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Race Reports [Reports Index]

Liverpool Marathon
Sunday 25th May 2014
Neil W

This was the first Rock 'n' Roll full marathon held in the UK so I thought it worth the trip up to Liverpool to give it a try.

I was surprised by how much greenery there was around Liverpool - when we were out of the city centre it felt like we were running around parks a lot of the time with short road sections linking them together. It's a bit of a climb up to the football stadiums (red and blue) but we were rewarded with a beautiful view over the city at about 10k before we started a rather abrupt descent back into the centre.

There then followed about 3 miles of magical mystery tour as we crossed unmarshalled from one side of a dual carriageway to another (really?) and negotiated several unattended junctions in the city centre, the traffic cones that marked the course and the road closures probably moved by impatient motorists. They need to invest in some proper barriers and marshal incentives next year I think. And tell the drivers to 'calm down, eh', that should help.

The course then retraced the route of the half marathon south east to Princes Park and Sefton Park with a few extra loops to make up the distance, before a final four mile stretch along the waterfront back to Albert Dock. Mercifully flat with a kind tailwind (this year), but brutally hard concrete and never-changing scenery all the way. For the half runners, I'm not sure I would want this to make up a third of my race.

The after race entertainment and atmosphere were however excellent, helped by the good weather, commentary team (who clearly love their city with a zeal that would be hard to find in the south east), convenient and spacious race HQ at Albert Dock, and the post-race concert. The Farm were the headline act for the marathon - their initial performance of Stepping Stone reminded me of the Shirehorses' 'You don't have to bellow' but with beer in hand, catching up with a large contingent from my alma mater Reading Roadrunners, and the Liverpool Wheel spinning round behind the stage, there are few more pleasant ways to unwind after a marathon. Of course, they finished the set with a rousing rendition of 'All Together Now' and then it was time for me to get on my own groovy train back to Cambridge.

There was a little bit of controversy behind this race, as the 2013 locally organised RunLiverpool marathon was cancelled after the organisers and Liverpool City Council were unable to come to an agreement over the level of disruption the race would cause. You can imagine the raised eyebrows when weeks later an agreement was announced with the US Competitor Group who run the Rock 'n' Roll brand, with full road closures and all the disruption that entails. There may be some Schadenfreude that the 2300 finishers were 30% down on the numbers for the old race in 2012 (although 3500 did the half) and probably at least 50% down on the numbers they really wanted. The real test will be next year - as things stand it's no PB course, and certainly slower than the old route which started on the Wirral, so is unlikely to tempt the serious PB hunter away from Edinburgh. They need to offer something different, such as the on-course entertainment that didn't quite live up to the hype, and that might mean running at a loss for a couple of years to build the brand and regain local support.

Nice bit of bling though!

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