I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the talent of the dancers I have seen and met through supporting danceaid. They are incredibly athletic, agile and with a natural sense of rhythm and feel for music. I’m not sure any of the words in that last sentence have ever been used to describe me though – so I figured if I was going to raise money for danceaid I’d better do it by getting sponsored at something I could actually do. Hence the marathon….
Now I’m not saying I knew I was capable of running a marathon, I’d never run that far in my life, but I knew I was capable of running (you should see how quick I get to the counter when my pizza’s ready!) … but getting a place in the London Marathon is very difficult so when someone suggested the Liverpool Marathon I jumped at it.
In some respects it was quite a late decision (I think we entered at the end of July and the race itself was mid-October). If you are thinking of doing something like this for danceaid then I would suggest entering much earlier. Most people give themselves at least 6 months which sounds sensible from a training point of view and it also gives you a really good chance to plan out your fundraising properly!
It may be the butt of some stand-up comedian’s jokes but nowadays it is an awesome place. Over the last decade they have spent £millions in re-generating the dock area – which is a great day out with shops and museums and a great night out with all the bars, restaurants. Across the road is the new Liverpool One which has everything you’d ever want … and that’s before you head into the city centre itself, including of course famous bars like the infamous Cavern (not just a place where the Beatles played but other music icons like Eric Clapton). I know all this partly because my family is from Liverpool but also because my friends and I wandered around on Saturday night looking through the windows… while I wished I could go out and enjoy it… but instead it was early to bed for I had 26.2 miles to run in the morning. So I made a little promise to myself that we’d make up for it by partying after the race!
The Marathon Itself
The morning arrived and we got on the train – The Liverpool marathon doesn’t actually start in Liverpool, it starts over the water in Birkenhead Park. Random fact for you; It is widely accepted that, after visiting the park in 1850, American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted incorporated many of the features he observed into his design for New York’s Central Park. He wrote about the strong influence of Birkenhead Park; –
“five minutes of admiration, and a few more spent studying the manner in which art had been employed to obtain from nature so much beauty, and I was ready to admit that in democratic America there was nothing to be thought of as comparable with this People’s Garden” (source: Wikipedia)
As I stood in the inspiration for the most famous park in the world (and it is a nice park) that morning I didn’t really notice though to tell you the truth. I noticed the choir singing pop songs (They were so good that I thought it was a really good recording before I saw them), the helpful volunteers, and the start line but mainly I was focused. Well, I say “focused” what I mean is I was thinking “oh god. I’ve actually got to do this, there’s no way of backing out…” over and over again! Then before I even really had time to think about it we were off and running…
There were quite a lot of people applauding us and cheering us on, which at 9.30am on a Sunday is dedication. Now I’ll be honest the first couple of miles once you leave the Park aren’t the most picturesque. There’s nothing wrong with then, they’re just normal streets, though with plenty of people on their front door cheering you on, but once you get a few miles in you are running alongside the Mersey and it really begins to feel like something special – it has that seaside feel to it all. It gets even better after about 6 miles as you are running alongside the river itself on the Promenade and you see the city across the water in the early morning sun which looks very cool. You also see your finish – the Liver Buildings. Then you lose sight of them again as you run through the iconic Mersey Tunnel which marks the halfway point of the marathon.
Emerging into the light and into Liverpool (well okay the tunnel isn’t that dark but I felt poetic) you are greeted with a huge drumming band and the atmosphere continues from there. The crowds really were brilliant in the town centre. One of the things that really struck me was how incredibly supportive the crowds were – so many people, particularly little kids were offering us sweets like jelly babies and drinks as we ran past. This wasn’t just a nice touch it is also a really good idea as the sugars quickly give you extra energy and fuel to burn through. Although we didn’t lack for water and gel stations they were welcome additions.
I also noticed around mile 17 that some of the locals were putting on a Zumba/dance demo to entertain the crowds and, much to the amusement/bewilderment of some of the spectators, I couldn’t help but do a few hundred yards “Gangnam Style” as I caught the tune (well, I was doing it for danceaid after all!!). I was looking forward to running back through the town and to the finish. First we would have to run through the picturesque Princes and Sefton Parks though. It was a lot quieter here and I could imagine these would be nice places for a Sunday morning run.
Unfortunately I wasn’t and for me personally this was where the run really started to get painful. I was quiet glad the parks were quiet as it meant I could actually stretch my muscles briefly against a tree without feeling too bad. These were the hard miles.
In contrast to the slow painful run through the parks the last mile and a half flew by (comparatively – my pace was from spectacular at this point) as it was downhill and through surprisingly big crowds we approached the finish line. they certainly do their best to carry you over the finishline… and never have I been so relieved to cross one! It is a brilliant feeling to know you’ve completed a marathon though. It is a challenge for anyone and one you should have on your bucket list if you’ve already done one. I’m really pleased I did mine in Liverpool too it was a great atmosphere, amazingly friendly supporters and a nice place to spend a weekend.
After the marathon for danceaid…
The evening was spent celebrating as hard as possible, which given the lack of energy wasn’t spectacular I’ll grant you. The beauty of celebrating after a marathon is that you have absolutely no guilt about the amount of calories you’re eating or drinking so you can enjoy whatever you want! A fact I had delighted in telling the people at danceaid days earlier. I was looking forward to indulging my sweet tooth. Which brings me to the biggest surprise of the weekend –
This dessert was waiting for me after dinner as a thank you direct from danceaid HQ (in Hertfordshire). It was both an awesome dessert and an incredibly nice surprise… and must have taken a bit of planning (and some collusion from my brother)!
It’s that kind of attention to detail and feeling of support that really makes you glad that you’re fundraising for danceaid. It’s also the kind of detail that makes you realise just how much they care about everyone – and gives me faith that every child they help around the world really is cared for, and perhaps more importantly, knows there are people out there that care for them.
I’m thrilled that I’ve managed to run a marathon, but when I woke up the following morning (a bit sore) I was even more thrilled that I’ve helped such a great charity. I mightn’t run it next year but if you’re running for danceaid I’ll certainly be cheering you on ,as will the whole of Liverpool!