On Sunday 26 May 2019 I completed the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. This is quite a hard race report to write because I didn’t hugely enjoy it, but I don’t want to come across bitter or as a failed slow runner who wasn’t prepared. I worked hard at my training but on the day was disappointed both by the race and by what I was able to do with my training.

*** EDIT I have received confirmation from the organisers that there was no 10 mile 13:00 per mile cut-off time that was told to me by at least two other runners. What would you have done, though? Taken them at their word.

The training

I’d had a good training campaign although it did change quite a bit. As usual, I plotted out my long runs by weekend, then added in two runs or two plus recovery to get a total of 20 per week, with the occasional tempo run or speed work in there. I also did yoga once or twice a week and unfortunately missed strength training as was under the physio for a glute issue for a chunk of the middle and trying to do my exercises for that. I had a light cold and missed my last long run so did a 20 two weeks before the marathon, meaning I’d done one 18, two 20s and a 22, all at below 6 hour marathon pace. I’d tapered carefully and had one bad run on Thursday but was happy overall.

It’s worth noting that I’m also preparing for Race to the Stones Day 2 in July, so needed this to be my B race, and not to flog myself so hard I need too long in recovery before continuing my training.

Travelling up, expo, pant purchase

We got the train up with a few other people from club then I left Matthew at the train station and walked down to the Expo. I already had my number but wanted to pick up my tshirt in case my size wasn’t left at the end of the race. I saw the Gu stand and found they had chocolate mint available but didn’t buy anything. Ran into Nick from club but was on my own going out, so neglected to have a picture in front of one of the Beatles or RnR themed backdrops. Oh well.

The stage is set

Collected Matthew then we walked the extra mile to our apartment – perfectly fine but quite sparse if you wanted to actually cook (we requested a can opener and a hair dryer and made do with the rest). Went to the amazingly cheap Jack’s supermarket for any supplies we hadn’t brought (I had tuna and a bag of my cereal for the morning all measured out) and having come back and unpacked realised I hadn’t brought enough (under)pants so walked to Matalan and got some chocolate milk in Iceland, too.

Matthew cooked tuna pasta and reserved some tomato sauce and mushrooms for a recovery meal. We had a reasonably early night and amazingly slept really well!

Pre race

The race started at 10 so I had my pre-measured breakfast at 7 and was quite calm and relaxed until I found the pen I’d brought wouldn’t write on the back of my number! I managed to scribble Matthew’s number and Penicillin on it and hoped if I did collapse they’d find my parkrun ICE cards on me!

Kit lay. Black top as it was due to be cool and damp.

I’d brought two sets of kit and worn my elderly Guide 9s in case I lost anything but went for black and shorter shorts and left the hat. Wore a pacamac down and gave it to Matthew. We walked the 2 miles to the start and found Ruth (centre) and Bernice, who were both running the half.

We got a place near the start with Bernice’s husband, son and cousin and managed to see both of them through, as well as Afshin from club, plus two Bournville runners and some other local club folk.

Then it was time to meet the other marathon runners from club (all fast boys) plus Sedate Lady Trudie and club captain Barbara, both of whose husbands were running. We missed Colin out of our group pic but managed to find him later.

Nick, Dave, Paul R, Paul G, Liz, Steve, Tim (by Matthew)

Paul R was doing his 300th marathon so they gave him number 300! This was announced over the tannoy to much excitement (and I got a lot of worth out of mentioning this on the way round).

A quick wee (portaloo queues not too bad) and I went to get in my pen, way back at corrall 10. The lads were ahead of me of course. I ran into Jo Yarnall from Aldridge at this point, she knows my friend Dave (that always happens) and had spotted my running top. I’d planned to be in the front of the pen as the 6 hour cut-off started when the last person crossed the line. But when I got there, although I had number 10163 and had assumed numbers were sequential, they basically started with a 10 if you were in pen 10 (afterwards I discovered just over 3,000 people started the whole marathon). So there were about 60 people at most in my pen. I found the 5:30 pacer and told her I planned to stick with her for 6 miles to front-load myself against the sweeper vans with some 12:30 minute miles then drop back.

