By Anita Watkins
You may have gathered that I am a Lancashire lass in exile to the southern counties, as I have family still ‘up north’ I’m lucky enough not to need to shell out for hotels for events in that neck of the woods.
My brother did this event a couple of years ago in his Sergeant Pepper suit, at least I thought he did it – turns out he did the half. He had such a great time that I decided I had best give it a go.
I had a plan for this marathon, I’ve done a few before where the aim was basically to keep moving forwards and get to the end. This time, I thought, there will be a proper structured training plan (thank you Judi Bond), I’ll have an evenly paced, slow run and get to the end having walked very little of the course just inside the cut-off time.
The course starts at the historic Albert Dock where you can visit the Beatles Experience alongside loads of other interesting places. You pass by The Liver Building, The Cavern, Goodison Park, Anfield (the home of the Champions of Europe!), Penny Lane, Chinatown and just about every iconic site in the city. I believe Liverpool also has the most parkland of any UK city outside of London. The marathon goes through Stanley Park, Princes Park and Sefton Park – all of which are lovely.
The marathon was the week before the Champions League final and virtually the whole city was decked in the red of Liverpool FC, even some of those houses adjacent to the Everton Ground. It was quite a spectacle even if you aren’t a football fan.
This is a brilliant event, there is a music stand every mile or so round the course, the majority of them are live bands. Can you imagine my joy as I heard the DJ playing ‘Penny Lane’ just as I got to the top of Penny Lane? OK, it was 20 odd miles in and I was a bit delirious by then, so it took me a while to realise that the poor guy had been playing it on a loop for HOURS by the time I got there!! As someone who gets full value for money out of my entry fee I am used to the music and cheer squads being at the packing up their gear stage by the time I get there. This was not the case at Liverpool. Most stands still had live music playing, those that didn’t had a sound system and a supportive DJ. All of the aid stations were fully stocked, and the marshals were as fantastic as you could hope for.
What about ‘The Plan’? Well, the training went very well and I was totally on track to achieve my goal of ‘running’ a marathon (as opposed to completing a marathon). Then I spent the evening before with my kid brother. It’s not what you are thinking – no alcohol was consumed. Race plans were discussed in some detail, which involved a lot of supportive brotherly banter about not needing to worry too much because the sweeper bus would be going at the same pace I planned to run and I’d be on it before too long!
Well of course I set off way too fast in a determined effort to stay ahead of the bus. Not only too fast, but I got a 10K PB, and very nearly a 10 mile PB in the early part of the course – sorry Judi, I may have panicked!! There was no way I could keep that up for 26.2 miles and by the time I got to Chinatown it was getting very painful. On just about any other day I would have been grateful to get to the last 4 miles which is dead flat along the banks of the Mersey. On this day those 4 miles were into a headwind that threatened to knock your feet from under you at times. Still, I completed my sixth marathon (without even seeing the sweeper bus), I’ve forgiven my brother for doing what little brothers do, and I got my Rock’n’Roll medal!
I had a fantastic day!
Top tips for this event
⦁ Liverpudlians are fantastic!
⦁ Stick to your plan and do not let the marathon demons into your head! (This applies to any race)
⦁ Park at the Anglican Cathedral – £8 for the day, outside the road closure zone and reasonably close to the start/finish
⦁ Liverpool is surprisingly hilly, not steep but relentless for the first 22 miles
⦁ If you aren’t local, it’s a great city to spend a couple of days in.