Blue Runnings

Race Reviews, GPX files and more from North-East England

Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon – Liverpool

on 14 June 2015

Marathon

Today, I have officially knocked off a major milestone in my running journey! I’ve completed my first half marathon event, and run further than I ever have before 🙂 I entered the Rock ‘n’ Roll series half marathon in Liverpool at the start of the year looking for a big event to help carry me round, and one that was as flat as possible as battling the distance is hard enough! You’ll see on the elevation graph that Liverpool isn’t as flat as I was hoping…there’s a few 50m climbs in there I didn’t see coming, but they were all relatively shallow and fortunately all in the first half so it was almost entirely downhill for the second half! I must admit, a run like this is the best way to see a new city – there was no traffic because the roads were closed for the event, the route was designed to take you past or through the monuments and parks, and I saw far more of it than I would have done had I been walking it! The roads which had caused such baffled vexation yesterday were a breeze on the well-signed and fenced off course today! I’d have been hard pressed to go the wrong way with the number of marshalls too!

My race breakfast consisted of croissants with jam, watermelon and orange juice – nothing too heavy and hopefully a moderate mix of early access sugars and some carbs…and I pinched some cupcake mini muffin things for later. Gotta love somewhere that serves up double chocolate and blueberry mini muffins as part of its breakfast menu! Then I dragged P out of bed and he came with me to find the corrals at the start 🙂 They’d put some weird one way systems in, it turned out where we were going was literally right outside the front door of our hotel, but because we’d gone out the back door we had to walk round three other buildings and a giant ferris wheel to get to them. I have no idea how many people there are, I heard 8000 over the tannoy at the end but I don’t know if that was total runners or just one of the events as they had the full marathon running at the same time, or the whole weekend as they also had a 5k yesterday, and a kids’ one miler today!

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It took 15 mins for my section to reach the start line but once there we were straight through, no holding up waves for ages or anything here! The big difference I noticed immediately compared with the 10k events I’ve done with large numbers of people was the pacing – everyone here doing this distance was a runner, whether they were raising money for charity or not, so people had guessed their times better and all the people in the wave I was in left at a similar pace and immediately spaced out across the wide road. There were no big bands of people walking after 300m and getting in peoples’ way, noone zooming off into the distance – everyone left about the same rate. I actually followed a pair of runners from the Chase Harriers (wherever they’re from!) the entire length of the race and saw several other shirts which became very familiar across the course of the morning! There were a few people dropping down to a walk for the hills, but the roads were about 3 lanes wide at this point so passing people was no problem at all.

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For the run itself, I was really just following along in a semi daze, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, breathing steady and ignoring my watch except as a counter for when I should take my dextrose tablets. For the first half, I was taking 2 tablets every 3km, and after the 11km point I went to 2 tablets every 2km to try and help me get keep my pace steady and not be too tired as the distance covered got longer. They had several bands around the route, including two eukelele bands in the first half, which was different! The sections between bandstands were very quiet – there wasn’t a huge amount of conversation for the most part, with people just concentrating on getting round, you could just hear the gentle tread of many trainers, people breathing and the occasional beep of a watch or phone as another mile marker was passed. It was simultaneously the most peaceful and noisiest run I’ve done!

We went through the city centre and along the streets, through at least two different parks, and the last stretch was along the seafront for about 5 miles. Even the water was calm and quiet – not a huge amount of wind and no waves to speak of (I had a couple of beetroot red hot-faced sections in the first half of the race!). There were several water stations on the route, 4 or 5 I think, and they had 2 with bottles of Lucozade and gel sachets aplenty, so you could literally turn up with just your trainers if you wanted and you would have been fully catered for around the course! I stuck with just water from the stations and my own supply of dextrose tablets after my last experiences with Lucozade and gels – and raceday is not the time to be playing with fuelling tactics!

I found the stretch along the sea quite tough – not only was I getting towards the limit of what I’d run before, but it was also difficult to notice progress as it was a really long straight, and they can be really deceptive in how far away things are! Having the finish area in sight for 20 mins and it’s still miles away is quite depressing! I made it though – seeing the 10 mile marker, and then the 11 mile, knowing there was only 3.5km left and I’ve done that distance many times, and patting myself on the back for every step I took over the 18km mark as it was a new personal record for distance. I’d set myself a target of 2hr 30mins for this race, and it was looking well in hand. I crossed the finish line with mildly protesting knees and ankles in a time of 2hr 21mins by my watch – the timing beacons have kindly added an extra second onto my officially recorded time but I’ll still take that! Really really pleased with that for a first shot; two targets crossed off on the ‘Aspirations‘ page in one go and a medal well earned!

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P met me outside the arena when I’d picked up my finishing pack and t-shirt with a big hug and then came with me for a bimble back and forth along a quiet road. My legs were sore, but if I didn’t keep moving they were going to seize up something nasty. We went around the hotel and walked up to the bridge to check out the road access for getting out of the carpark and off the island – all clear, the event staff had been very prompt in clearing the corrals and opening the road access again after the marathon runners left immediately after we did. Some stretches and then straight back to the hotel room to get into a nice hot bath and fresh clothes. I love the feel of fresh socks after a run 🙂 Fresh socks and spacious shoes 🙂

It was a long drive home, but we made it in one piece, both of us very tired so it’s off to bed as soon as this is finished! Some more stretching before bed I think, the drive back didn’t really help my legs a huge amount and I’ll not be pushing the pacing for a week or two while they loosen up and recover! I may also try the iron supplement we got from the Sunderland 10k tonight – give it overnight to have some chance of being absorbed, unless it tastes horrible in which case I’ll just throw it in the bin 😉

The finisher’s pack contained many recovery aiding things – we got water, Lucozade and a banana as we passed through the tunnels into the arena itself and the pack had some energy bars, crisps and sweets in (which I didn’t eat as you can see! I have a no sweets and chocolate pact with J’s hubby at the moment). I’m getting quite a collection of gels and recovery drink mixes at the moment which I really should start trying now that this event’s out the way!

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The event t-shirt is daffodil yellow which isn’t really my colour…to be honest I probably won’t wear it, but I have it anyway!

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The thing I’m most proud of is my pace – normally I start at between 6 and 6:30 min/km and drop down to between 7 and 7:30 for the second half of a longer race but not this time! I only have 1km out of 21, and 3 half kms out of 42 over the 7min/km mark – and none of them over 7:10 🙂 very pleased with that 🙂

I must confess, I’m eyeing up the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon in Dublin at the start of August, but it’s P’s holiday time and he says I’m not allowed to fill it with races. Fair enough I guess – and I have the Great North Run in a measley 13 weeks (did you get that J?!?!) so I’ll probably hold off until after then rather than going crazy on insanely long distances. I also need to verify I can still walk in the morning…

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You can download the GPX data for this course from my Dropbox account at the link below:

GPX Data from Dropbox

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