Monday 9 April 2018

L2M 50 Mile Ultra - Liverpool to Manchester 50 Mile GB Ultras

L2M 50 mile takes place in April and runs between Liverpool and Manchester, this year 2018 the start had moved to the Albert Dock in Liverpool and the finish at a slightly less famous, Didsbury Rugby Club. 237 new, soon to be and experienced ultra runners (and one wheel chair athlete, Steve) would begin on a wet morning at 6am

The L2M 50 mile ultra route begins with a couple of miles along the River Mersey, which if you have ever done Liverpool Half Marathon or Liverbird Double Marathon, you'll have run along this before. Then it diverts off through the depths of Liverpool following a national cycle trail (I think it is number 56?) to pick up the Trans Pennine Trail at Childwall and checkpoint 1 which is about 8 miles.

I had set out at just below 7 minute mile pace having recced this part of the route I knew where I was going but in addition the course had been marked with GB Ultras signage so it would have been difficult to get lost if you were paying attention. Just before Penny Lane the rain turned to snow which was actually nicer to run in although short lived and the rain resumed which stayed with me for almost 6 hours. Having run the race in 2017 (see the video here) on the slightly different course and in good conditions I ran 5 hours 58 minutes for the 50 mile route with little fuss so I had planned a similar time this year.

Things didn't turn out quite to plan as I'd been aware my stomach was feeling a bit strange, I think I'd just eaten a bit too late in the evening after registration on the Sunday night, this basically lead to having about 6 or 7 toilet stops between CP 1 and Widnes at CP3 where I could just see time slipping away. The early lead I'd built up was easily pulled back by a runner in a yellow jacket who caught and passed me just near the Runcorn bridge. Conditions over head weren't improving either although earlier on I'd grabbed myself a couple of empty crisp packets that were littered on the trail and used them over my hands to keep them toasty and warm despite the conditions

After leaving Widnes things were looking up on the stomach front, the only thing (other than the conditions - which were the same for us all anyway) that I was aware might affect me, was the fact I'd not eaten or drunk anything yet. Before arriving in Warrington for CP 4 at Sankey Bridges and the approximate half way point I had a gel as my stomach seemed to have settled over the last few miles. I also had caught up with the guy in the yellow jacket who'd passed me quite easily earlier on and as I passed by he didn't respond in terms of any change in pace. Between here and the  Latchford Locks checkpoint on Bradshaw Lane I swapped to my spare jacket and was now moving relatively well again. I didn't stop for food or drink at any checkpoints, literally ran through calling my number and shouting a few thank you's.

After CP5 there was a small diversion around Lymm which was off the trail but then the route is the same all the way to the finish as last year. It's a long straight section through there to the next cp and a passing walker informed me there was 'nobody behind'. I had another gel and a 3rd before the finish. The trail was becoming wetter under foot but the great thing about the TPT is that it's firm and well surfaced so even in the rain there wasn't really any mud or slippery areas (like the opposite to Chester 50 mile) just puddles.

I hadn't been on this part of the course since last year at the L2M 100 mile except for a bit around Chorlton Water Park on the trail marathon they had during the summer (not my favourite of courses, loops and loops around the area) so I was just thinking my way through the route ahead. By now I was aware that the pace I'd been struggling along at early on had hampered my time quite substantially and so I was just cruising along around 7.30 min per mile pace to get to the finish.

Nothing really eventful over the final miles as I watched 6 hours tick over on the watch and rolled in eventually in 6 hours and a few minutes. If I'd have run that time in good conditions minus the stomach issues I'd have been totally disappointed but I'm glad that everything happened in this race and not my main target for the moment (L2M 100 mile at the end of April). Last year I ran 13 hours 58 minutes for the 100 mile event and my half way split was about 6 hours 27 minutes. Looking at the results I'd been gaining about 1 minute per mile over the eventual 2nd place during the second half and the guy in the yellow jacket had blown up in what must have been a very tough 2nd half for him coming in about 80 minutes behind which was all lost during the 2nd half. Always think about your pacing, whilst everyone will slow down a little, being disciplined early on can really pay off later. A big well done to some of my clients running, one managing to bag 1st lady covering the 50 mile in 6 hours 55 minutes and also another client for knocking over 1 hour from the previous year coming in 9 hr 47 minutes. some huge improvements there!

Overall the race was well organised and the marshals were fantastic, must have been a tough day for them out there for so long waiting for all the runners. The finish venue was ideal, with lots of showers and easy access to transport to get home, The only issue with the A to B linear style of the race is getting back home and to the start. You'd either have to stay in Liverpool the night before the race and hope you finish early enough on the race to get home afterwards if using public transport, or drive super early to the start, park there and either stay near the finish or finish quick enough to get to the car that evening, unless you have any friends who you could persuade to shuttle you about. Other than that I do personally prefer the original start from near Aintree as it's straight on the trail and you get to pass some of the more exciting parts of the trail like the big sandstone walls that the trail is cut into and many tunnels and bridges from the old railway line.

It's a perfect first ultra but might also suit those more experienced who want to see how quickly they can cover the distance. You can watch the video version below

Results are HERE

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