Tag Archives: Liverpool

Photo of Race Angels

Angels with Sweaty Faces

It all started with an innocuous message on Messenger. “Hiya! What’s your diary like 8th April?”  A quick check of the family calendar on the wall revealed that it was currently clear but it was in the middle of the kids’ Easter holidays so there was always the possibility that we would go to Scotland.

So I replied: “Intriguing…should I clear my diary?” Well, came the reply, I’m looking for a Race Angel to help out at Manchester Marathon that day…

Now let’s rewind and explain a bit more before we go on. I had seen the Race Angels at races before. I had even been offered some help from a lovely lady in their trademark orange T shirts during the Wirral half marathon (yes, the one I did in 2 hours and 4 seconds – still gutted about those 5 seconds!) I saw them more recently at Conwy Half Marathon but thankfully didn’t need their help.

Race Angels is the brainchild of Adrienne Hall. She did her first marathon at Chester in 2013 and was a couple of miles from the end, finding the going a bit tough when she asked a spectator how far she had to go. Despite not being in running clothes or shoes, he ran with Adrienne for a little bit and told her she didn’t have far to go. Adrienne then repaid the favour at the Dublin Rock and Roll half marathon by encouraging someone to finish. He told her she was his angel and the concept was born.

I decided that it was too good an opportunity to turn down and the diary now had a very important event in it. Arrangements were made to share a lift with Peter (another Race Angel virgin!) and Julie (her second outing as a Race Angel). As we discussed after, because we hadn’t met before, it was like a weird blind date, but with it being the running community, we all got on famously and a big thanks to Julie for doing all the driving with an extra early start.

I joked beforehand that I would get all the race atmosphere without any of the performance nerves. However I still got the night before nerves that I would miss my alarm and kept waking up during the night. When the alarm went off at 5.15 am, I was very bleary eyed.

Race Angels in Warrington

The T shirt handing over ceremony!

We met up with Adrienne and Geoff in Liverpool and travelled in convoy to Warrington to meet Darren, Clare and Stephen, making up the entire team of 8 for the day. Race Angel T shirts were handed over in the car park of a Warrington hotel and then we were on our way to Manchester.

We set up shop at around mile 24. There was a water station opposite a pub where we stationed ourselves. We ran to the start to see the runners go off and lend our support.

A much needed coffee on our way back to our position at mile 24 and we were ready to put our halos on and spring into action. It felt quite privileged to see the front runners, not something I normally see in a race. It was astonishing to watch them running at a pace I would be hard pushed to sustain during a parkrun.

Photo of Race Angels

We always wanted to be on the stage!

Peter would not forgive me if I didn’t mention this: among the front runners, there were so many men with bleeding nipples, it was unbelievable. I grimaced every time I saw one and Peter thought this was hilarious so I started to laugh too. But honestly there were so many. Have they not heard of Vaseline? The pain must have been unreal.

Finally I was summoned to help. A lady in a Knowsley Harriers vest (I think) asked me to run with her as she was trying to get Good For Age qualification. Luckily I was on fresh legs so I managed to pull out my best 10K pace and saw her to mile 25 when she ran on, hopefully a bit revitalised, although I don’t know how she managed that pace at that point in the race.

From there on in, I barely stopped for the next 4 hours. I lost count of the number of people I helped but I remember that I ran with 7 people who were very emotional. Much like myself at Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon last year, the whole experience can be a bit overwhelming and I think that it’s the body’s way of releasing that tension and allowing you to get on with the job. I used that experience and tried to make them feel that it was not silly to be emotional at this point, that loads of us had got emotional during a marathon and, more importantly, they were now at mile 25 and only just over a mile to go. Other people were not so emotional but were perhaps tired and if their race had not gone to plan, maybe a bit disappointed so hopefully a friendly chat and a walk alongside them would be a pick me up.

#Visorclub rules!

I really enjoyed seeing a lot of my Twitter buddies. It was like a who’s who of the UKrunchat group! Colin and Keith Johnstone, Helen Bly, Anthony Hughes, Michele Taylor, Paul Addicott and Phil Jeffries doing their sterling work as pacers, and Michele Whiffen, and who took this great pic of us. Others waved as they went past, too many of you to mention.

