Breaking four – Gary’s story (Race Report by Phil McCarron)
As essentially all Massey’s know by them, every May on a predetermined weekend, thousands of runners from across the world embark onto the streets of Liverpool to run a variety of races and collect some uniquely designed medals and also to sample the local beverages as myself and the Sunday night crew can testify for. This being more commonly known as the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series.
I arrived late to the party on Friday night (due to some last minute work matters that had to be taken care off), I quickly dropped off my bags in my hotel room, said hello to my copper bath and headed down to the docks to meet up with the Massey crew at the Pump House for a quick drink prior to our early start for the 5km the following morning.
I would like to start this story by explaining my history of how I seem to be coerced into registering for these weekends in Liverpool, last weekend being my second year in a row. I somehow managed to register for the half marathon in 2018 at approximately 2.00-2.30am the morning after the 40th anniversary dinner in 2017 (thanks Mrs Secretary and Mr Chairman :-)). After 2018’s events and with a few of us having a couple of beverages in our systems, we all put our hand in together and made a pact to come back the following year, but instead of doing the Half Marathon this time we would do the Marathon and the 5km the day before (I blame Jo Hayes :-)).
Saturday morning started as all Saturday mornings should start in my opinion with a 5km. It was agreed that the Massey crew would meet at Jury’s Inn for a quick photo prior to heading to the quarrels for the start of the 5km. The Massey lads decided to head to quarrel four and take it easy, well that was the plan!!!!!!!!!. As anybody who have read the comments of my Fbook live knows, we had please to slow down. After about 1 mile we got our pace regulated and were really enjoying this lovely 5km (highly recommended for anyone attending next year). Some of this time on the course was spent by Phil H, explaining to us the importance of taking the shortest possible route (yeah mate, you’re meant to stay within the barriers :-)).
Let’s face it, the moderate pace was not going to last for long, as we were approaching the finish line the race was on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Let us just say, someone was knocked into a barrier and someone almost toppled a mother a child, I ran the quickest possible line to the finish.
Following the 5km, I headed back to the hotel for a shower and a quick nap. On the way back to the hotel, I popped into pret to grab a coffee and start the pre-race carb loading. The lovely lady behind the counter overly congratulated me for my 5km achievement that morning and gave me all my food for free (I did not tell her about the fence incident). Reflecting back on this weekend, I should have realised at this point that maybe luck was going to be on my side. That afternoon I headed back to the expo to pick up some merch, prior to meeting up with the crew for some pre-dinner soda water.
A group of us met at Zizi’s for some carbs, carbs, and carbs. Just want to say a big thanks to Paul and Diana for organising this. What a better way to prep for a marathon than some laughs, a loaf of garlic bread, a calzone and some sorbet. I think this pre-race dinner is a great tradition of this weekend and long may it last. That was it, I have done all I could do. All that was left in front of me was 26.2 miles my hope that I could make the impossible possible.
N.B. For anyone expecting a story about 4am start, mid-race cramps, twenty minute toilet queues or a badly executed marathon please stop reading now, I refer you to my race report last year for NYC marathon for this. The following paragraphs are a review of how things can go right and how developed an understanding and realisation for any race going forward of that the only thing to fear is fear itself.
My race morning started as all my race mornings seem to start…. That being a sleepless night from 00.00. I woke up at about 6.30am, had some food, got ready and headed down to docks to meet up with the half marathon crew and see them off. Whilst myself and running on fumes waited for the 10am marathon start we grabbed a coffee and hung out by the bag drop area and got ourselves prepped and ready. We met up with the Hayes’s and Dave F for a marathoner’s pre-race photo and headed to our designated quarrels. Myself and Phil H were both in number 5 and as we made our way walking to the start line, we wished each other luck and the next thing we knew we were on our way.
Those that know, know that NYC marathon although an absolutely incredible experience, it destroyed my confidence in my self perceived capability to run a marathon. I was not able to pull it together on that day last November so coming into Liverpool I had multiple different ideas on how I was going to run this race. It was only until the one mile point I realised what race plan I was going to have to follow.
