Glorious

30 03 2009

What a glorious day. The weather for the Liverpool half marathon was absolutely gorgeous. A crisp blue sky, no wind just a light breeze and cool but not cold.

This is the largest event I have ever run in in terms of number of participants. Around 4,000 – OK no London marathon but large enough to warrant chipping the competitors.

The chip system is great. You are sent a little tag which attaches to your training shoe. A timer is activated when you cross the start line and again stopped at the finish. This is done by means of a mat you run over so it is important the chip is near the ground. Each chip has a different number built into it. I was number 3174.

We managed to get to Liverpool without a hitch. This meant getting two grouchy little boys up at 6:30 (in reality 5:30 because of the hour change). A train trip is a great motivator though. Despite wanting to know if every station was our stop (there are oh too many on that line) the journey seemed pretty short and we were at James Street station.

Eddie was feeling particularly tired and insisted on a carry to the start of the race.

We were met by a lake of runners (sea seems a bit over the top) of all shapes and sizes and the odd clown or two.

I told Helen confidently “I feel fast today !”.

I lined up slightly behind the 9 minute pace man (see previous entry) and we were soon off (well walking to the start) past a modest but supportive crowd. I expected to be running by the time I saw Helen but alas it wasn’t to be due to the number of runners. Shortly though we were jogging slowly and then more quickly as the field began to thin out.

There was a bit of a crowd around the pace man so I just eased ahead of him. By the time I reached the bottom of Upper Parliament Street near the first mile marker he was way behind. I reached it in 9:45 so was glad I didn’t stay with the group.

The hill up Upper Parliament Street was straight forward enough as it was at the start of the race. I reached the 2nd mile in decent shape and back on schedule.

My race plan then came into play and after the first water stop I started to push. The run took us into Princes Park. Not a good idea though to run faster on a full stomach of water and felt stitches coming so I eased off a little bit.

It was quite funny to see the number of runners that whizzed off into the trees to do their widdles. I needed one too and so joined a row of runners all weeing into the trees. It seemed to take an age for me to squeeze it out despite thinking I was desperate. You should never hold on during a race or you can start cramping. I know that better than anyone !! Very funny sight though. No modesty. Everyone just gets on with it. No doubt at least 30 secs lost. In Madrid you could be arrested now I believe. Could be interesting come marathon day.

Bladder emptied and I could run faster and onto park two (Sefton). I was now focussing on making 8:30 pace per mile. After each mile marker I checked my watch and worked out what time I needed to make the next one by. To my amazement I was making 8:30 quite easily each time. I didn’t feel fast I was just being swept along with the other runners. What a difference a race makes. I was in a busy part of the field. It’s lonely at the front or the back but here there was a body of athletes.

It seemed I was surrounded by all shapes of men but beautiful, slender athletic panting women. Maybe I was starting to see things. If I was going to collapse now would be a good time !! Maybe I was in heaven already. I chased down each beauty one by one and then found myself behind a bloke who looked like an ex-70’s porn star. All hair and earrings. Well I didn’t want to look at that for the rest of the race so I eased past.

I was focussed on just getting to the next mile marker. I just had numbers in my head 48,48,48…56 1/2,56 1/2,56 1/2. I kept beating the time I was running well under 8:30 pace.

It began to dawn on me that I was going to knock a couple of minutes off my previous half marathon. Even though I knew this I daren’t be complacent. I kept focussed on the current mile. At 11 miles I could start to believe for real.

We reached the promenade at Otterspool at around 10 miles. The openness of it felt wonderful. My mind was numb I was just focussed on the next mile. I knew by now that I was going to smash my previous time I just had to hang in and keep going. I tried to keep my excitement under lock and key and keep focussed.

The next drink stop was Lucozade sport. It came just at the right time. I always stop to drink. I couldn’t get the wretched top off the bottle as I was so trembly. Then I managed to open it and poured down as much as I could. The runners around me had pulled ahead but I think it important to get the fluid in and not down your front. Drinking whilst running is incredibly difficult. I was soon in and amongst it again and still achieved 8:30 despite a drink. I was now feeling the effort. My legs were running out of steam. The “running train” around me kept me going at the same pace.

The end would soon be in sight. Mile 12 came. There were some revellers hanging out of a flat window hooting encouragement. Then shortly afterwards (I think) a runner being taken into an ambulance with an oxygen mask. He/she was talking and looked ok.

Then away from the prom around a small industrial estate and I thought I could see the Liverpool Echo Arena (the finish). I was to kick with everything I had left when I saw the 13 mile sign. I just didn’t notice it. We were now running through a funnel of spectators. I was looking out for the finishing arch and Helen. The arch had disappeared.

Then people around me stopped and I noticed I had passed through the mat. I turned to the runner next to me and squeezed out the words “Is it over ?”. He said “Yes – well done mate”. I stopped my stopwatch 1 hour 47 mins 25 secs. Then as we continued to walk through I saw Helen and the boys.

They had seen me start walking and finish walking.

You just can’t explain the feeling of elation you get when finishing something that stretches you so much. I nearly cried (I am an emotional sod). When I was 17 I ran my first half marathon in Wrexham in 1 hour 46 minutes 46 secs. I never thought it possible to run anywhere near as fast as that again in my life. I have re-found my youth at 43.

Before the start

Before the start

On Cloud 9 with my boys and medal

On Cloud 9 with my boys and medal

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4 responses

31 03 2009
marianne

Congratulations…the difference in your facial expressions pre and post race say it all:)

31 03 2009
A girl running

Robert that is a brilliant race report, I had a giggle throughout the post and felt elated for you at the end. The photos are great!

I am so glad you enjoyed the race

congratulations 🙂

6 04 2009
dad

I remember that when you were little and not so little you would not wee out in the open in France. On your journey through virtual France are you allowing yourself to have a virtual wee.? Helen got it wrong. France is not a wee country; it is a big one.
Dad.

17 04 2009
mum.

Well done Robert. Running the Liverpool half marathon. I am glad you did’t have to carry Renate or Helen. Next one will be in Chester. I hope to see you there.
Congrlatulations for now. Mum.

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