past mile 17, keep going, go further than Paris. Which I did do, but being in the park and running pretty much by myself at this stage, I started thinking that I need to stop and walk soon. As mile 18 was approaching I started to feel really ill and was sweating a lot, I spotted a water station on the other side of the road and pushed myself on to get to the turnaround point then I could take on some water and cool down. This turnaround point felt like miles away but finally I got there I stopped and walked a little while, tipped a bottle of water over my head and neck (bear in mind, it was particularly hot today) got a second bottle to drink and decided I would eat my Clif Bar for a protein boost but I just could not swallow it, my mouth was so dry. I then felt a little dizzy, so took a toilet break in a nearby portaloo and carried on my way with some very wobbly legs, losing well over 3 minutes in mile 19. As I had set off I was joined by the 3:45 pace team who had such energy around them, I thought if I can keep up with these guys then I might come in around 3hr 50 (I had started in front of the 3:45 guys). Mile 20 is somewhat of a blur, but at 8:47 I was somewhat getting back on track, I took my 3rd Science in Sport Go Energy gel at this point, after putting it off for the past 10 mins with feeling ill, I was thinking that this energy might at least get me to the finish around a 9min pace.
Mile 21 – 26.2: 8:29, 8:44, 8:24, 8:00, 7:35, 7:20
The next 2 miles we were out of the park and running on the streets with some more crowd support. I was fighting hard to hang on to the back of the pace team but even a few meters back you could still feel the energy and buzz from these guys, I do think now, had I not picked them up at mile 19 I would have really struggled to finish this marathon off. Whilst these 2 miles were slow again, having someone nearby to chase down helped a lot. I also picked up a Lucozade Sport from the water station at mile 22, this coupled with the SiS Gel really picked me up, I wasn’t feeling as hot and sweaty now and able to run comfortably again, my breathing was under control, things were feeling good again. After chatting to one of the pace girls for a few minutes I found that they were running 2 mins ahead of schedule and their elapsed time so far was 2 minutes behind mine, meaning I was on for roughly a 3:45 time, hearing that gave me a huge boost, I was set for a PB and smashing my Paris time by 20 minutes if I stuck with them. She said to kick on ahead over these last 4 miles if we feel ok. 4-miles is what I have been running a lot as part of my training plan, I pictured this as my usual 4-mile run to the train station and back, I know I can comfortably run that at a 7:20 pace and this last 4-miles in Liverpool was flat so I went for it, mile 23 wasn’t that quick but I worked out from here if I could manage to run the last 5k under 23 mins then I might have a shot at a 3hr 30 something marathon, this sounds so much better than a 3hr 40 odd so I pushed harder, running an 8 min, 7:35 and 7:20 last 3 miles, running that last 5k in 22:56. The crowd support and cheering as I came down that finish straight was unbelievable, I can’t remember what the finish in Paris was like, that was all a blur but this time I took it in, I looked around as I sprinted home, I even remember to throw my arms in the arm to celebrate this time and that was it, my second marathon was complete.
My watch was showing just under marathon distance and a time of 3:39:20, I was a little nervous that the shorter distance might put my official time over 3:40, which still would have absolutely smashed my PB by 25 minutes. Thankfully, the app was on my side, I had run the marathon in 3:39:16, my goal of running a sub 4 marathon was complete. I finished up 556th overall out of 2,972, 506 male and 97 in my age category, however, looking at the race times, I believe these figures are determined by the gun time not chip time, a lot of runners ranked above me actually ran slower times? Very strange way of doing it, it is the same for the 5k positions as well.
The marathon medal is so cool and very Rock n Roll, see what I did there?? As I ran on both days I also received the Remix medal too, which is absolutely huge!!!
I came into this marathon feeling so much more confident about my running, fitness and training than I did when I went into Paris. Had I ran slower than Paris then I would have been seriously disappointed. The weather was on my side, although humid, it was not baking hot full sun. I am so so happy with my new marathon PB of 3:39:16, especially given that this course was not as flat as Paris, to get this time now is ahead of schedule, this is the kind of time I would like to have run in Berlin.
As for Rock n Roll, I think their organisation was spot on, a slight blip with the delayed start but this was managed impeccably and to be honest, given what has happened this week nobody can complain about taking a few extra minutes to carry out security checks. The entertainment around the course was like nothing I have experienced before, pretty much a band every mile of the route, it was fantastic and those medals?? They are awesome, look great, feel heavy and well made and so many to earn. I could not fault them and totally 100% recommend the Rock n Roll Liverpool Marathon to anyone. If a full marathon is not your thing then there is a choice of the Saturday 5k or on Sunday there was a half marathon and 1 mile run too. Lots to chose from.