I did not enjoy the half marathon course in 2018, so I knew going into the marathon in 2019 that it was going to be a matter of having music blaring in the headphones and chugging each mile out one after another. The first couple of miles of the marathon course looked all the same to me, not being a fan of football, Everton football stadium was not really something to look forward to for me so the lap around it was very the same as the rest of the start of the course in my eyes. Coming out of Everton stadium you could see the marathoners that started later than I coming down the other side of the road, then I saw it coming down the other side of the road in the distance, those red and white quarters. I didn’t get to excited (it could be a Watford Jogger), know it wasn’t it was Jo Hayes. We both ran across to the centre, gave each other a high five and best wishes for the rest of the journey ahead of us.
As I was running through the first of the many parks on this course, I got my second positive uplift of the course. The four hour pacers were coming into sight, I was genuinely in my own world and hadn’t realised the pace I was going, I was feeling great and I had made some sort of buffer for a sub 4 marathon. I kept moving and within the next half mile or so I had caught the four hour pacers. I started chatting to one of them for a bit he really filled me with confidence “you have caught us, you have a buffer, just keep going”.
Each leg kept moving one after another and I noticed that I was gradually moving ahead of the 4hr pacers. I decided to just keep moving, little did I know that my first problem of the day was about to hit. Coming up to the 10 mile mark, the music stopped in my ears, my headphones were broken. I messed around with my headphones and my phone for a couple of minutes whilst running, I could not get them to work. I just had to keep going without music, sure 16 miles with your thoughts to play with, surely it cannot be that bad, right.
The half marathon point was next up, this was always going to be the first big point of the race for me, the time at this point was going to mean everything and I was feeling great. 1.54…. 1.54………… I smiled, it gave me so much confidence. I knew it was going to get harder from here but all that was in my head was that as long as I am not twelve minutes slower for the second half, I was going to do it. I had the motivation to power forward.
Journey to 16 miles
After I passed the half marathon point, the next thought in my head was that if I can get to 16 still running I will be down to single figures left to go. I kept moving forward left right, left right. Coming up to the 15 mile point I could see Dave F in front of me. As eluded to earlier, seeing somebody I know on the course is the greatest power up for me. Myself and Dave F shared a quick few words and I kept moving forward. The next thing I knew, I could see the 16 mile sign ahead of me, I was still feeling alright and most importantly I was still running, Gary’s checkpoint 2, done.
Journey to 20 miles
Those that know me, would know that mental arithmetic is a strong point of mines, but when I passed the 16 mile point I knew the next key milestone in this race was going to be the 20 mile point. The time I pass the 20 mile point was going to determine whether this race was going to be a sub 4 or a low 4. However I was getting very tired and I could not work out how much time I had to get from the 16 mile marker to the 20 mile marker. This was going to have to be a run to feel.
For those that read my report from New York (you can read it here), I know what you are thinking, “What about the note Gary”, “Who did you give the note to Gary”. Shortly after the 16 mile mark, like a mirage in front of me all I could see was a lady wearing a pink tutu walking, as I caught her I gave her the words of encouragement to get her running. We ran together for a couple of hundred meters and in tears she told me her story (this is something I will not share on this report), but all that she was thinking at this point was that she failed. She consistently thanked me for getting her to run again, I knew she was the one. As we shook hands to say our farewells, I slipped the note into her hand, I said “this was handed to me coming to the end of NYC marathon and I gave me what I needed to finish, I hope it can do the same for you and please pay it forward at some point.” I thanked her for her company. As I slowly moved ahead of her, I had the feeling inside of me that, I almost wanted her to finish more than I wanted it for myself.
The 17.5 mile – 18 mile mark was heading up towards Penny Lane. I started to get very dizzy and everything started spinning, I was in trouble, I didn’t know what to do and slightly started to panic. As I said previously in this report, one of the greatest motivators in a race is seeing a friend and having that high five and sharing those words of encouragement. I looked ahead of me and I could see Phil Hayes running down the other side of the Penny Lane switch back. We both ran to the barrier shared a high five and a keep up the good work. This was exactly what I needed. I fired a cola gel down my throat (thanks @covrunner, this was the best gel ever) and I got my composure back. It was time to power forward.