All the Race Angels were working equally hard and I barely saw any of them until I stopped around 3pm. When I checked my Garmin, including the run to the start and back, I had covered nearly 16 miles! No wonder I felt tired. Nothing that a late lunch wouldn’t sort though as we watched the (rather luxurious!) sweeper bus come through.

When I said yes to Adrienne’s message, hand on heart, I didn’t really think it through. I like running, and I like meeting people so it seemed a good fit for me. So the icing on the cake came when, that evening, my social media went into overdrive with lovely comments from runners who we had helped. It felt very rewarding to hear that we had made a difference to someone’s race experience.

Hats off to Adrienne for creating a wonderful concept; proof that the running community is stuffed full of amazing people. I’ll be back at Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon proudly wearing my orange T shirt. Check out the Race Angels page on Facebook and on Twitter @RaceAngels to see if they will be at your next race!

AM finishing the marathon

42.2 kilometres – the answer to life, the universe and everything?

The roller coaster ride is over. The race is done and I have returned to walking normally – DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) has a lot to answer for! So how do I feel now about the Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon a few weeks (actually now months) on?

First, shall we go back to the start of the race? Having stayed at my sister’s the night before, (she lives within walking distance of the start), I got a great night’s sleep and did not suffer any nerves on race morning. The one good thing about doing triathlon is that when you come to do “just” a running race, there is much less to think about. So I walked along to the start to see off my cousin who was doing her very first half marathon. The race start was delayed by 15 minutes or so because the Manchester bombing the week before meant that the security at the bag drop had been more stringent. It didn’t seem to dampen the spirits and eventually with a loud cheer they were all off.

AM at the start

Fresh faced at the start. Kids with cow bells ready for cheering!

I then made my way to my allocated Corral for the start of the marathon and bumped into my parkrun/Twitter/sometime running buddy, Brian. We started in waves which is a great idea so that you can find space to run in at the start. The first band at Pier Head was fantastic. Perhaps it was the adrenaline of finally having started but their rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “You can go your own way” changed to “You can run your own way” was very stirring. Unfortunately, they were easily the best band on the course and the music went a bit downhill after that (unlike the course!)

I caught up with the 4 hours 30 minute pacer and stuck with them for a good part of the way. Both pacers were great; keeping up a running commentary and banter. We ran past both football stadiums of Everton and Liverpool with Stanley Park sandwiched between them. I have never been in Stanley park before – what a revelation! The newly restored glass house was gorgeous and I marvelled at the craftmanship in the red sandstone bandstand.

I was glad of the pacer’s advice for short steps going up hill as there were plenty at this stage! It treated us to great views of the city but I was glad to be heading back down Islington to the City Centre and the flatter part of the course.

It was at this point I needed to make a toilet stop, roughly 8-9 miles in. I heeded advice (relayed to me by Brian) from a friend who ran the London Marathon. I decided to go to the toilet at that point rather than hanging on. I believe it is rather more difficult to get off the toilet at the later stages of the marathon when one’s legs may have started to seize up! I noticed an empty toilet on Islington and seized the opportunity. I waved goodbye to the pacer for now but astonishingly managed to catch them up on the water front, just as we were passing the Albert Dock.

When I emerged from the toilet, I started to run with another runner who had come up from London but who was originally from South Africa. We chatted a little but we were both quite content to run alongside each other in silence. We parted ways in Sefton Park when he said that he couldn’t quite keep up the pace. I had also crossed paths a few times with Lisa from Huddersfield who was also doing her first marathon and chatted with her. The great thing about a marathon is the opportunity to chat to people as you are on your feet for a long time (especially at my pace) and anything helps to break up the monotony.

As we left Sefton Park, about the 17 mile mark, I was beginning to tire and the pacers were starting to drift away from me. Although I was keen to hit 4 hours 30 minutes, I surprised myself by being fairly philosophical about this and I held onto the thought that this was my first marathon and just to finish was an achievement.

At mile 18, we hit Penny Lane and yes, the Beatles song of the same name was playing on repeat at this point. I am not sure why but this was the first of two points during the race that I began to sob. I had been warned that this might happen and I think it is just a little release of tension! I saw Gemma, another parkrun/Twitter buddy at this point and got myself together just in time for a high five.

