Okay, so as a preamble, I should update you all on the reason for my recent running hiatus. The day after the London Marathon, I was dancing in my hotel room to Chariots of Fire (true story) and I stupidly kicked my suitcase. It sounds funny (and it probably is) but I actually broke my middle toe. I have been confined to wearing my Oofos recovery flip flops for the past 4 weeks and have only just started wearing shoes again. I am clumsy, but this was a bit ridiculous, even by my standards.
What is the Rock n Roll series?
The Rock n Roll Marathon Series is the largest race series in the world with over 30 different destinations including San Diego, Las Vegas, Madrid and Dublin. They promise to deliver multiple distances, the best music and the best bling (have you seen those incredible medals??).
I have always wanted to try one of their races and given that my running group go to the Liverpool one every year, I thought it seemed like the perfect choice. When I got invited to be an ambassador for the event, I literally grabbed it with both hands and signed up to the 5km and the marathon.
Saturday – 5km and expo
Saturday morning; the sun was shining and we could see the Wheel of Liverpool and the harbour right outside our hotel window. I was excited to be putting my trainers back on and testing my toe before the marathon. I knew I was out of shape (who wouldn’t be after 4 weeks of complete rest) but I didn’t think it would hold me back as there was no plan to run at pace.
We headed to breakfast and I may have got a bit carried away by eating a full English. Why? I don’t even know. I have never eaten a full English before a run before. And for reasons you’ll see in a moment, I will never do it again.
We had to pick our numbers up from the expo, but luckily our hotel was in the centre of everything. A short walk across the square and we were at the expo. But so were a thousand other people, all with the same idea. We joined the back of the queue and waited. And waited. And waited. I heard other people say that the queue time was approximately 2 hours long. It wasn’t ideal and it’s my only bit of constructive feedback for the weekend. Otherwise, the expo was great and whilst it was small, I thought they managed to pack in neatly some fantastic brands with some great deals on kit, nutrition, accessories and races.
Once we had our numbers on, we headed straight to the start line. There were approx. 4,500 runners taking on the 5km. Everyone was allocated a corral number but it seemed to be a bit of a free-for-all. Jemma went to the front (she wanted to be in the pain cave) whereas Charlie and I decided to position ourselves somewhere in the middle. We took a few photos, sang along to the epic cheesy music and edged our way closer to the front.
Once we got going, we danced to the bands on the waterfront and posed with the Beatles statue. We cheered for the other runners and yelled words of encouragement at Jemma as she passed us in the opposite direction. The music was such a brilliant bonus – you can’t help but smile when you hear live bands playing.
As we approached mile 1.5, I could feel my breakfast jiggling around in my tummy. Every single step made it swish further around, left to right, up and down, until I had this overwhelming feeling that it was going to come up. I immediately came to a stop and told Charlie I was going to be sick. We pulled over to the side of the road and I bent over. Nothing happened. The feeling eased off a little. We carried on running. Less than 2 minutes later, I could feel the food rising up inside me again. This time it was all the way up in my chest, in my throat, coming up….. I stopped on the side of the road again and bent over. Nothing substantial came up. We could’t help but laugh at how stupid I had been to eat a full English before a race. Thankfully it started to ease off and we were able to enjoy the epic indoor finish inside the arena (which had strobe lighting and a party atmosphere). Even though I felt sick, I felt like a total rockstar.
After a shower and short rest, we headed back to the expo where Matt, Jemma and I were due to speak.
We took to the stage at about 1.20pm. I was really nervous about talking to a room of people (especially when they handed me a microphone!) but as soon as I sat down and saw the familiar faces in the audience, smiling and nodding along, I felt totally at ease. It was so lovely having people come up to us at the end telling us how much they could relate to our journey’s.
After the expo, a group of us went out for lunch and then we sat in the hotel for the rest of the day chilling, eating and discussing how hilariously bad our marathon prep had been.
I never sleep well when i’m away from home. Saturday night was no different. I kept waking up in the night, tossing and turning, thinking about the run. Would my toe be okay? Would I get heat stroke? Would I be fit enough? What if I didn’t see my husband out on course?
Even though there was no pressure to run a certain pace, I felt anxious when I woke up. Really anxious. If you have never suffered from anxiety, the best way to describe it is that you are irritable. People around you really annoy you and nothing anyone says calms you down (especially when people tell you “it’s fine, just chill out” – that winds you up even more). You feel a bit sick and shaky and you don’t want to see anyone. The thought of going outside into a crowd of runners terrifies you. The only people you want around you are people who understand what you are going through. Therefore, when my friends came into our hotel room, all I wanted was to push them back out.
