This weekend I ventured up to Liverpool on my own, to take part in the American born Rock ‘n’ Roll race series. These races are held across the USA, Canada and a few other international places like Madrid, Dublin, Edinburgh and of course Liverpool.
It seemed to be Liverpool’s 5th year, and although there were a few issues I thought the race organisers probably needed to address (awful long and confusing queues for packet pick up at the expo, for example) it was actually a really well put on event. I loved the whole festival feel, and having entered both the 5k on the Saturday morning and the Marathon on the Sunday, I was indulging in the whole weekend.
What was much more wonderful was that I knew there were so so many Instagram running crew going, including my South West squad, Martha, Daryl, Jemma and her husband, and Matt (who you probably know as @thewelshrunner).
Saturday morning we got up for the 5k, Jemma was racing the distance but Martha and I were going along for a jolly. Unfortunately, Martha decided she’d have a nice big fry up and promptly felt rather ill, pretty much as soon as we started!
We saw Jemma on the return but she was in the pain cave, but it gave us temporary distraction from Martha’s imminent vomiting… it actually never showed itself but there were a number of close calls! However we made it back, where the race finished INSIDE the expo with lights and smoke machines. It was all rather American!
It was such a warm day too. I think we did a really good job getting round. And it happened to be another rather special day with some sort of wedding happening, so very aptly, the 5k medal was a rather stunning diamond ring shape.
Martha and Jemma had been asked to speak at the expo on Saturday afternoon and, along with our friend Matt, they all had slots to chat about running. It was brilliant and they had lots of people listening.
After the talks we all went off to Pizza Express (of course) to get some carb loading in. Location wise, It was perfect as the expo, Pizza Express, and the start/finish lines were all in the shadow of the hotel. This took so much stress and anxiety out of navigating our way to and from each place. I know this isn’t always possible as central hotels are usually pretty pricey. But this time we proper lucked out and felt very calm over the whole weekend!
After pizza and spending time/meeting with some lovely folk, we all tripped back over to the hotel lobby where we spent 6 hours just hanging out with each other. Talking about running, life and eating MORE carbs in preparation for what would be another hot day of running. This time, attempting 26.2 miles in the heat and hills of Liverpool!
We all turned in around 10 and tried to get good nights sleep.
Sunday morning and pre-race traditions were in full swing. Bagels and Porridge were consumed, Beet It shots (urghhhh) were very quickly downed, things were taped up, plaited, packed into spibelts and hydration vests, selfies taken and anxiety tactics put into full force!
The boys (who weren’t running) put their cheer plans in place and the girls set off towards the start corrals.
Anticipation and the weather hotted up, and we joked, danced and chatted to while away the time until we were ready to start. The start was delayed by about 15 minutes, which wasn’t great for Martha as she’s been struggling really badly with heatstroke. Unfortunately, at mile 2 Martha decided she would need to drop out around 11 miles (or when she could) as she was really feeling unwell. Jemma and I did insist we stay with her as long as we could, but she wanted to get on with it alone. I totally understand why. It’s so hard if you feel like you’re holding others back, and you don’t want to be a burden. I knew it was better for her if we left to push on through, so reluctantly, Jemma and I ran ahead.
We made a new plan for the two of us (the original plan being we’d be using the race as ultra training so it was never going to be raced) which we readjusted to aiming for 9.30-10 minute miles, and walking hills when we needed to (and there were some nasty ones in that rather hill packed course!). We felt good and the plan seemed to be executing itself well.
I was fuelling with Tailwind and water from the course. I took water at each station and probably had half a bottles worth to drink, and poured some of the rest over my neck. The tailwind I had in another bottle and sipped every mile or so up until around 22 miles. I also took a gel at mile 2, 8, 15 and 22 or 23. I was really pleased with my fuelling actually, considering it was a really hot day, I never felt dehydrated. I did start to feel a little sick towards the end of the race but it was so warm by then and we spent the last 4 miles along the Mersey in direct sunlight!
The course, as I said, was FULL of hills. They just would come and come and come. Some were ok to run and some were too much on such a hot day. We had to keep reminding ourselves that we weren’t racing this as a marathon, but using it as ultra training, so it needed to have walking and slower running involved.
As well as the hills, we were taken through so many beautiful parks. I didn’t really realise how pretty Liverpool is until running through these gorgeous parks. Tunnels of trees, fields, flower displays, blossom, streams, ponds and bridges proved welcome distractions from the heat, but also providing much needed shade.