I thought that would be it but no, I had another little cry at mile 20. This time, I think, was actual disappointment as we had run round the back roads in the Mossley Hill Drive area and emerged a lot further back on Aigburth Road than I anticipated. I really was making a lot of noise by this stage and I apologise now to two male runners who I startled with my sobbing and heavy breathing as I tried to keep running!

I got a bit of relief on the downhill section to Otterspool Promenade but by the time I turned onto the prom itself my hips were beginning to complain. I knew it was nothing serious, just the effort of running 22 miles had caught up with me. I had to grit my teeth and get on with it. I stopped for a few walking breaks for the first time in the whole race. There wasn’t much music left at this stage (even though there was supposed to be a band every mile) and the support had thinned out too. One man did spur me on as I started to run again after a walking break and he said “That’s it, Mersey Tri, we will pretend you never took that walking break!” Typical Scouse humour to get me through and I loved it.

AM finishing the marathon

My imaginary sandwich photo!

Just as I turned into the last mile, I saw Jon Rumley, Mr Birkenhead parkrun himself. He wasn’t running but doing a grand job of supporting with supplies of Jaffa Cakes and Fruit Pastilles. Had I not been in so much pain in my hips and legs, I would have gladly stopped, but I just wanted it to be over and for the pain to stop so I waved feebly and ran/hobbled on.

Finally the finish gantry was in sight. All thoughts on my finishing time were gone, I just needed to finish now. Somehow I managed to pick up the pace in the finish chute, although it took all my effort and an imaginary sandwich(!) as you can see from the photo.

AM and twins at finish

Smiles and bling at the finish. The kids did the mile race for a yellow submarine medal!

The overwhelming emotion I felt as I crossed the line was relief. Relief that it was over and I could stop running; relief that I had achieved a lifelong aim of completing a marathon; relief that it was a respectable time of 4 hours 37 minutes and relief to be reunited with my family, after collecting my bling and goody bag. No more tears at this stage although I did have a wobble in my voice as I was talking to another runner at the end of the race as we walked through the Echo Arena picking up our post race goodies.

My final thoughts on the race are:

  1. The wave starts are a great idea because it meant you could get running at your own pace relatively quicker.
  2. The route around Liverpool was great, taking in all the major sights. Effectively a running tour of the city.
  3. Apart from the band at Pier Head, the promised bands/music every mile were not great. Some were not playing when we ran past and by the end of the race, most had packed up and gone home! There should at least be music playing even if it was not live.
  4. The bling was amazing. I didn’t really like the design of the medal but there’s no denying its weight and “blinginess”.
  5. I was disappointed that the finisher’s T shirt was the same for the half marathon and marathon. I want people to know that I ran the full 26.2!
  6. Overall a great race and I would do it again, save for the fact that I want to do different challenges next year.

So here’s the thing. I started this blog post about 3 weeks after the marathon. I was going through a particularly stressful time at work and I never finished writing it. My thoughts at the time were that I felt great having done the marathon but I didn’t suddenly become invincible because I had run 26 miles all in one go. I still had to go back to work with all its stress. Running was no panacea to life’s ills. Those were my thoughts at the time (and still are) hence the headline for this post.  

At the beginning of July, I was signed off work with stress and anxiety by my very understanding GP. I haven’t been back to work since and have now resigned from my job. If you know me, follow my Twitter or my Adventurous Mum page, you will know that I went onto do my quadrathlon and Coniston End to End swim (spoiler alert!). I even amazed myself that I was able to keep training and contemplate completing the events. The thing is that it was my training that kept me afloat; it was my stress relief; it was fresh air and sunshine; it was socialising with my tri and running buddies and all of that prevented me from sliding into a heap in the corner. I am grateful that my family understood this and continued to support me.

