Rock and roll Liverpool – race recap

Sometimes, things seem like a good idea at the time and later, well, not so much. Signing up for a half marathon on the first weekend of our UK holiday seemed like a great idea from the comfort of my couch, 6 months before the event. ‘What a great way to kick off a holiday!’ I thought to myself as I signed up.

Sunday morning, day of the event rolled around and it didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. Training hadn’t gone according to plan, particularly in the few weeks before and 3 nights hadn’t been long enough to get over my jet lag completely with me still waking up at 4am. And then there was the fact it was windy and raining. Bleurgh. I messaged my friend and posted on an online running group I’m part of, thankfully, receiving the messages of support I needed – time to just get out there and do it.

Husband and I walked down to the start line and were gratified to see lots of other mad runners braving the weather, sheltering undercover until it was time to go to our corrals. Part of the reason for my general apprehension was that I was in the last corral and, with the paperwork for the event talking of a ‘strict cutoff time’ complete with ‘tail bus’ to pick up those not on pace, I was a bundle of nerves that I wouldn’t make the cutoff.

Standing in the corral, I just convinced myself that I needed to get started and let fate do the rest – if I finished, great. If not, oh well. As I was saying these mantras internally, I saw the woman next to me also seemed a bit nervous and we started chatting – it was her first half marathon which she should have been running with her daughter but she’d pulled out sick. As we ignored the rain, we talked and reassured each other that it really would be ok. This reassuring vibe obviously spread beyond as we gathered another woman into our conversation who also was feeling the nerves. By the time we’d started the shuffle towards the start line (quite a long shuffle from the last corral), we were all feeling determined and intended to get this thing done together.

I love courses where I have no idea where I am going and this was definitely one. I’d looked at the course map prior but, as I really don’t know Liverpool, it didn’t help. The first section of the course runs through the streets – past The Beatles statues on the waterfront and then into the city streets and past the Cavern Club. It loops around a bit and was actually really fun – running past people enjoying a leisurely Sunday morning and seeing those in front and behind us on the course.

From there, we ran towards and through Chinatown and then through suburbia towards Sefton Park. This section was probably my favourite – another beautiful green space with lots of room and some looping sections so we could see everyone and give and receive cheers.

There was a variety of music on the course, possibly not as much as I was expecting but was very grateful for what was there and it always seemed to perk me up and make me run that little bit faster. ‘Penny Lane’ in particular made me smile – pity the poor DJ who would have had it on repeat all day!

Our newly formed running crew were still together and still going strong, giving each other pep talks when needed and keeping up almost continual conversation about all sorts of topics (travel, Brexit, careers, relationships) to keep us distracted. I’m quite picky about who I can run with as, at heart, I’m a solo runner but these 2 were just the people I needed for this event and I felt very lucky to have met them.

The final section was heading back along the waterfront towards the docks and it was the hardest stretch of all. Not only was I starting to feel sore and ‘done’ but we also had a ridiculous headwind that was managing to bring stinging tears to my eyes and making it an absolute slog. The last few kilometres felt longer than the previous 10 and I had to dig deep.

Finally, the finish line was in sight and we ran for it, feeling very happy and relieved to cross over and receive our medals. We also received various other goodies – crisps, muesli bars, bananas, lucozade sport and then went and claimed our free pint to really work on our post-race hydration needs.

So, in a matter of a few hours, I’d gone from absolutely not wanting to run the event to having a great time, all thanks to a couple of strangers who I happened to be in the right place to meet on a rainy morning. I really am grateful for their support and was happy to be able to offer to support to them in return – love it when fate works its magic to help people meet for the right reasons at the right time.

And the verdict on the event? Loved it. Pretty good organisation, medium sized expo, very cute medal, interesting course with lots of marking and marshals and a brilliant cheer squad in both the volunteers and the general public in Liverpool who were nothing but supportive. I doubt I’ll be back due to distance but would definitely recommend this one.

parkrun tourism @ Birkenhead

When we planned our holiday to the UK, it was a given that it would involve as many parkruns as we could fit in. The challenge was which ones to pick?

Our first choice was fairly easy as we had decided to run the Rock ‘n’ roll half marathon in Liverpool so it needed to be close by. We chose Birkenhead, a short train ride away from our accommodation.

Arriving at Birkenhead Park station, it was fairly easy to find the location, thanks to the helpful directions posted on their Facebook page by the Run Director. We weren’t the only tourists with a couple of guys spotting our parkrun-ness at the station and asking if we knew where we going. Er no but we’re fairly sure we can figure it out!

We walked up to the start area and joined the tourists and first timers briefing to find out information about the course – 2 laps of the park plus a little bit to the finish chute. Then the Run Director did his briefing although, with so many people, it was hard to hear, despite the megaphone. And then, we were off. Literally, just like that. The briefing ended then ‘3, 2, 1, go!’ catching us a bit by surprise with the hoardes setting off before I’d even thought to start my watch.

Despite the directions sounding a bit confusing, it turned out the course was indeed very easy to follow – basically running on the path and following the directions of the ample marshals who were out and cheering. Slightly cruelly, you have to run past those in the finish chute to start your second lap but at least it adds to the cheering!

The scenery is gorgeous – very green (particularly coming from Australia where it’s a bit of an endangered colour) and lush, perfectly backed with blue skies and sunshine. The volunteers were great, very friendly and cheering everyone on all the way around.

I’m always impressed by parkruns with high numbers and how well the logistics work – we ran into the finish funnel and moved quickly through the barcode scanners.

Coffee afterwards at the Visitor Centre was perfect – wonderful to see lots of people hanging around for coffee or breakfast and no wonder as it is a great spot.

Thanks to the team at Birkenhead parkrun – a fabulous venue for our first UK event!