Sunday, October 21, 2012

Liverpool Marathon

I haven't had much time to post recently as I have been to Norfolk (photos coming soon) and I've taken part in a couple of local races.
On the 30th of September I ran the "A" race along Cheshire's picturesque Sandstone Trail. This route starts in Duckington and finishes in Delamere, a distance of 17.1 miles with 655m of climbing. It was the first time that I had raced the whole route but I had left my Garmin on the kitchen table so I didn't judge the early pace very well and went off too fast. I paid for this later in the race when I slowed considerably but I still managed to run up all the hills. I was the 33rd finisher and the second in the M50 category. It was all a training run for my next race, the Liverpool Marathon.
I haven't run an Autumn marathon before and with the start for the Liverpool Marathon being only a couple of miles down the road I decided to enter this local event. I normally train for 16 weeks for my Spring marathons, but I entered this race quite late so attempted to cram my training into just 8 weeks.
The morning of the 14th dawned clear and cold; a weak autumn sun brought little warmth to the thousands of runners gathered under the trees in Birkenhead Park. From here it was possible to see the Anglican Cathedral on the other side of the River Mersey, not far from the dreaded hill of Upper Parliament Street 18 miles along the course. The race started promptly at 9.30 and 3,500 marathon and 1000 10k runners started on their individual journeys.
The course took the runners across Four Bridges then along to New Brighton, where the 10k finished. The marathon runners continued along Egremont Promenade and enjoyed stunning views of the historic Liverpool skyline. From here the race re-crossed Four Bridges and went into the Birkenhead Tunnel via Hamilton Square. The tunnel was eerily quite after the cheering and singing in the Square; only the sound of breathing and the patter of running shoes broke the silence as we crossed the half-way point. That was until we approached the tunnel junction that leads to the waterfront; a distant drumming was heard that increased in volume as the runners approached the exit. As we burst into the daylight we were greeted with the inspirational beats of the Batala drum band combined with rapturous applause from hundreds of supporters; this is what marathon running is all about!
The sun was shining brightly now so I was glad of my sunglasses. A mile out and back brought us back past the drum band then under the shadow of the iconic Liver Buildings. A few more miles and I was plodding up Upper Parliament Street. My family had gathered at the top of the hill and passed me a welcome energy drink. The course then wove through Princes Park and Sefton Park. It was here that I slowed and almost came to a halt. Marathon running at these times is totally psychological, mind over matter; your legs don't get you through the tough miles your brain does. I took stock as I plodded under the yellowing leaves on the trees, glad of  the sparse support here, making use of the relative quiet to have a think. Only 5 miles to go including a nice downhill, so I ignored the desire to stop and walk and dug in and pushed on.
Those last few miles went surprisingly quickly and I managed to pass a few other runners, some of whom had been reduced to a walk. I passed the 25mile mark as I increased my speed down Upper Parliament Street, glancing at the masses walking up the hill some 7 miles behind. Running along the Strand I could see the Liver Buildings in the distance so I knew the finish was not far. I rounded the corner at Mann Island and blew kisses and waved at the crowds as I crossed the line in 3 hours 18 minutes. I was 167th overall and 12th in my age group.
I celebrated with a few beers and a burger in Albert Dock. It was a well-organised race and a fabulous experience, I'll probably be back next year.

The Finish of the Liverpool Marathon - photo by Adam Scovell

Looking rather shattered just after Beeston
Castle on the Sandstone Trail

Near Maiden Castle, I'm still smiling (far left).
Sandstone Trail photos courtesy of
Andrew Williams (Inspiring Images).

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