So here are some of the things I hope you will take away from this post:

  1. Don’t believe that everyone on social media has a perfect life. Had you looked at any of my online profiles, it looked as though it was business as usual for me. I couldn’t share this until now as I was still employed and also, I am not one to seek out online sympathy (I did plenty of that off line!). I share it now because I am now able to, and if it makes one person feel better about their troubles, then it has been worthwhile.
  2. There are so many inspirational people out there sharing amazing stories of how running has changed their life because they lost a lot of weight, got fitter and met wonderful people in the running community. Everyone likes a Cinderella type story and I got sucked in too. I believed that once I had run the marathon, I would develop a shield against the things that were troubling me: stress at work in my case.
  3. What is important though is that running/exercise can help you cope with those stresses.  It cannot take the life events and stress away but it can help how you respond to the stress. I have no doubt that had I not stuck with my training, I would be in a worse state now and not able to contemplate going back to work (in a different job obviously) at this stage.
  4. Don’t underestimate the healing power of your friends and family. There are so many wonderful people out there in the running and tri communities. My tri buddies got me out on my bike and to keep up my swimming.  Some of you may not have known my circumstances this summer but it helped just to be out socialising and talking normal running stuff. Running may not necessarily change your life but meeting some fantastic people along the way has got to be one of the best benefits.

 

I have tried to write this blog post several times.  I went on holiday to Scotland shortly after Liverpool Tri and I had every good intention of writing a post. However, the technical problems of uploading photos to the blog continued to plague me and the lure of the outdoor life in Bonnie Scotland scuppered all my plans.

I then started to write this post several times in the last week or so and have been wondering if anyone wants to read about the ancient history that is Liverpool Tri on 14th August? Heck,  can I even remember the details of the day?  But because it was a great race , I can remember. So here we are, a quick recap of Liverpool Tri.

Despite being my local Tri, this was my first time in the race. I was super excited about the transition being right inside the Echo Arena (I am always seeking the elite treatment), less excited about the swim in the docks and relieved to know that the bike and runs courses were pretty flat.

Echo Arena

Liverpool Echo Arena as you’ve never seen it before

Events kicked off on Saturday 13 August as we had to rack our bikes the day before in the Echo Arena. Although it can be stressful leaving your bike behind, having done the majority of the preparation the night before does take the stress out of race morning. I wasn’t sure how much to leave and ended up leaving most of my kit there with a view to just bringing my water bottles in the morning with fresh electrolytes. Some of my friends just left their bikes.

On race morning, the weather was looking good in Triathlon terms: cool, dry, not much wind (always a bonus on the bike, especially near the coast) with the prospect of sun towards the end. I took our trusty camper van over to Liverpool early and had breakfast in the van. Then I made my way up to the Echo Arena to finish off the transition preparations and meet some Mersey Tri Friends. We had quite a walk from the arena to where the swim would start so I was glad of my flip flops. Sadly that was the last I saw of them because I forgot to go back and retrieve them at the end of the race!

When I went in the water, I took a moment to lie on my back and look up at the sky and, corny as it sounds, I was grateful for being in the position to be able to do this triathlon. I was healthy, financially secure enough to afford it and free to do it, not something to take for granted when so many women across the world don’t have the basic freedoms we have here in Britain.

Stepping off my metaphorical soap box, and back in the race, the swim was fairly uneventful; it just seemed to go on forever! When I got out, I realised why, it had taken me 37 minutes and 3 seconds! I had managed 32 minutes in the Midsummer Dock Swim so must confess to being a little disappointed with that time after the race. At the time, I was too busy trying to get my wetsuit off over my Garmin and failing miserably to be worried about a slow swim. You were not allowed to run into the Echo Arena with your wetsuit on; it had to be in a plastic bag provided by the marshals. The concrete floor was slippy enough!

Liverpool Tri - bike

Support from Adventurous Daughter (on the right)

Be prepared for a long transition they said. Well, it was long, but not as long as Leeds so it was a piece of cake for me. We had to run in one side of the Echo Arena and out the other. Out on the bike, this was the most fun I had ever had on a bike in a triathlon! Nice flat fast course along the front. The 4 laps meant that there was always someone around and support from fellow Mersey Tri buddies was great.  I have always said that the bike is sadly one of my weakest areas so I was pleased to come in at 1 hour 32 minutes 47 seconds.