In contrast, the route also took us up around Everton’s Goodison Park and even right THROUGH Anfield stadiums, however being adverse to football in the way my children are to broccoli, I only really appreciated the cool shade it gave us for those few meters we were inside!
One of the big draws to the Rock n Roll events is the presence of bands around the course. I was actually really impressed just how MANY bands there were on the route. It didn’t feel like we went more than 3-4 miles without music being played to us, whether that was a rock band or simply some dance tunes pumping out of a RnR van to give us a nice motivational boost. Jemma and I really enjoyed the music, having a good boogie as we ran through the different stations, even being treated to ‘Yellow Submarine’ as we ran past the Cavern Club, or ‘Penny Lane’ as we ran up, yep, Penny Lane (which, by the way, was rather underwhelming…). However as Jemma pointed out, we did actually spend a penny there!
At the finish there was also a festival and concert headlined by Space (remember them?!) which was pretty cool. You also got to pick up your remix medal there. More on that in a sec.
Around 12 miles ish Jemma suggested we high five at each mile marker. Something that became our way of getting through the distance and encouraging each other. Every mile sign we would slap hands together, which for the last few miles became a hand grab and squeeze….
We’ve got this! We can do this!
The last 4 miles take you along side the Mersey, which Jem and I felt really at home with. We both live by the sea and are both very familiar with running along prom and sea wall for miles. Even so, the miles were hard work at this point and it all felt rather longer than I would’ve liked it too. Not to mention the lack of any shade along that stretch. Between swigs, I was dousing myself with water every couple of minutes, just to try and keep cool.
We finally diverted off the river path and started on the final approach to the finish, passing the effervescent cheer squad who literally make my entire life in every race, and lovely Daryl was there too. Jem reached back to me but at this point I was battling feeling a bit sicky. I couldn’t push myself any more, and we had decided at 20 miles we could still see this is under 4:30. We were focused on finishing STRONG; we were tired but we both felt strong despite the muscle fatigue and heat, and the crowd helped us along to the finish line by confirming our feelings. It felt great to hear them shout we looked strong. To finish a hot marathon like that is such a privilege. Jemma grabbed my hand and we crossed the line together, feeling super strong and super proud of ourselves for running such a confident race.
Once again, tailwind worked a treat for me. I’ve had no sickness post race so I think I definitely need constant electrolyte intake during long distances. This seems to really help me. I am literally covered in salt when I finish so I think I do suffer from quite substantial salt loss – especially when it’s hotter. I was pretty pleased with the fact that I didn’t seem to hit my usual wall around 16/17 miles. Not sure whether it was because we weren’t attacking the race as much or if it was just down to great fuelling.
What was also brilliant was that while we were out clocking the long miles, Matt was smashing the Half marathon and only went and won it! He’s a clever boy that Welsh Runner.
So the MEDALS! Well this was one of the main draws for me when entering this race, because you could get three (or more!) medals in one weekend! As I’m a bit of a medal magpie, this was a BIG BONUS! The races over the weekend are, 1 mile, 5k, Half Marathon and Marathon. If you do two or more of these races (bearing in mind some of them clash time wise, for instance you couldn’t do the mile and the marathon) then you get to pick up a ‘remix’ medal. A pretty cool rock n roll electric guitar, complete with spinning plectrum and guitar strap (lanyard).
You can also pick up an ‘encore’ medal if you have taken part in the previous year. There’s also a world rocker medal, if you complete two (or more) Rock n Roll events within a year. Basically, there’s a whole lot of swag at these races!
I picked up the 5k and Marathon medals, along with a remix guitar and they’re amazing. The 5k ring medal is probably my favourite actually, although the marathon (and half marathon) medal is pretty darn cool too with the Liverpool Wheel (like the London Eye) as a spinning part. It’s shaped like a plectrum too which is another awesome nod to the theme of the whole event. Both the race medals I got have also got epic sparkly enamelling detail in the writing. They just have wonderful detail in them.
So to sum up, I had a BRILLIANT weekend. I got to spend a few days away from mum duties and saw some wonderful running chums for much longer than the usual quick anxiety-inducing-pen-shuffle meet ups that we’re used to!
Liverpool you were great. Maybe see you again next year?!