The Long and Winding Road
Since I completed Wirral Half marathon last year in 2 hours and 4 seconds and having become obsessed with the notion of “breaking” 2 hours, Liverpool Half Marathon was an important race for me. I felt I had a good shot at it because the course was reasonably flat with only one major hill at the start. Would the weather co-operate? I was in Liverpool last year when the half marathon was on and it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale. There were a lot of bedraggled runners in the cafe and I was glad I was not running! However the weather this year was looking really good and most importantly no real wind to contend with.
So everything was in place…apart from being sick in the week before the race. I will spare you the details, suffice to say it was a stomach bug which set off a reflux problem that reared its head last summer during Ripon Triathlon (but that’s another story). I was a lot better by Saturday morning so I thought I was ready to go.
The start was in the shadow of the famous Three Graces on the waterfront. It was busy with 6,500 runners taking part. Thankfully there were plenty of toilets and although I waited for about 10 minutes, I was still ready in plenty of time for the start and made my way to the 2 hour point. I took it as a good omen that this was right in front of the Liver Building. I was feeling good as we headed off and even the hill on Upper Parliament Street didn’t faze me. I noticed the 2 hour pacer was starting to pull away but wasn’t too concerned as I thought he was going too fast and that I would pace myself using my Garmin.
After completing 10km in 55 min 57 seconds, I was still on course for sub 2 hours. My inner critic was wondering if I had gone out too fast but I convinced myself that it was fine and that this was the time I needed to reach my goal. I was enjoying running round Sefton Park; it really is a jewel in Liverpool’s crown. It is a reminder of Liverpool’s rich heritage with the beautiful Palm House, vast expanse of open space and grand Victorian houses surrounding the park.
Heading away from Sefton Park, my troubles began. We had to run under an underpass and up and over to the Otterspool Promenade to start the last 4-5 miles back to the finish. I felt really dizzy as we came out of the underpass. When I got onto the prom, I started to feel really sick. It subsided if I stopped to walk and got worse when I tried to run. I also looked at my fingers and they had swollen up like fat sausages. I later wasn’t able to get my wedding ring off and it is normally loose on my fingers.
By this time, it was truly hot and I was regretting wearing my long leggings so I pulled them up to my mid-calf. But nothing was helping; I just couldn’t power through the sickness. Even when I got to 10 miles and my Garmin said 1 hour 33 minutes, I was still thinking that I could do it so tried again to push to no avail.
There were some lovely people urging me to “come on we are nearly there” and some friends gave me a boost at 12 miles so that I managed to run a bit longer. Eventually the finish appeared and there was my family with a big cheer. I finished in 2 hours, 7 minutes and 50 seconds.
I cannot pretend I was anything other than disappointed. I have examined my training regime (did I skip one training run too many?), my state of mind (I felt that it was positive on the whole), my fuelling (I was drinking an electrolyte drink through the race) but in the end I can only conclude that I was simply not well. I cannot fault the race organisation or the route which were both excellent and I would recommend this race to anyone.
I have to chalk that one up to experience and consider the other reasons why I run. Chasing PBs is only one aspect of it. I love running because I like to be outside feeling the sun on my face (rain and wind are less welcome but come with the territory); I enjoy exploring new places through running; I like feeling strong and fit and able to cope with what life can throw at you and I like meeting up with like-minded people. Races make you feel that you are part of a bigger community and I like that too.
Edinburgh Half Marathon is next at the end of May (just the small matter of Chirk Triathlon before then). One of my friends said to me this morning, perhaps you are saving the moment that you break 2 hours until you are on home soil. It will be all the sweeter when the moment does come.