Halfway there

There were no toilets, and it was windy. Those are probably the two things that I’ll remember about the half marathon I completed about three hours ago in Liverpool.

I arrived at the Albert Dock at about 9:15am for the 10am start, and a few nasty things became apparent to me. Firstly, the aforementioned lack of toilets, which is a terrible thing considering that most runners will have drunk enormous amounts of water before arriving and a lot of them will need to relieve themselves. This wouldn’t have been such a problem if the Albert Dock, or indeed any establishment with toilets, had been open – but of course, it was.

Secondly, the little leaflet runners received in the mail said that the start line was by the Yellow Submarine, a big, easy to spot landmark. Unfortunately the council had removed the submarine a month earlier, which confused no end of people (including myself) and I think a fair few got it mixed up with the yellow banana-cow, another nearby scultpure. So, whoever made that leaflet deserves to be made to apologise to all inconvenienced runners (plus the leaflet had pretty horrible design).

Thirdly and lastly, it was very windy – not surprising given that the Albert Dock is quite exposed, but still not very pleasant. Apart from those two things (the wind doesn’t count), the race was extremely well organised. Indeed, there were plenty of clean toilets at the end.

While I wasn’t able to judge the numbers myself, there were apparently 10,000 runners either doing the 10k or the half marathon this morning. Certainly there were enough to create a train of runners over a mile long.

I managed to pace myself much better than previously for this race, starting off at a very comfortable 7.5mph (8 minute mile) speed and gradually ramping it up to 8.0 and 8.5mph later on. Since I started well behind the start line* this meant that I was consistently overtaking people for the entire race, a much better (and novel) experience than the opposite.

* Not that this was a problem since our times are worked out by when RFID chips on our shoes go past the start and finish lines

There’s not an awful lot to say about the race itself. The course was quite interesting, relatively windy and by no means flat – there were plenty of ups and downs. The wind calmed down for the greater part of the race and even the sun made an appearance. While there weren’t that many bystanders, those who were watching were very good natured and encouraging.

My main strategy for the race was to ensure I didn’t drop below 7.5mph and to keep on trying to overtake likely-looking targets ahead of me. I’d assign these targets superhero names based on their T-shirts, like Heinz Boy, Asics Lad, iPod Man and Wilmslow Woman (Wilmslow Woman was unfortunately one of the few that got away). I found it interesting that I hardly saw anyone my age running in my cohort – most people were much older. I’m not really sure why this is the case; perhaps people take up running when they’re older, or my generation has just turned into a bunch of coddled gym-going layabouts.

As for myself, I took the race a bit too casually (again) because I didn’t feel particularly tired at any point and I was able to speed up to a sprint for the last few hundred metres. Now, this is a great thing to do, plus it really annoys all the other people around you, but there’s no reason why I couldn’t have just sprinted for the last mile or so instead. Sure, I would’ve been more tired at the end – but that’s the point – and I would’ve shaved maybe a good 30 seconds off my time.

In any case, I think I came in at about 1:41 or 1:42, which you’ll is a good three or four minutes faster than my effort last Sunday. I wasn’t able to time myself exactly because I had to reset my track data on the GPS halfway through, but they put the race information online I’ll post the time here.

This half marathon was my fifth and I’d say most successful this year. I made it to the end in a good time and felt quite comfortable throughout. I’d be disappointed if I couldn’t make my next half marathon below 1:40. When that’ll happen though, I’m not sure. I imagine my next races are likely to be 10ks in London. What I’d really like to try is fell running, but I have no idea exactly how I’d get to the fells.


I had the opportunity to check out the performance of Virgin’s new Pendolino train last night on the way from London Euston to Liverpool. From the inside it doesn’t look like anything special – it’s perhaps slightly more spacious than their usual Voyager train, and slightly more high tech. On the move, though, it feels noticeably faster, especially when tilting around corners. The tilting wasn’t unpleasant or nauseous, so thankfully I don’t think the Pendolino is about to go the way of the vomit-inducing APT. This is a good thing because I managed to get from Euston to Liverpool in about two and a half hours; quicker, in fact, than it takes to get from Cambridge to Oxford. So, well done to Virgin!

One of the passengers sitting nearby had one of those portable DVD players with her for the journey. It wasn’t a svelte model by any measure – the screen was about the size of one you might find on an economy class airplane seatback, and the unit itself was probably the same volume as my iBook – in other words, incredibly chunky. Since I was sitting behind her, there was really no need to get involved in any kind of laptop ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ competition but I did take a peek at what she was watching. It was hard to make out, but when I glanced over I had the impression I could see John Cusack. An hour later and my suspicions were confirmed – not only was it John Cusack, but the movie was that pile of excreble mediocrity, Serendipity. I slumped back in my seat, disappointed in humanity in general, and then cheered up after listening to the third Hitchhiker’s episode on my iPod.