Manchester Marathon 2012 – Grahams Report

The first time I ran a marathon the famously grey and drizzly city of Edinburgh was blessed with a 30 degree heatwave leaving swathes of lycra clad casualties strewn across the city suffering from heatstroke and sunburn. Combined with my lack of training and abence of natural ability, the stupendously hot conditions led to a time I wasn’t particularly pleased with, although I remained happy to have finished without a trip to A and E.

For my second attempt at 26.2 I chose Manchester, and the Gods of Marathon thought it would be ironic and amusing to test out the other end of the weather scale with artic temperatures and a rain storm of bilbical proportions. As I arrived at Longford Park at 7.15am I was met with a shower of hail and a gale that quickly had me digging through my post race bag to add an extra layer to the 2 tops I had decided would probably be enough to run in. As luck would have it, I had donned a rubbish old pair of running tights to wear until the start when I planned on ditching them  and running in my shorts. Those rubbish tights, (Crane – £6 from Aldi and too big for me), are still in my possesion and having saved me from frostbite I have become so fond of them I may keep them forever!

The realization began to spread amongst those runners huddled under trees or sheltering in the toilets that this wasn’t just going to be a bit wet and a bit nippy. As the Trees of Longford Park bent double in the gale, and rain squals lashed the park, the thought of taking off pre-race fleeces and coats filled us with dismay. It was weather you wouldn’t take a dog out in! It was weather I wouldnt take my mother in law out in.

The start line huddle provided a little bit of warmth in the same way those penguins in the Artic take it in turns to be on the outside whilst the others shelter together in the middle. We could probably have done without Ron Hill regaling us with tales of past victories and delaying the start as the 5,500 asembled souls desperately wanted to start running to generate a little heat! At a couple of minutes past 9 Ron had run out of stories and we were off up the road and splashing our way past Old Trafford.

I had attached myself to the 3:45 pacer group with the intention of steady 8:35 pace until at least half way. My marathon pace was a little quicker than this, but I was determined not to make the usual mistake of going off too fast and paying for it in the second half. One quick pee stop later and I was going too fast to catch back up with the pacer! At this stage the weather was bad but not horrific. The wind was generally at our backs so that although soaked to the skin we were able to keep body temperatures high enough for this just to be thoroughly uncomfortable.

The general consensus amongst those chatting was that nobody minded a bit of rain, (this was Manchester after all), but the sleet and hail was a bit uncalled for! The first few miles the spectators seemed to be suffering more than the runners as they cheerfully clapped us on wrapped up like polar explorers. I got a boost at about 3 miles in when I passed Maria Lowe who was energentically picking out the club vests and shouting support to everyone who went past. Her husband Shaun was probably blasting through 5 miles with Dave Collins at the point I passed her at 3!

Throughout the route the people of Manchester were out in numbers making a fabulous racket in support. They crowded into bus shelters banging wooden spoons in cooking pots, whistling and yelling and cheering. As we trotted past one particular bus stop packed with noisy supporters, the guy next to me made me chuckle with, “they’ll be a while waiting for that bus…” My own support began at 10 miles on the road into Altrincham where a couple of work colleagues, (Pat and Chris), were waiting for me. It really does help to break the race down from an overwhelming 26.2 miles into smaller chunks with milestones like friends and familly waiting at points on the way. I had been looking forward to spotting these two for a couple of miles and it was a delight to spot their fab banner:: ” Go Graham – theres a pie in it for you!”

A quick systems check and I realized that with only 10 miles gone I wasn’t feeling as comfortable and easy as I would have hoped to at this point. I wasnt exactly struggling but the effort required to run in the now blustery winds was taking more out of the tank than expected. Altrincham gave a huge boost to the spirits with hundreds upon hundreds packed into the town centre making as much noise as I have ever heard at a football match. It was a real shiver down the spine moment to run through this wall of energy, particularly when I spotted a big Wigan Harriers banner waved by my main support crew in the form of my old Ma!

Any boost from the crowds in Altrincham was quickly used up ans the nasty secret of this race came next: someone had sneaked a small mountain into Altrincham. The long, twisting horrible climb out of the town went on for ever! This may be a pretty flat course all told, but thats a serious bit of hill on the way through 13 miles! As I crossed the timing mats around 1:52 I was still bang on target for my 3:45 finish but I had an idea that things may begin to slip.

The weather was getting worse with the drizzle turning to proper rain and the gusts building so that on occasion they were strong enough to blow me sideways. Runners all around were hunkering down and starting to “dig in”. This also happened to coincide with a ramble through a part of Dunham Massey that I am sure is quite picturesque and pastoral in anything but a monsoon. At mile 15 of this marathon the meandering track through the park was now a flooded quagmire of ankle deep puddles, tree roots and mud. Running cross country at this point was very very difficult!

