Monday 25 October 2021
A personal take on the Liverpool Marathon.
So eight years on from the introduction of Competitor Group to the city we no longer have a marathon event in Liverpool.
So, will Liverpool City Council consider hosting another?
Would BTR look to revive the excellent marathon we had in 2011 / 2012??
Is there a demand for a marathon in Liverpool???
All leading questions and in the aftermath of the Rock N Roll retreat it remains to be seen if a marathon is ever staged in the city again. For my part I would suggest not and there are many reasons for this.
I doubt given the track record that Liverpool City Council has over the last 10 years there is an appetite for such a 'major' event and in truth the structure of what was brought to the city in 2014 was far from a marathon event. As it turned out the marathon element was seemingly the least important as it was heavily outnumbered by people running the shorter distances. Good for the bottom line but undermining the marathon appeal.
Back in 2012 the city didn't need another half marathon or another 10K. What it needed was time to develop the marathon that BTR had hosted in the two years prior to bringing in the America, Venture Capitalist, Bank owned Competitor Group.
The clue as to ultimately why the marathon - and in fact the entire event - has failed is because it was structured on the wrong motivations. The focus for what has been in place for eight years was always on creating a profit driven event that involved a marathon distance but wasn't really about the marathon.
The 'free beer', medals for anything approach, noise and excitement was merely pandering to the widest possible customer base and not specifically marathon runners. This is in stark contrast to what BTR put in place in 2011 / 2012.
The correct approach was adopted by both the Chester and Manchester Marathons who are now both well established, high profile and attractive events... because they focus on the marathon distance.
Neither Chester nor Manchester are over selling the event but pitching it at the right audience. Distance runners. Not too different to what my focus was in trying to convince Liverpool City Council between 2008 and 2011 about what kind of event the city should have. None of my advice was taken on board. None.
If we fast forward to where we are today then I believe the marathon boat has sailed from the Pier Head and looking at the structure of the Liverpool Marathon course currently in use I would say in my professional and personal opinion... it doesn't work. I said this when I had to pitch my own marathon idea to Liverpool City Council. However, it's a moot point now and doesn't really matter but when I planned the Run Liverpool Marathon course I devised it from what I thought runners would want from the geography at our disposal. I based it on what I had experienced in the London and New York Marathons 28 times! Yes, the event wasn't just thrown together. It was considered on every level.
The 2011 / 2012 Run Liverpool considered the runners first and foremost, spectators and their ability to move around the course and it also considered how best to embrace minimal disruption. You can only achieve this by using both sides of the river with the run along the promenade from New Brighton to Birkenhead delivering the best view of Liverpool followed by an opportunity to run through the Queensway Tunnel. Emerging in the shadow of the Liver Building was priceless... grown men cried!!!
The original marathon course worked particularly well for me and it didn't close down 26.2 miles of Liverpool roads. And that's a big obstacle to overcome because modern society outside of runners on race day don't want to be inconvenienced. At all. Ever. That was a big part of the original planning and yet the more recent course has annually caused massive disruption to vehicle and people movement around what is actually a very small city.
So if you think the marathon will return again to the streets of Liverpool then I very much doubt it.
The geography is against anyone who puts a marathon on in the city and in addition there are two major marathons already succeeding not too far away. The city had a chance to position itself as a marathon leader back in 2013 but it got it wrong.
That's the truth of the matter. The Liverpool Half Marathon was started in 1994 and it's still here. I said in 2013 when the marathon disappears I would still be here. I am.
I'm looking forward to helping rebuild the established Liverpool Half Marathon back up to a reasonable size as since 2013 numbers have declined as a direct result of the introduction of the Rock N Roll Half Marathon - an event the city didn't need.
I'm looking forward to continuing to develop a bigger and better event on the back of the BTR Liverpool Skyline Half Marathon in 2022 and beyond and maybe I don't need to use the skyline description any more. It was to differentiate between the longstanding half marathon and the more recent introduction!
For now we have a bit of breathing space to consider what type of event the runners want in the city. I've got a good idea and I'm working on it. Whether it's a marathon remains to be seen...
So for now enjoy your running wherever it takes you and I look forward to you taking part in BTR events for a long time yet.
The Rock N Roll Marathon may have gone, Elvis may have left the building... but I'm still here.