A while ago I set out my personal targets for my marathon running by starting I was aiming to go sub3. At the time this was ambitious for me with a PB of 3:15 but it was a goal I wanted to aim for. I saw that Manchester pitched itself as flat and fast which after Bournemouth’s mile 18 hill I was glad to hear. This would be the one. My next marathon.
After a training period of no real injury issues and a few PBs in other distances I went into Manchester wanting a good time but not really believing I could achieve it.
Me and Dani did our usual thing of finding an Air b n b room near by that allowed me to make my porridge on race day. Getting up the day before meant we were able to do a reccy of the routes we would take using the tram system. I was pretty impressed with how easy this was and they also do a weekend use ticket which was really fair.
So, on the morning of the race I was up with my porridge before making the short walk to the tram station about 10 minutes away max. We timed this bit really well as a tram pulled up not long after. It reminded me of when I did London and you get an early Sunday train where it is clearly only runners aboard. We were about 20 minutes from the stop that we needed.
As we got off the tram, the old Trafford cricket ground was right there, at least one corner of it was. Unfortunately, there was an athlete only bit here so I had to leave Dani to go and put my bag in, expecting it to be pretty smooth like most events. However, this is my first issue with Manchester. Why not give us a baggage label in advance? Instead I had to join a snaking queue facing the wrong way for ages only to be given a band to stick on my arm that would correspond to band they stuck round my bag? Surely it would have been more efficient if I had done this in advance and it matched my race number. Mostly I felt bad for Dani because I abandoned her without expecting to be gone long.
I must say though, pre race, the urinals in the stadium were empty and it was so quick to nip in and out for those pre race nervous wees. Of which I did a few and it is here that Manchester redeems itself.
Bag dropped I realised I had forgotten to put Vaseline on my nipples but luckily saw another brace soldier rubbing his nipples in preparation for the battle ahead. He was kind enough to allow me to take my share.
I was having a dilemma about outfit setup because it looked grey gloomy and likely to be cold. I was basically set on the idea of wearing my under armour. I was wearing this when I applied the Vaseline.
As I made my way to the start line and began my gradual warm up, I knew it would be too hot for this. So I removed the base layer. Little did I realise that this would also take away the layer of Vaseline and that I might come to regret it later on.
The start seemed a bit further away than I expected. As I warned up more on route I was unsure about making it in good time so left Dani as I went to find my pen. It did feel like unusually short amount of time pre race but it was actually good as I was not there feeling cold for too long.
I spotted the 3 hour pacer, lined up slightly behind him and made the conscious decision to let him cross the line first so that in the long run I would always know that if he was on schedule and I was with him, then I would be ahead of 3 hours.
Not long after, we were set on our way. Instantly it felt tight. I knew it would be a busy race but I haven’t run in one quite like this since London. There was very little room but at least I knew I was in the right pace group so it wouldn’t be too bad.
What didn’t help matters was that early on there were quite a few twists and turns through the streets of Manchester. This caused a lot of slowing down on the bends and speeding up after. Every time, I felt the pacer pull away and I tried to keep them close.
I was being sensible, checking my HR rather than my pace, trusting the pacer for the first part anyway and knowing what I was capable of I was happy to do so. Annoyingly, I find some other runners frustrating when I comes to sharing the road. Some people are very quick to cut across corners on bends, not keeping their lines. Also, I got a couple of clips round the ankles, one little one before another which nearly sent me flying. Luckily I managed to fall towards the guy in front and keep myself up. Funnily though, 10 seconds later the same guy did it to the person next to me!
It stayed pretty cramped around the pacer, as you would expect, until around the half way mark. We went through pretty much bang on 1:30 and on schedule. I was feeling okay at this point t but aware that my HR was higher than I wanted it to be at this pace.
I missed a gel handover with Dani at mile 8 but caught her last second at mile 16ish so had to side step across for a quick grab and go. This was just in time for my next scheduled intake. It was really lucky too as I ended up using more gels than I planned just to get through.
There were some great crowds in parts of the course but as with the routes on some marathons, there are quiet bits. As we went through Carrington I was struggling and there was no crowd. I just had to keep telling myself that if I stop, even for a second, the pacer will go and it will all be over. I managed to get through this bit and kept going with the pacer. Soon though, the pacer managed to pull away from me as my quads just got tighter and tighter.
One of the hardest things I have done in running is kept going whilst seeing the pacer you want to follow, going off into the distance without you. TOUGH!!!
I managed to stick to some sort of pace and keep my legs moving. The final couple of miles were quiet until you get right near the end where the crowds for the finish were great. It was so cool to see a sea of people line the streets and guide you to the finish. Unfortunately I didn’t absorb this too much as I had to just get to the finish. I didn’t even see or hear Dani screaming for me on the home straight. I was tired, my head was rocking and I just wanted to close my eyes , curl up and go to sleep.
As I got closer I saw the clock and had a mini challenge to get under 3:01 gun time so pushed through to the end. Here I fell to the floor to rest and forgot to stop my watch so had no clue about my exact finish time. The people at the finish line were great and didn’t get too stressed about me stopping right after the line.
I felt so sore and weak I slowly moved through the medal and goody bag section to baggage reclaim. It was a lot quieter this time round. From here it was quite a long walk around the stadium to find friends and family.
I found Dani and made my way to collapse on some grass. She knew my time but I didn’t. Seeing 3:00:45 was frustrating but I was so happy because I knew I left nothing. After many angry ends after having to walk and giving up too easily, I was chuffed that I stuck with it.
Overall it was a really good race experience, even if there were a few quiet sections on the course. If you’re looking for a well organised went with some really good crowds as well as potential for a PB then this is worth a punt!