People say I’m impulsive. They say that I rush into things.
Two days after I returned home from the Rome Marathon I entered the Manchester Marathon…and I would be running it a week later, so they may very well be right!
I didn’t peak in Rome, I knew that much for sure, and I felt like I had wasted months of training – I was looking for redemption and I still wanted a sub 3.45 to qualify for London GFA. Physically I felt OK, sure I felt like I had been on a long run but I definitely didn’t feel like I had after previous marathons and, given my pace was a fair bit slower than my training runs, I guess this wasn’t surprising. Most importantly I didn’t have any injury niggles, if I did I wouldn’t have even considered it as I knew it was a risk to run a marathon so soon anyway.
I was aware the Manchester Marathon was 2 weeks after Rome and I was pleasantly surprised/scared they were still taking entries so late. Claiming to be the flattest marathon in the UK (I’m not entirely sure about that but we’ll come to that later!) I couldn’t help but sign up, surely it was an opportunity that I just couldn’t miss?!
Was I mad?
I didn’t keep it a secret but I didn’t tell lot of people, mostly because I didn’t want to hear that it was a bad idea and I shouldn’t do it! I took advice from some more experienced runners in the Chasers and was happy that they didn’t tell me it was a stupid idea – instead they told me to focus on rest and recovery. So I did.
A couple of Chasers were also running Manchester and they invited me to post race lunch. I was pleased to have some friends to celebrate with at the finish, a lonely marathon runner is a sad marathon runner after all.
I was aware that achieving the ultimate goal would be somewhat unlikely after Rome but I figured I had nothing to lose and running 2 marathons in 2 weeks would be a new achievement anyway. Win win?!
So Saturday came around and, questioning my sanity again, I headed to Manchester with just a backpack and bag full of food (travelling light is a challenge it itself for me, what do you mean I can’t take 4 pairs of shoes?!). I made my way to Old Trafford to pick up my number from the race village which was in the car park. It was most definitely the smallest race village/expo I’ve ever seen…
However, there was no queuing, the staff were friendly and it did the job! I headed to my hotel to put my feet up and eat more food.
The hotel was in a fairly quiet area so I was glad I had planned ahead and made a big tub of tuna pasta for dinner, it also meant I could relax and not leave the room for the rest of the day. Having learnt from Rome I took a big pot of tea bags & milk and proceeded to drink 2 cups of tea at a time to ensure my caffeine intake was up (well, the cups were small!)
Arriving at the race village the next morning (with Martin Yelling no less) there was a lot more going on and I picked up a pace band from the Asics tent. Whilst I was queuing I gave my parents a call to let them know what I was up to as I hadn’t told them my plans. They were a tad surprised! The bag drop was quick and fuss free and, whilst there was a queue, there were a lot more toilets than in Rome, phew! Heading for the start line I made my way through the crowd to get to the 3.45 pacer, Ben.
I believe the race was started by Ron Hill but I didn’t see him. A group us us ran with Ben and the pace felt OK, I most definitely would have gone off too fast without him. If I’m honest I didn’t really notice much of the course, I simply concentrated on running, so I couldn’t tell you what I saw. I did notice the course wasn’t as flat as I thought it would be though! It wasn’t hilly but I’m sure there were more inclines than in London…
There were a couple of switchbacks early on and I shouted out to Keith and Matt in their Chasers vests. At mile 9 I saw my friend Kim who had come to support Keith, she cheered and shouted and I was pleased to see a friendly face.
I was impressed with the water stations, rather than bottles (that are a hazard when discarded), or cups (which are difficult to drink from whilst moving), they supplied pouches which were very easy to carry and water only came out when you squeezed it. They’re also much less of a problem when on the race course as if you tread on them they simply squirt out any left over water. Why don’t all races have these?
At half way I was still feeling good but I wasn’t convinced my legs could go the whole way at the pace I wanted them to. At mile 16 I started to drop back and I saw Kim again. She jogged alongside me whilst I started chatting. She told me to stop talking and get on with running – fair enough!
Mile 16…still smiling!
From about mile 18 I knew I wouldn’t finish under 3.45 but I kept pushing. I think the last 6 miles were more challenging than any other marathon I’ve run (and I’m sure it was all on a gentle incline!) but mentally I was feeling tough and I kept going.
The crowd support was great, unfortunately as a late entrant my name wasn’t printed on my number but everyone still cheered me on, it really does help!
As I ran back towards Old Trafford the crowds lined the street and I crossed the line in 3.56. The finish was smooth and quick and I got my medal, water and goody bag in minutes. In fact I got 2 goody bags because whilst I was debating if I wanted the small or extra small t-shirt (always difficult to know with unisex sizes) the man gave me both!
I saw Kim and Keith waving and was very grateful they waited for me (for an hour!!), as I didn’t think I would find my way to the pub for lunch by myself. We shuffled along to Salford Quays where I refueled on a chicken burger and cider (Kopperberg, which apparently is wanky London stuff…)
I eventually got home at 8pm and was absolutely exhausted (although Liam Gallagher was on my train so that made it more interesting, shame I both looked and smelt like a tramp). I ate 2 bagels and went to bed, yes, 2!
I thought the Manchester Marathon was very well organised, especially after Rome. The only small thing I would change would be to add some kind of sports drink at some of the stations. I never drink a lot of this but I often get a craving for it in the later stages. They did give out Shot Bloks though which I’m a big fan of (a bit strange to hear people shouting out ‘shots’ in the middle of a marathon!)
The race village, marshaling, water stations, crowd support and even the finish area were fantastic.
I would definitely recommend the Manchester Marathon but would I recommend running it 2 weeks after Rome? Only if you’re as tough as me!
What I learnt from this marathon is that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Last year I thought running 2 marathons in a year would be too much for me but now I’ve run 4 in the last 12 months including 2 in the last 2 weeks! I’ve also been overwhelmed by the support I received from everyone offering advice, encouragement and, most importantly, their faith. Thank you.
The only problem now of course is that I have a double dose of the post marathon blues…