Off we started and here’s the course

Liverpool Rock n Roll marathon course

The half marathoners had gone to the south while we went off north for 9 miles, so there was no clash. I saw blogger Renee at 2 miles, such a cheering sight, hooray! I wanted to see the lads on the out and back but they were in the park at the top as we passed it. I was running with an amazing chap called Andy from Guernsey for most of the race on and off, a real showboater and ham, which I love. I also started with a very nice lady from Wales, who I saw on and off all the way round.

Because there was no crowd to feed off. Nothing really at all. The odd person and some people near the music stages. But very very low support, which was not what I had been led to expect.

Up to 10 miles – panic and horror

Trotting along under some illuminated underpasses and round football grounds, I kept ahead of the 5:30 pacer. But then some women who had done it last year told me there was a 10-mile cut-off at 13:00 minute mile pace (bearing in mind that the advertised 6 hour cut-ff is about 13:45 minute mile pace) and that last year they’d been threatened with sweeping and had to push back. This really scared me, and I had to make the horrible decision to push the pace to avoid this, knowing full well that I could not sustain that pace comfortably and would pay for it later on. It’s one thing to make a mistake with pacing, but doing this knowing the consequences was a bit heart-breaking, but not as much as being swept.

*** Note the organisers have told me and confirmed it was not the case that there was an extra cut-off

Miles 1 to 10 were between 11:50 and 12:43 for each mile (only one under 12). I tried to keep around 12:30 to protect myself but I did know this was likely not to be sustainable. I hit 10 miles at 2:04:34 – phew. But not to help matters, the mile markers were all out by about 0.2 of a mile (under) and the 10k mat was about a mile askew – I got a split of 1:02:00 for that but my watch says 1:18:00! I’m glad I wasn’t that much too fast as that would have been a 6-minute 10k PB … At some point we went through town by the Cavern Club and it was very very unclear where we were going, and I asked a marshal to go back down the course to help direct. I also had to ask someone to move out of the way as I was trying to run the marathon!

I did have a nice time seeing Liz from Malvern, Andy and various others, with Jo appearing from time to time. And at mile 9 Trudie and Barbara had popped out of their hotel at just the right moment to cheer me on! I took a lucozade sport and put a load of it in in my softflask of raspberry tailwind to top it up I had a gel at 1:15 and then every hour.

Miles 10-13

As soon as I hit 10 I started to drop my pace, so over 12 mins per mile and some power walking up hills. There were cobbles and hard paving and I slowed to help a lady and her friend, one sobbing, one consoling and tried to help Hannah get cheered up and on. We then approached Sefton Park where Matthew was, but not where I was, so I missed him (the route was confusing here). I slowed to phone him but hit 13.1 at 2:43:?? which is faster than a few of my half-marathon races. Let’s see it all drop off …

Boom. Not in a good way.

Miles 13-22

Park park park more park, I saw Matthew twice at an obelisk and had two bites of banana at 3:15 run time. We went up and back to Penny Lane where a stereo system in a van was playing just that song over and over! I ran into Jo there and she kindly took my photo (I took one for her, too). My only photo en route as I was concentrating on pushing then hanging on. As we ran up this longish out and back I saw my friend from the photo a day group Tanya’s sister in law, Salome, we’d tried to meet in the pen then there she was and a HUG!

Penny Lane

I saw a lot of different folk as we worked our way down to the river bank again. Jo, Andy, Hannah, some ladies from Sittingbourne and one from Ashford (go Kent), a couple of blokes, a lovely lady in a Harry Potter tshirt, and some power walkers in bras raising money for a breast cancer charity. It was  grind – I was OK but tired and walk breaks got more frequent – when I did run I was a bit brisker than normal which shows up in my time being a few minutes outside Birmingham where I ran almost continuously.

