Linda Howell reports: Saturday 8th October dawned to less rain than expected and saw myself and my sister, Jo, heading to Sefton Park to run the “Fab Four Miler”. Billed as a warm up for the Liverpool Marathon the next day, entries were limited to 500, but as about 70 people took part, they may need to work on the marketing!
I lined up behind the pace makers – four guys dressed up as the Beatles – and off we trotted around the park. Low key doesn’t do it justice, but it was a fantastic experience and gave the opportunity to chat to people about their goals and aspirations. It also provided an element of humour to the quite frankly insane prospect of running a marathon the next day as people went different ways, half had donned their complimentary mop top wig and no-one seemed entirely sure what was going on.
On the drive back we couldn’t help but note the distinct lack of signage for the marathon. Jo assured me we were driving along part of the route, but there were no road closure signs, no mile markers, nothing…..
So it was with some relief she took me to the marathon start in Birkenhead Park bright and early on Sunday morning and found baggage buses, portable loos lots of helpful cadets and to top it off, amongst 7000 people, I bumped into Ewan Ross and Chris Collins as I dropped my bag off on the bus. Leaving my sister to battle her way back to the car against the flow of the afore mentioned 7000 people – sorry Jo, the three of us headed for a last toilet stop and into our pens.
We were promised a 9:30am prompt start, hmmm, well the 45 minute delay was taken largely with good humour. Random conversations picked up between people who just happened to be standing next to each other, we discussed the weather, which thankfully hadn’t delivered the forecast torrential rain, training plans, strategies, the course, how men were so lucky in terms of emergency toilet stops….
Eventually a five minute start warning was given and this was it…
Without providing a blow by blow account, the first 6ish miles were mildly undulating, I’d seen my support crew shouting enthusiastically and I was feeling good. Then we hit the coast, and what felt like a wall of wind. I tried to tuck in behind the two guys ahead of me, but it did little to help and I used a lot of energy to maintain forward motion. Happily, we turned and had it behind us for a mile, how it doesn’t feel as strong when it’s with you remains a mystery!
The next few miles were fairly uneventful, wind, hill, wind, flat and a bit of an extra head wind just for good measure whilst going up hill.
As we started on the south side of the Mersey and Liverpool City Centre is on the North, we had to traverse a large body of water. This was achieved by going through a 2mile ish tunnel. I had been dreading the incline, but found it OK, though I started feeling a bit claustrophobic and nauseas – not something I’d considered having to contend with.
The highlight for me was emerging from the tunnel to a wall of sound, a large percussion band was supported by throngs of cheering supporters.
Then followed undulations, but going through the city centre the support was amazing. We were at 14miles and I was starting to tire, the support really gave me the boost I needed.
Next we tackled Parliament Hill, the clue’s in the name, it’s a good mile of up, made much more palatable by Sarah Rock and her parents being shortly after the summit and cheering loudly. Her Dad’s advice of running faster was great, though not achievable by that point! Having read Mike’s report from Chester I fully agree, you have to re-assess your goals, and when your quads have cramped it’s unrealistic to think you can maintain the pace however willing the rest of your body may be.
And so it was that I ran/jog/walked around the last ten miles of Sefton Park, Princes Park and back down Parliament Hill.
It was both my darkest park of the day and the brightest. The support and encouragement people give you to get going again, and the cheers when you do really do help. I had to keep telling myself that I could do it, that it didn’t matter if I had to walk a bit, it was “only” 10km, I could do a 10km.
I was determined to run the last mile, and I did, it was flat and the support was fantastic. I heard my brother in law shouting at around 25.5miles and it was enough for me to dig that little bit deeper and pick it up a bit for the finish.
Jo found me about ten minutes later staggering around the baggage retrieval and meeting area having to concentrate very hard on getting my leg into my trousers, thankfully she has a three year old and is very good at coping with such sights 😉
It may not have been a shining moment for me, but this marathon experience taught me a lot about myself, what happens when you don’t fully respect the distance, the need for good preparation and how fantastic complete strangers can be.
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