Last year the Greater Manchester Marathon was a PB race for me, despite having had a 50K ultra marathon thirteen days before. I’d hoped with a solid winter of training I’d be able to improve upon this further and I’d once again set myself three different goals using the same naming technique as before:
- Gold: 3h10
- Silver: 3h15
- Bronze: 3h20
When I got back from the Nepal International Marathon I found that it took a bit more work to get back into longer runs, probably because I’d had a week off running whilst I was in Nepal. This then offset my training plans by about a month, and then in January, to fit running around work, I shuffled some runs around and this resulted in an inflamed achilles. This meant I wasn’t running at all for a couple of weeks, and it was a few more weeks before I could get back into long runs. I adjusted my training plans accordingly but it meant I’d be about two months behind where I wanted to be, and catching back up wouldn’t be easy.
With about a month to go before the race day I was back to getting in long runs at the pace I wanted to be doing Manchester at; but by the time of my longest run, which was only 22 miles, I could only sustain the required pace for 17 miles. It was looking like I could finish a marathon with some walking, but I wasn’t going to be getting a PB. This then left me changing my goals to some that were more realistic.
- Gold: 3h19
- Silver: 3h25
- Bronze: 3h35
Towards the end of training I also squeezed in a 10K and half marathon race, just to try and work on getting some of that speed back. Neither of these went to plan though, and were far slower than I’d have liked.
Once again I’d decided to take the train up to Manchester, and with an early start it meant I’d have the afternoon spare to look around the city. I decided that it’d make sense to get one of the £5.80 weekend travel cards again to make it easier to get around. The main difference this time was that I didn’t have any friends to meet-up with so would have about eight hours to waste before a group meal in the evening.
I wandered around the city for a time, trying to avoid the rain showers. Eventually though I was able to check into the hotel and lay my kit out for the morning.
The hotel was well situated, not far from the start and finish lines, and also not far the Tollgate Inn where the post-race meet-up would be.
After a wasted afternoon I headed back into the city to meet the others at Frankie & Bennys. It was busy on the trams due to a football match having just finished. It was sunny though, and showing signs of it warming up.
A common pre-race meal for a marathon is spaghetti bolognese so I didn’t disappoint and ordered it without looking at the menu. It was good to meet up with some familiar faces for food, and the restaurant staff were entertaining.
After a short tram ride back to the hotel it was an early night ready for the big day ahead.
The hotel was noisy as from my room I could hear a 50th birthday party, and also the drone of an air conditioning unit. Eventually I got some sleep but still awoke at 04:00. I took advantage of this extra time to check in for my flight in 24 hours time. After taking my time to have breakfast and get ready, I relaxed for a bit and headed over to Hotel Football for a group meet-up.
There were quite a few of us there for the pre-race photo – a mixture of new and familiar faces.
The start line was in the same place as last year so it felt very familiar. Though this time the pens went along a different road. I could see the 3:15 pacer a long way in front of me and I knew I wanted to catch up.
By the time I crossed the start line the 3:15 pacer was about a minute in front of me. Almost immediately I spotted Chalky and had a chat with him – he was going for about 3:00.
Last year the course looped through Media City and I remembered that bit well as I’d taken that bit too quickly. This year the course had changed and instead went through a housing estate – which I think was better for crowd support.
Running felt good and to start with I was putting in the miles at an average of 07:00min/mile. Around mile 3 the route passed the hotel I stayed in this year and then shortly after it passed the hotel from last year.
After that I’m not sure how much, if any, of the route differs to last year. Done hits definitely felt familiar though some of it also seemed alien.
By 5.5 miles I’d not only caught up with the 3:15 pacer, I’d over taken him. It felt good and it felt like I could continue at this pace for some time. It’s what I’d trained for, even if I hadn’t had the amount of practice I’d hoped for.
After crossing the splits mat at 10K I tried to get a bottle of water but fumbled it. A mistake that could have cost me greatly as I knew I’d need to take on water very soon but there wasn’t another official water stop until around mile 9. I got lucky though and over a mile down the road I was given a bottle of water I took a few quick sips from before discarding it.
Around this time I noticed a few messages of support from Twitter appear on my Garmin. It’s amazing what an advantage that is as by mile 8 it had started to become mentally challenging.
The section through Altrincham was probably one of the harder sections for me this year, but I really wanted to complete the marathon without walking. I thought maybe I could get to mile 21 like that – 4 miles further than I had in training.
As we got there the elite runners had just started to pass in the opposite direction – slighter further into the run than when I’d seen them last year, but that could have been down to route changes.
Once the loop through there was complete it was a relief as although there were a few hill climbs I could take it easy on the descents.
Seeing runners in the opposite direction also made it easier as it becomes a welcome distraction to spot other runners I know. I saw a few in #ukrunchat tees but hadn’t spotted most of them early enough to say anything, and a few I didn’t recognise. I then saw Sherie and got to high-five her on passing, and a little way down the road I saw Rachel after she shouted me!
I remembered last year that it had been around this point I had to remove a layer. This year there were no layers to remove, but it was plenty warm. I decided to stick to shaded areas when I could.
At mile 17 I was only two minutes over two hours and I realised at this pace I was on target for a good PB. I also felt like I could continue for the remaining 9.2 miles so all seemed good.
As I got closer to Carrington I started to slow down. It was okay though as I figured even if I slowed to 8min/mile I’d still get 3:15 – my best-case-scenario target. I’d even stopped taking on fuel at this point as jelly babies were not tasting nice.
However after mile 19 the 3:15 pace group stormed through. I kept with them for as long as I could, even whilst the pacer nipped into the bushes to relieve himself. I kept with the group until after he’d rejoined the group.
I was feeling tired but at mile 21 I thought perhaps I could keep on running until the end – a first for me. If I could cover those 5.2 miles in 50 minutes then all would be good. What I hadn’t anticipated was that my legs would decide they didn’t want to continue at that pace. Instead of slowing down, but continuing to run, I slowed to a walk after mile 22. Then I realised how thirsty I was after the long stretch in the sun.
Over the next 4.2 miles it got harder, and each mile seemed to last forever. I took on water in this time, but slowly and in small, infrequent amounts in case I was dehydrated. Eventually the end was in sight and it felt like the longest half a mile ever – it never seemed to get any closer.
I walked a couple of times in this stretch but eventually started to run properly again and picked up the pace. As soon as the guy next to me started to sprint I decided I would too – I didn’t know him, but I wanted to beat him to crossing the finish line. I did.
I’d missed the 3:15 target, but Strava indicated my time was 3:17:12 – a new personal best! I’ve still got a long way to go before I can run Boston, but this was a small step closer.
The support on this race was amazing, and I couldn’t name a single part of the race where there wasn’t someone cheering us all on. I think it’s this that makes Manchester a nice place to visit and race in.
At the finish it was far more organised than last year as the athletes village is inside Old Trafford and the spectators aren’t allowed in. This made the entire process easy and quick.
In the finishers bag there was:
- Finishers medal,
- Finishers tee,
- A bottle of water,
- An Asics foil blanket,
- And a mint chocolate protein bar.
From there I collected my bag from the hotel and met up with the others at the Tollgate Inn. By the time the next finisher arrived I’d already eaten, but it was good to see a familiar face. It was great to meet up with @EmaJoyC as well who is a local fitness blogger that I know via Twitter. It was nice to talk to her.
I had decided not to do Manchester next year, but now I’m undecided. I think there’s a chance I’ll be back for the third year running though it will depend on how it fits in with visiting New Zealand.
My official time was 3:17:51 in position 1087 out of 18127 finishes (first 5.9%).