Photo of AM at Liverpool Tri

Definitely a grimace, not a smile…

The downside to giving a good effort on the bike was that my quads were burning as I set off on the 10km run. Triathletes are all familiar with that feeling and I am reasonably experienced to know that it usually subsides after 3-4 km. On this occasion, it never really went away. I spent most of the run cursing and swearing that I was never doing triathlon again! I was even berating myself for daring to think that I could do a half Ironman! Luckily the run was also 2 flat loops of the Albert Dock and finally I got over the line after 55 minutes 51 seconds for the run and 3 hours 15 minutes 54 seconds in total. Not a fast time, but a whole 9 minutes off my previous PB over Olympic distance. Of course, the minute that I was over the line and someone put a medal round my neck, the pain subsided and I was wondering why I had made such a fuss (although I found it difficult to walk for the next few days!).

Photo of AM at Liverpool tri

My quads beg me never ever to do that again!

My verdict on the race is that it is definitely a good one for PB hunters even with the long transitions in and out of the Echo Arena. The support from the people on the course was great. I especially enjoyed the support from my Mersey Tri buddies. I am not sure if I will do the race again simply because I am thinking about different challenges next year. But, unlike Leeds Tri, I would not rule it out because it is a well organised race on a great course in a fabulous city.

Did you take part in Liverpool Tri?  What did you think of the race?

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 Liver Building

The famous Liver Building

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.

AM at Half Marathon

Still smiling through the pain for the camera…thanks to Jon Fairhurst at Mersey Tri for the photo

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.

Liverpool HM medal

More race bling! I need to get a medal hanger for Easter…hint, hint!

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.

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas…with Liverpool Santa Dash!

Adventurous Mum at the start

Adventurous Mum and daughter at the start

The only thing that I have been super organised for this Christmas was the BTR Liverpool Santa Dash – I entered in July! I think that says a lot about my mindset for running events and how much I enjoy them. I entered my 9 year old daughter Tamsin as she had not long done her first junior triathlon and she too was riding on the crest of a wave.

Fast forward to Sunday 6th December 2015, the enthusiasm with which we entered had faded just a little bit, faced with the aftermath of Storm Desmond and a forecast that kept changing but was essentially wet and still quite windy.

Still, we got dressed up in our Santa suits, coaxed the support crew (Adventurous Dad and Tamsin’s twin brother) into coming with us with the promise of hot chocolate and croissants after the race and joined what was hoped to be around 8,500 Santas in Liverpool City Centre. We had a lot of fun watching all the different Santas at the start line. People had really gone to town modifying their costumes and Tamsin was particularly taken with the man who wore a costume so that it looked as if he was being carried by Rudolph.

We had managed to stay dry until this point but just as the start gun went off, the rain started. It wasn’t too heavy so we were still in good spirits at this point.

Selfie of Adventurous Mum

Selfie while waiting for the start gun

With so many Santas it took a while to get over the start line and start running. Even then, we couldn’t get a speed any higher than jogging which was probably just as well as Tamsin was getting over a cold and didn’t feel particularly like running.
The best bit was the atmosphere. It was as if everyone was out for a bit of Sunday stroll, really! There were no timing chips so it really wasn’t competitive and a genuine fun run. We bumped into some people we knew on the course which always gives a lift no matter what the race. It was just a shame the rain didn’t ease off at all until after the race. I reached the point where the water was dripping off my Santa hat and down my neck. Not only that, the trousers were dragging on the ground and getting wetter by the minute.

Photo of Tamsin

Tamsin sprinting away from me

However, the finish getting closer and we could hear a drumming band (I later found out they were Katumba band and there were 50 of them) which really spurred us on, so much so that Tamsin said “Let’s run!” and took off without me! Luckily I caught her up and we high fived the bears and fairies at the finish.

Photo of medals

Nice bit of race bling

The medal is truly awesome. I think it might look quite nice on the tree although it is very heavy. It was the first time I have had to dry out the medal ribbon after a race though!

All in all, a well organised race as usual from BTR – they just need to have a word with Santa (or the Met office) to arrange better weather for next year. Yep, we’ll be doing it again. I wonder what we will have to bribe the support crew with next year!

Have you done any Christmas themed races this year? They seem to be growing in popularity. Would be great to see your photos!