The last mile or so coming up to the 20 mile mark, I spent running side by side with a guy wearing a dementia revolution t-shirt, that is all I know about this guy we did not talk. There it was, my legs were absolutely killing and I was wrecked, but there it was the 20 mile mark. As I passed the 20 mile mark I looked down at my watch 2.57, I had lost some time, however I knew it was still possible. I was just going to have to run the hardest most painful 10km of my short running career. “We can do this Gary”.
Journey to 26.2.
My now two marathons, tell two different stories for this point of the race. In NYC, I was gone both mentally and physically. In Liverpool I had my head in the game, In Liverpool all I could think about was it is just 10km Phil, this is going to absolutely hurt like nothing else but it is just 10km, you do these all the time. You know what you have to do Phil.
As you can tell by this race report so far, I am never sure these days if my name is Phil or Gary, I get kind of confused.
I do not remember too much off the last 10km, I was just looking forward left foot, right foot, foot and don’t let the Mersey get in your head. In my head it was a very long two to three miles but I looked forward and I could see the Mersey coming into site, home straight Gary, home straight. I grabbed a water at the station at the start of the Mersey on the course and I fired into me my last gel. Time to get this done.
This is a terrible couple of miles at any point let alone at the end of the marathon. The only thing I can remember, which I am quite embarrassed about is when I say Becca from the “thisbunnyruns” Instagram page, I said “I love your Instagram, keep up the good work”. I never really like her Instagram page, face plant.
My next memory from this race is 24.7miles on my Garmin watch and 3.45. I panicked, I was not monitoring time, I had forgotten about time. I had 15 minutes to do 1.5 miles. All I could think was you have not done all this work, come this far to do a 4hrs and 1 second. This was the longest 1.5 miles I was ever going to run, I could not keep my eyes off my watch. I was absolutely broken physically and the emotions where hitting but all I could think about was if you do not do this now, I was going to have to try sub 4 again soon. I did not want to do it again. I was panicking but still moving, all that mattered was that I was still moving.
My watch beeped for 26 miles and I could see the finish line in the distance. It said 3.56 and seconds. All I could do was smile and the emotions were over whelming, I was going to do it. I did not see any of the Masseys coming up to the finish line, all I was doing was looking straight. The impossible was about to come possible, I had done it.
People that know me, know that I am a sensitive guy and the last fifty meters of this marathon I spent in tears. I just could not control the emotions it was over whelming. Beep, the timer mat at the finish line clicked, job done, I could stop. I was so overwhelmed I could just not stop smiling. I caught up with Phil at the finish line and we took some photos and went to collect our multiple medals for the weekend. Shortly after we went back down to the finish line to meet up with our fellow Massey to cheer the rest of the marathoners in. This was when the tiredness properly hit for me. I spent the next half an hour sitting on the ground laying against a mesh fence trying to eat some fluids and sweets. Shortly after I shared a bottle of prosecco with some of the crew and cheered the finest marathoners across the line.
My biggest congrats and thanks to all Massey’s and Massey’s families for firstly completing their respective races and secondly letting me share an absolutely incredible weekend with them. It is something I will never forget, thank you.
Things that are not covered in this report: Gary sitting in a river of beer and too tired/cannot be bothered to move; ‘Running on Fumes’ kind gestures that made official race photographs; Gary thinking one lady was another lady’s daughter; the assumed daughter was two weeks older than the lady and the vast amount of post-race alcohol that was consumed in a bar that had an escalator to take you up to the toilet.
So, what is next I hear you ask? I can tell you now that I will not be racing a marathon again for a while (if ever), but I do have something I am aiming for. Somebody once said “everybody has within themselves the power to achieve greatness, however that may look to them”, this was mines.
I just want to say a massive thanks and sharing of love to all of you guys for all support leading up to this, it meant the absolute world and could not have got here without you lot. It is a pleasure to be able to train alongside your guys and to get to know you all. Thank you so much,