So it was finally here, the race I have dedicated 4 months of my life too and it was here….it was all for this one run!!!
I and my support crew (wife and boys) arrived in Manchester for 5pm and headed straight to the Trafford Centre. I could of researched a lovely quaint Italian but I didn’t so thought Zizzi’s would be a safe option. While queuing we watched the Grand National on the gigantic screen in the Food Hall eagerly cheering on each of our horses, good news one of my boy’s came second and he was very pleased to win £11!
After filling up on carbs we headed to the Premier Inn by Old Trafford and checked in. They had kindly arranged for breakfast to open an hour earlier, which I thought was a sensible but nice thing to do.
Our room was really comfortable and had a lovely view.
I immediately chilled out on the bed, watching BGT with the boys who just love Ant and Dec!
I’m not one for early nights but I was in bed with my eyes closed by 21:30, I was running a marathon in the morning and I needed my rest. Boom 02:30 and my need to stay hydrated had resulted in me being desperate for the toilet in the middle of the night. Thereafter I couldn’t sleep with my brain going in overdrive about the race. I didn’t get off again till after 04:30 (last time I can remember looking at my watch). I then must of turned my alarm off in my sleep because I woke up 45 minutes late (thank you Mum for texting), I quickly got ready and darted down for breakfast. I kept slightly with my normal routine and had porridge with jam but also added in a couple of slices of toast too. It was really nice to see so many runners, I held small talk with the guy next to me about training and so on which was nice. I finished off breakfast and headed out for a walk. Probably a daft thing to do but I just couldn’t just sit there and I didn’t want to go back to the room with everyone getting ready.
As forecasted it was perfect conditions with blue sky’s, hardly any wind and coldish.
I timed walking back into the hotel perfectly as my wife and boys entered the lobby ready for breakfast. I joined them at their table and grabbed myself a few dried apricots.
We went back to the room, I put on my running vest, packed my post race bag which my wife took (what a great move that turned out to be!) and we headed to the start line.
I got to the start line for about 08:30 and said my goodbyes getting some huge hugs and encouraging words from my wife and boys. They headed straight to the tram to meet me at mile 6.
I headed to the portaloos which while plentiful were quite a wait. I walked down to pen A and did some light dynamic stretching not wanting to waste too much energy, this was quite weird as my normal routine is always to jog a mile before. I jumped behind the overhead sign again to make sure my bladder was completely empty and then lined up.
With my tendency to head off too quick I went to the back of the pen and looked for a female runner. This might sound odd but women runners are far more consistent pacers and my plan was to find one running roughly 6:40 for the first few miles until I found my stride and go on by myself.
So the wheelchair racers headed off first and it was now that I removed an old event tee and threw it to the barrier, butterflies kicked in and then before I knew it the gun went, someone shouted “I’ve been shot!” and we were off!!
The lady I picked was a great choice as she paced me on the first mile at 6:50 and then 6:31, 6:35, 6:38 and 6:40. It was now that I found my rhythm and was away. Those initial miles were really enjoyable, with great support. The field thinned out quite quickly which was good and I got a shout out from another Littledown Harrier who I didn’t realise was running. I was conscious I didn’t want to be zig zagging and wasting energy for those early miles so I just kept on the outside left throughout and that worked really well, so well I adopted it for the whole race.
At mile 5 I was on the lookout for the first SIS stop and I successfully grabbed one and took the gel. Once passed my thoughts were very much on looking out for my family. There was quite a lot of support here so when I saw those signs poking out I got a big rush of emotion and came in for my first tap to power up!!
From here I did really well in keeping consistent splits, roughly averaging 6:35 between miles 6 and 12. I enjoyed this stretch of the race for support and entertainment, and where ever there was an outreached hand for a high five I hit it! I love this interaction between runners and spectators. They don’t know you but they cheer you nonetheless, even calling out your name which is printed on your number. In my mind those high five are not just them supporting me but me thanking them too, all very deep but I hope you get what I mean.
