Calm down, calm down

The Liverpool Half Marathon and making peace with my pace

When I last wrote, I was a bit grumpy (FINE, I was a miserable cow). So much so that people IRL were asking if I was ok. I felt a bit embarrassed about spilling my guts onto the internet, simply because I was in a bad mood, felt fat, and had had a couple of poor runs.

So, following my grumpy blog, I took myself for a 5 mile trot in the early evening sun, and the same again a day later with the Massey lot. It was like medicine, and when we ran through fields overlooking Kenilworth Castle, I nearly wept. Not because I was worrying about being too hot, slow or shit… but because I genuinely felt super happy and at peace with myself.

I tried to hold onto that feeling for a few more days, as the Liverpool Half Marathon loomed in my diary. As ever, I hadn’t thought about the logistics of the whole thing until the day before, and it became apparent how ill prepared I was on the day itself.

The Liverpool Half Marathon is part of the Rock n Roll Marathon Series. A global series of events, it promises great medals, excellent t shirts, proper race expo’s and a ‘big race feel’ similar to the World Majors. I had entered the Saturday 5k and the Sunday half marathon, which meant double medals plus an extra medal for doing the lot. Mmm….medals.

However, as things are absolute carnage at home at the minute (see below), not only was my husband not joining me in the road trip to Liverpool, in favour of, I dunno, knocking down more walls; but I would also have our 5 year old boy cramping my style.

So the Saturday involved some changes to the ‘plan’. I didn’t make the Saturday 5k, too complicated getting in and out of Liverpool just for a 30 minute run (WHY don’t these events have a creche?) Instead, I drove up to my mothers in Cheshire, caught up on the Royal Wedding highlights (was ambivalent until I saw the bride, and then I exploded into a snotty weeping mess), then ditched my kid with my sister and headed for Liverpool.

Lisa kindly offered me a share in her hotel room, which was right by the Albert Dock. We sorted our kit out, then went for a wander and a G&T, before getting back to the hotel room for an early night. I was knackered. Driving for hours, not eating enough, walking around too much… not the best race prep. I was nervous about the weather forecast… blinding hot sun.

Growing up in the North West, we often had days out in Liverpool. I’ve always loved it nearly as much as my home town of Manchester. It so cool, man. Gathering on the Albert Dock with thousands of other runners, the place was LOUD. We met with some other Masseys, the usual selfie business went down, Lisa and I posing with our makeshift water bottles (rinsed out fruit shoot ones) — see what I mean about prep?

It was a really professional, well managed race. Everything just ‘worked.’ Bag drop, toilet queue, all the business which can cause anxiety on race morning, was all smooth as. We joined our pen, alarmed that we seemed to be about ten pens of our similarly paced pals, and slowly trudged towards the start line, which took nearly half an hour. The advantage of starting at 9am slipped away, and by the time we started running (with ‘Highway to Hell’ as the soundtrack) it really was boiling.

My goal with Liverpool was to start heading back into the vicinity of my 2’ 09” PB. I’ve got a solid base of training, so thought 2:15–2:20 would be manageable. I found the 2:15 pacer and stuck to her gang. I loved loved loved the first 5k, winding round the city centre, along the Albert Dock, past The Cavern Club and statue of Cilla, and nipping in between the tall buildings which provided shade. There were live music bands and singers dotted around the course, my favourite being a Beatles tribute as we headed through China Town. I now know that ‘Love Me Do’ has the perfect beat for good cadence…I bounced along like a happy moron and kept the 2:15 pacer in sight. Lisa was long gone by now. I didn’t mind, I felt a 2:15 really might be possible, at the very least a sub 2:20.

As we headed out of the city centre, I was overtaken by an inflatable dinosaur on a hill. That didn’t do much for the mojo. As we weaved through some very pretty parks, my big toe started hurting a little, then really throbbing until I couldn’t concentrate. I had to STOP and TAKE OFF MY SHOE. This has never happened before. There was a bit of weird seam chafe-age going on and it took about half a mile of run-walking to get it right. By this time the 2:15 pacer was long gone and my mind started to wander towards the negative. It was BOILING now. Gels didn’t seem to help my flagging energy as my pace slowed right down. I made a deal with myself to run-walk the remaining 6 or so miles and still get in under 2:30.

I tried hard to think about anything positive, to forget my throbbing toe and my banging headache, or the fact I was suddenly, ravenously starving. I didn’t eat enough the day before, and it was starting to show now. I had very little left in the tank.

However, knowing my time wasn’t going to be breaking any kind of records took the pressure off and as I passed the mile 10 mark and joined the Promenade, I got a second wind and picked up the pace again. This section was long and boring, and went on and on. I was so glad I hadn’t upgraded to the marathon. We were in full sun now. However, I was pleased to feel able to push it and finished strong, in a personal worst time of 2:37. I’ve never checked my watch so many times in a race.

I loved the event, I really did. I think, though, that I need to make a pact with myself that I won’t enter any races from May to September. I cannot run well in hot weather, and at some points it felt slightly dangerous, as I felt sick and dizzy a few times. I collected my free beer (which I had been thinking about from 5k), put the good old oofos on, and settled down to catch up with some Massey pals. It was like being at an awesome festival, I could’ve sat there all day, but I had to drive back to Rugby, via Cheshire and collect the boy, who had had a great time swimming with my sister. I was pleased that I hadn’t pissed off too many people with my racing shenanigans, as I usually do.

So over the next few months I plan to run 10k-10 miles max, try and work on technique and speed, ready to smash my next Ultra in September.

Thanks for reading.