Oh my god, what an AMAZING day yesterday was! I had been so ridiculously nervous all the way through my taper but somehow everything just came together on the day. It was ridiculously hot and with a 10am start, it was already about 20 degrees by the time we started. I made my way to the start with Sarah and Annmarie, then we congregated with other striders doing the marathon. There is a rock n roll half marathon on the same day and that started at 9am, so we cheered a few team mates on and then sorted ourselves out with the numerous nervous toilet trips needed and a final baggage drop before heading into our corrals. As we were waiting for the start (which was slightly delayed) I could already feel myself burning in the heat and needing a drink. I felt ready though – I had hydrated well in the days leading up to it as I knew hot weather was forecast and my plan was to pour water over myself to cool down at every water station if necessary. I did this at every single water station in the end!
I had so many good memories of running this marathon as my first marathon in 2014 and I really loved the first half as it’s a change of scenery in a part of Liverpool I never run in. You also run around the football grounds, Stanley Park and Everton Brow (with amazing views over the city – it almost brought a tear to my eye seeing the view and the Liver birds!). As we headed back into the city centre, there was some good support from half marathon finishers and then we headed through to China Town and towards the south of the city which is my stomping ground and where I was expecting all my support crew to be!
I was feeling pretty good as I’d managed to keep with the 4.15 pacer all this way. I had a little chat with one of them who knew Eamonn from my club and they said they were planning on doing positive splits and banking a lot of extra time. We’d been averaging about 9.30 minute miles by this point. I told myself not to be silly and stick behind them. Then if I ended up overtaking them on the prom, it would give me a really big boost.
I went through Princes Park and the water station manned by Penny Lane and was feeling great! Then – I swallowed a big fly. Urgh it was horrible. I decided to stop for a bit and take my first gel (I’d been feeling so good that my plan for a gel at every 5 miles from mile 10 went out of the window! My first one was taken on at mile 14). I lost the 4.15 pacer at this point but I knew we were still ahead of that finishing time so enjoyed the slight rest. Then, onwards towards Sefton Park where I saw Scott all around the park!
He made a little video of me at mile 16 with 10 miles left to go. A band were playing 1901 by Phoenix on the bandstand just ahead which is one of our favourite songs and it gave me such a boost. At that point, I realised that I could do 10 minute miles for the rest of the way and still get well under 4.15. It was such a big difference to how I felt at mile 16 in Manchester when I saw Scott and had to go over for a hug and a pep talk!
Around the park, I started to notice that I was overtaking more people than I was being over-took by which was also a very good feeling. I overtook 2 club mates, which is always difficult to leave people you know behind struggling but this was my own race that I had to run. I took my final gel at mile 20 and then we started to make our way onto the prom. I started to get a bit bored and lost motivation here. I got my headphones out to put some music on but this turned into more of a faff as the ear-buds kept falling out so I gave up after a while. One good thing about the boring-ness of the prom was that there was a cool breeze at this point (even if we were running into it). It was such a sunny day, but I poured water over my head and shoulders at every water station so my vest was always a bit wet but it really cooled me down. I think this was the best thing I did the whole race, as so many other people struggled with the heat but if I’m honest, I never felt like I was over-heating at any point.
At about mile 24.5, my club mate Eamonn found me and ran the remaining mile and a half along the prom with me. He had helped another runner from our club, Nichola, finish her first marathon in an amazing time of 3.50 and then turned back to find me to push me along to the end. I just told him – ‘keep talking to distract me!’ and he did. He kept trying to get me to push the pace to keep up with him and I did – somehow completing mile 26 in 8.49! We even managed to overtake the 4.15 pacers! At one point I did want to slap him though and say ‘my legs won’t go any faster!’ but it was really good to have someone rooting for you right beside you for the final mile of a marathon. When we got to mile 26, he cut off the course and I powered on towards the finish by myself. I was ECSTATIC! I threw my hands up in the air as I crossed the finishing line and I felt like I had finally conquered the marathon distance.
My official time was 4.09.09 with an average pace of 9.33. I honestly could NOT believe it!
And here we go – the strava splits. As you can see, I did struggle in the second half, with mile 22 being where I decided to put my headphones on and faff about, mile 14 was my first gel and mile 24 was a bit of a shuffle before Eamonn found me. Overall though, I think my splits were a lot more even than previous marathons and I am still amazed that my legs managed to move that fast for that long.
All I wanted for this marathon was to finally reach sub 4.30 and maybe manage to run a marathon without stopping. Okay, so I did stop a few times, but I also managed to take a huge 24 minute chunk off my old PB! I honestly did not expect that I could get a result like this, especially on such a warm day (seriously, I got a sunburnt neck!).
It was so nice afterwards to catch up with team mates who had ran the half marathon or had volunteered along the way. There were some amazing times from some, but a lot really struggled with the heat but enjoyed the race day atmosphere and achievements of others. I owe so much of my result to the club and such supportive team mates!
I am going to enjoy a few weeks rest now I think, but I am already considering my next marathon and how I can take a further 10 minutes off that time.