As soon as I saw the date of Manchester marathon I had to enter – it was on my birthday and what better way of celebrating than running 26.2 miles with 15,000 other people.
I guess it could be a case of third time lucky with this race. I first ran it in 2016, I set my PB of 4.29.16. I returned again in 2017 as I had a discount code as an apology for the three-hour baggage queue I’d had to wait in. I trained really hard for it, desperate for another PB, but unfortunately, I fell ill with man-flu race week and that was reflected in my time of 4.41.
Not one to give up, I was back again, ready to tackle it with a goal time of around 4.20 in mind. I’d following an advanced training plan this time. At first, I was worried I’d taken on too much, but I’d managed PB’s in both a 10-mile race and a half marathon so I was confident the plan was working.
I’d talked a couple of friends into it too which made training a lot more enjoyable. We arrived at the race village just after 8. Traffic had been a little crazy due to race traffic and roadworks. By the time we had got through the toilet queue, it was time to head to the starting area for the 9am start. After the bad weather and snow we’ve endured during training we were lucky we had perfect conditions for running today. Due to the volume of people, it took around 15 mins to get across that start line and get going.
I don’t know the area at all – I tend not to look at at the route before had as it freaks me out how far we have to run! It starts and ends at Old Trafford taking you out into Sale, Altrincham, Carrington, Flixton and back to the finish at Old Trafford.
During the Race
The first part of the course is a 3-mile loop which brings you back around to Old Trafford. I’d set off too far back, somewhere behind the 5-hour pacer. The first 5 miles were spent weaving in and out of people.
There was a lot of pushing around the first water station, I don’t really understand this, there is plenty for everyone. I tend to take a bottle and keep hold of it until I’ve drunk it which means I can keep going and avoid the mass panic for the next couple of stops. Once it’s empty I switch it to a one for a full one at the next stop I come to.
I was focussing on the first 16 miles. I knew once I had that done I could start counting down the miles to the finish. I seemed to breeze to the halfway points with my Manchester-themed playlist. This wasn’t really needed. If you want a marathon with a lot of crowd support – this is one for you. The course takes you through a lot of residential areas and everyone turns out to cheer you on, hand out water and jelly babies, cool you down with hose pipes. I have never hi-fived so many kids as I have in this race.
18 miles I started to struggle, as expected, but I kept moving I just slowed down. This slower pace continued until mile 22 where I got a new lease of life (maybe the rest in my legs, or the fact I knew it was nearly over). At mile 24 I looked at my watch – could I make sub 4.20? It was looking do-able. Mile 25, Oasis – Headshrinker came on my iPod. Time to give it some Liam Gallagher style attitude to the finish line. The last half mile was spent clock watching and focusing on that finish. The crowd were incredible. I crossed the line 4.20.07.
I was initially a little disappointed as I’d tried so hard to pick it back up again on those last few miles. However, it’s still a new PB by 9 minutes and the time I had wanted so I’m happy. I had nothing left at the end, but I still managed to make my way to the Erdinger tent for my finish line pint!
Time to open up the tracker and see where my friends were. They’d both passed the 20-mile point so I didn’t have long to wait. Both of them did amazing – I’m so proud of them!
Entry Cost: from £55.00
Water stations: Around every 2-3 miles (small sports bottles). Beer at the finish.
Parking: Plenty and good transport links
Photos: Yes, £35 for the bundle. £20 if you pre-ordered
Baggage Facilities: Yes, didn’t use this year
Post-Race Goodies: Goody-bag / t-shirt / medal / water / protein bar / finish line pint
Highlights: A new PB and the atmosphere – you really can’t beat the crowd support here
Low points: None really