We went downstairs and had breakfast. It was short and sweet; it did the job. We all went up to mine and Daryl’s hotel room so that Charlie could braid mine and Jemma’s hair. I am quite good at hiding how awful I feel but I felt the need to come clean. I told them how I was feeling. Charlie already knew – she had recognised my behaviour before i’d even opened my mouth. I felt calmer knowing that she was going to be by my side. She reassured me again that we would all run at my pace, in my own time and we would have fun. That was the only purpose of the race.
We headed out to the start area. Our hotel was so conveniently positioned right in the middle of everything which meant that we didn’t need to use the bag drop or the public toilets. We had a photo in front of the main stage and went straight to the corral, which was much calmer and quieter than the London Marathon. We actually had space to move about, which was a nice surprise.
There was an announcement that the start was delayed. The sun was beating down and I was getting warm. I could feel the skin on my shoulders burning. We continued to chat, laugh and be silly to try and waste time. I started to feel agitated at the wait, and then finally at 10:18am, we were off.
Liverpool is a beautiful city. Majestic old buildings towering the streets below. The roads were lined with cobbles, statues and other historic landmarks. There is clearly a lot of history, art and culture to be taken in. As we ran round the harbour in the first mile, the live bands were brilliant. Where the crowd support was lacking (compared to London at least), the music more than made up for it. You could hear it round several corners before you could see it. We danced, sang and joked about. It was hot, but it was bearable with all of the shade from the buildings.
By the time we got to mile 2, we were completely out in the open and I started to feel unwell. My legs were heavy and I could feel a weakness coming over me. I now know this feeling quite well. I checked my heart rate – 180bpm. It should be 140bpm this early on in a marathon. The girls asked me if I was okay, to which I responded “not really” It was a little bit hilly and with the sun beating down, I was already struggling. I wanted to walk.
Charlie had told me it was fine to walk – it’s not a big deal. I hated giving in to my body this early on but I started to feel dizzy and sick. I had a headache and a sore throat. I told the girls I needed to walk. As we turned the corner, there was a huge hill with the first water station. I told myself I would walk the hill and start running again when I got to the top of the hill: “I just need to acclimatise to the sun”.
As I was walking through the water station, I turned round to see the girls talking about me. I don’t know why but I felt quite upset in that moment. They wanted the best for me and they were obviously worried about me, but I could only feel embarrassment. Why weren’t they saying these things to me directly?! I was torn because I wanted to carry on running and enjoy the race with my friends, but I just didn’t feel that I had the mental or physical strength to continue- and now I felt self conscious. I don’t usually get heat problems until mile 6/7 so this was humiliating enough and it sent my anxiety through the roof.
We carried on running for a bit and then just before mile 3, I had to start walking again. I felt so dizzy. In fact, I felt completely useless. I knew if I was on my own I could do my own thing and not worry about holding the others up. Charlie kept telling me it didn’t matter and that she wanted to stay with me but I was already self conscious and paranoid about how slow I was going. I urged them to go ahead without me and that I would pull out when I saw my husband at mile 11 if it was still bad.
The girls agreed to run ahead and I had a little cry. I FaceTimed my mum who told me that she was proud of me whatever I decided to do. I know I am normally strong, but in that moment I felt so weak. Every time I tried to start running, I felt dizzy and sick. I had originally been running with the 4:15 pacer and when I got to mile 4, the 4:45 pacer breezed past with a train of people behind him. I told myself if I could stick with him I would get to 11 miles in about an hour. I managed to stick with him for about 2 miles but struggled to get up each of the hills and he ended up disappearing from view.
I pretty much gave up all hope of finishing the marathon and decided to walk from mile 6 to wherever my husband was. The route was perfect for a Sunday morning stroll. It takes you around the outside of Goodison Park (the home of Everton FC) and then straight through the middle of Anfield (the home of Liverpool FC). Of course, I had to stop and take a cheeky photo by the pitch at Anfield – when in Rome and all that!
Having walked for over a mile, my broken toe started throbbing in my shoe. It reminded me that this marathon was never really a good idea. In spite of feeling disappointed and annoyed, I tried to show others that I was fine. I laughed, encouraged others and cheered for the bands on course.
As I approached mile 8, a local resident crossed the road in front of me and tauntingly said to me “it’s a race, you’re supposed to be running. If you can’t do that, why are you bothering”. I wouldn’t normally let something like that bother me (I have literally had stuff like this happen my whole life), but this time it did.
When I eventually saw my husband, all I could do was cry into his shoulder. I wasn’t upset so much about the DNF but more the fact I had let my own insecurities and anxiety get the better of me. I was an emotional mess and clearly needed to get back to the hotel so we walked back to the city centre and waited for the girls to finish.
Unfortunately, I left Liverpool on Sunday feeling like I had missed out. I thought the race weekend was so brilliantly organised and the part of the course I saw was brilliant (if not a little hilly). With the benefit of hindsight, I know I had a great weekend away, and in spite of the disappointing race on Sunday, I hope that I can return again to have another go.