Kudos to the bands, marshals and water/gel stations, all still going as we went past in dribs and drabs. It was pretty lonely when I wasn’t trying to drag myself along with others.

Miles 22-end – wheels fall OFF

Oh, my goodness. We turned onto the waterfront and the headwind was horrendous. It was buffeting us and while I could probably have run more if this was my only race and I could destroy myself but it was SO disheartening. I had running in my legs, but then it was concrete paving with cobbled inserts running across, too.

It was here I came across Graham Lewis from Liverpool originally but living in Crewe. He’d done the race five times before and confirmed this was awful. We stuck together along the last few miles, which saved me really and helped him, too. I had a hug from the bra ladies when I broke down crying and saw Jo and Andy was there, too. Love the back of the pack for this. Graham’s girlfriend who had done the mile appeared near the end and ran alongside us.

We could see the finish. And there were Bernice and family, Trudie and husband Dave who got a big PB at 3:26, and Barbara and Matthew. Yes!

Graham Lewis and Liz finish the marathon. Picture by Trudie.

See how lonely, but running strong, actually. As promised, I got our folk to shout for Graham, too, which spurred him on and we crossed the line together. Had our medals put round our necks, which was a lovely touch, and there was no goody bag but bananas, water, haribo and bars you could pick up as you wanted, which I think was better and greener than that deodorant and leaflets you usually get. Andy from Guernsey had waited to see us through and I managed to hug a chap from Run Birmingham and see some other people I’d been running with, which was lovely as anything.

Slightly stunned Liz saying all the says so she doesn’t just stand and cry. (by Bernice)

Liz and Bernice with our cool medals

Chip time 5:55:28

Overall 3047 / 3116

Age category 198 / 208

Gender 1026 / 1073

Bernice had smashed her half and finished really strong – I’m so proud of her as she’s had some tricky times recently with her running. Ruth had had to leave but had had a good race and finished a year of 17 half-marathons in aid of the Alzheimer’s Charity.

Home and food

I had the rest of my nana and a choc milk and we walked slowly home – good to have a stretch. I missed the club get together as needed to feed and rest. Two weetabix when we got in, a shower and owwwww a new rub on my right-hand lower back presumably from my shorts. Then grazed and went to bed at 8. Set an alarm and got up at 11pm to have a proper meal, as I’d finished at 4.10 and knew I’d have to eat properly. I did pasta with the left over sauce, spinach and some cheese then sat up for an hour then back to bed. Slept till 6 and then 8.30, really well again and not too sore.

Recovery day

We walked down to the docks very slowly, taking some photos as we went, including visiting 62 Falkner Street, the scene of the first A House In Time TV series by David Olusoga, which was very exciting.

Then we went to a lovely cafe to meet Renee, her husband Ron and two York runners she knew from a Facebook group, all lovely people and there was much chat about the support etc which made me feel a bit better about being disappointed.

Ron, Nikki, Renee, Liz, Charlotte by Matthew

We went and found the Beatles statue we’d run past on Sunday

and to cut a long story short, went for a Pizza Express then a look round the docks and ran into my running club friend Suki and his wife and whole family (not up for the races, just random) and Renee and Ron again and then I had a cuppa and saw some people with Remix medals we’d seen at the Beatles statue. As you do.


Organisation was good, the pens worked and there were no pinch points. It was much smaller in numbers than expected, leaving me feeling lost and exposed. The 10 mile cut-off was cruel, if it was true (I have asked the organisers to confirm: I did meet someone who’d been made to take a short cut and didn’t know how long her race was going to be). If it wasn’t true, I bust a gut for nothing. If the wind had been less terrible I’d have PB’d but it wasn’t and I didn’t. Bands, water stations and marshals stayed to the end THANK YOU and the camaraderie was amazing but I would not do it again.