I again was successful with refueling at mile 10 and my mind once again focused on reaching Altrincham where my family had commuted to on the tram. I perhaps got a bit too eager to see them as I did mile 13 in 6:21 hit the tap to power up too hard and did mile 14 in 6:18…oops!!
Altrincham was my favourite part of the route, I spotted my boys early and pulled out wide so they’d spot me as was quite a few runners. They went mad jumping up and down and cheering and it just filled me up with so such joy and put me on such a high, my wife shouted “might see you at 17” which was not planned and gave me something to look forward to.
Once passed I then hit the support and entertainment in the town centre which was just fantastic. A big shout out to the Little Belters who I’d seen on Twitter, I ran past giving them all high fives, they were singing Buddy Holly and sounded great!
At this point I felt I was running on air and I ran effortlessly averaging 6:32 until mile 17, I did however have one mishap. As I approached the SIS stop at mile 15 there was only one orange gel (non caffeine) available which I focused on but the runner in front grabbed it, I grabbed another and then chased the runner with the orange gel. I explained I couldn’t have caffeine and he happily swapped but apologised as he had already had half…I didn’t care, half was better than none and gratefully swapped. In hindsight I should have just stopped and swapped but in my mind I had to keep running. That’s only half of the mishap though, because I’d only had half I was a bit worried so I decided to grab any sweets offered. I grabbed some jelly babies off a girl (offered not stolen) and then on the third or forth I choked, I spluttered and coughed and thankfully the bit flew out, phew!!!
At Brooklands on the return approaching the Brook DJ I saw a kids outstretched hand so I went it for a high five, with this about 30 hands came out so I did a running kinda Mexican wave high five getting a massive cheer and a shout out by the DJ, this was great fun and made me laugh.
I knew now that I must be getting close to the tram station so my eyes were on the search for my family again. I saw them at the last minute but just in time to tap the signs, shout hellos and niceties. Again I ran too quick on the subsequent miles clocking 6:23 and 6:16….dam that power up signs effectiveness!
Once I passed mile 20 I went for it and overtook quite a few people over the next two miles and I could see people up front were really starting to suffer, this gave me a boost as I was still feeling good. I then got to 22.5 miles and all of a sudden my legs started to get heavy and once I got to mile 23 I clocked a 6:57. I told myself to keep going, push, ignore my legs….. oh great a gel that’ll help and clocked mile 24 6:50. Not a massive improvement but still sub 3 split, then my legs turned to lead and every stride was hard work. It was here I started talking to myself aloud (quietly but still aloud) and looking for positives. The positives were I was still on for sub 3 at this stage, I just needed to keep going. Plus it seemed it was harder for those in front of me as I was still passing people with only one runner passing me. I thought of my wife and boys at the finish line waiting for me and I dug so deep to give it my all. I did mile 25 in 7:11 and 26 in 7:04, I saw the finish line and I told myself to sprint, I pumped my arms like a 100m sprinter….there they are, there’s my boys! I made a beeline for them, sod the finish line I need one final Power Up, loads of hands came out so I high fived them as well, shit the time says 2:53 come on you’ve got to finish this!! Another runner is trying to pass me, not while my boys are watching….keep sprinting, put your arms aloft for the photo, I’VE DONE IT!!!!! Across the line in 2:54:22, I’m a marathon runner.
My legs then went to jelly and I walked like a drunk. A girl placed the medal over my head, I lifted it and kissed it straight away. I walked in to the race village and waited for my family to meet me, I saw them running towards me and my boys gave me the biggest hug imaginable! It was now I may have cried a little; the training and their support throughout had all worked and I did it, I had run a marathon…..actually a sub 3 marathon with a 2:54…a 2:54!!!
I personally can’t fault this race, I loved it from start to finish and would recommend it to anyone. I heard there was some baggage issues but I didn’t use it so it’d be unfair to comment. The important bit for me is always the race itself and it was well marshaled and brilliantly supported by spectators and entertainers. I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Thank you Manchester Marathon I will never forget you!!