Things were to get tougher though. Just through Dunham Massey the route turned north, and for the first time we realized the full power of the wind as we began to head directly into it. At some point in a Marathon even the fastest or most experienced runners needs to slog their way through a tough patch, dig deep inside themselves and find that bit of steel and determination that marks out a long distance runner from just a runner. This low point usually happens at around 19 to 21 miles and is something you can prepare and ready yourself for. Just past mile 15 that low point arrived with a gale force wind that ripped across miles of open countryside, slamming rain and sleet into the quaking bodies of tiring runners.

It now became less of a race and more a matter of slogging it out and keeping going against the elements. My body temperature leaked away quickly. My hands had cramped up into claws and went from a stinging redness to bloated white sausages. I have been out on the Fells in Cumbria in some nasty conditions, but I’d usually have my full hill walking kit on to protect me. It was a different proposition to face those elements in a couple of layers of running kit and lycra. I felt very exposed and very very cold.

Like a mirage in a desert the water station at 16 miles came into view and my spirirts were suddenly lifted by the unmistakable sound of Julie Platts voice roaring out my name, accompanied by an unreasonably cheerful looking Dave Waddington. It is incredible how much your spirit can be lifted by a face you know and as I neared the aid station I was truly boosted by the club. What brought a real smile to my face was the fact that the Harriers couldnt just stand around and offer support to the passing runners: they had to take control of the aid staion, and pitch in with handing out water and gels and encouraging all the passing runners!

I was due to pass my Mum at 17.5 miles and this became the next target to focus on with the thought that she had with her my lightweight Montane running jacket. If I could just keep going, I could grab the jacket and hope to trap a little warmth.The rowdy pocket of supporters stood out in the storm at 17.5 miles were a fabulous tonic, but Mum wasn’t amongst them, (it turns out later that she was actually there but I didnt spot her). My spirits really flagged with the knowledge that the next point we had arranged was mile 21, which seemed more distant than the moon.

From here to the 21 mile mark was probably the toughest physical experience of my life. The cold was down to the bone causing shivers even when running. My hands were useless and the quads had tightened up so that every footfall was met with with a jolt of pain up the outside of my legs. Calf cramps began to come and go and mentally I began to struggle: beset with thoughts of walking, or if I could take the shame of bailing out and recording an DNF at 19 miles. For anyone who did want to give up the main problem was that we were in the middle of nowhere with not a building, shelter or race official for miles around so pretty much the only option was to keep running. I’m not sure what would have happened if I could have got myself inside a McDonalds or a pub to shelter in…..

20 miles came and went and that mile marker has always given me a mental boost. Its a big figure that means you have broken the back of the big miles and its just an ordainary 10k to go! I passed a lady with a sign reading “be brave” which seemed wonderfully appropriate at the time. Then a huge cramp bit the inside of my hamstring and I was staggering about the course like a drunk. I came to a wobbly halt as the cramp eased, and another runner patted me on the back and said “come on lad we’re not stopping here…”

There is always a good cameraderie in a marathon, but the horrendous conditions united those suffering it together even more than usual. That runner got me going again, and a mile or two further down the road I was able to return the favour when I came across the same guy walking.

“Come on mate – we are finishing this you and me…” and he laughed and broke into a painful trot again.

Mile 21 and at the last second I spotted my Mum, and more importantly that beautiful orange Montane jacket! I grabbed it and carried on down the road bouyed by the idea that once I got this on I would be warm and bullet proof and safe the race would be easy. Then I had to stop and ask a spectator to zip it up for me as my fingers didnt work!

The coat really did insulate me against the weather to enough of a degree that I managed to forget about the rain and concentrate instead on the agony from my legs! The countdown through 22 and 23 miles brough the finish ever closer but it still seemed such a long way off. I had long since dropped off the back of the 3:45 pacer, but the 4 hour crew hadn’t passed me yet. There was still hope of getting home in under the magic 4 hour mark. At 24.5 I stumbled and had to stop to prevent myself from falling, whereupon another runner suddenly appeared and said, “come on we’ll just walk to mile 25 from here.”

“Cant – got to finish under 4 hours”, I replied.

“No chance of that now” said the voice of doom, “just walk with me and we can run from mile 25.”

Runners are usually a pretty positive bunch but I seemed to have just attracted my very own mood hoover. It was as though all those negative thoughts in my head had just taken on human form just to drag me down! I looked at my watch and worked out I had about 16 minutes for 1.7 miles, and that I needed to get away from Mr Negative.

I broke into a trot again an kept going all the way to the point whre the route went under the subway, and agonizingly back up the other side. Whoever decided we needed that with half a mile to go is evil! I managed to run up the out ramp, but as I turned back onto the road my legs sort of gave way and I eneded up on my knees. I tried to get up but the legs went again and I was on all fours. A spectator grabbed my arm and began to lift me asking was I ok: “been better” I mumbled and somehow I was running again… but really running now – really properly dragging something up from somewhere and actually running down the hill towards the finish!

A lady marshall shouted outthere were 50 metres to go and a glance at my watch showed 3:59 something and before I knew it I was sprinting hell for leather down the finish tunnel, arms raised roaring like a lunatic. I crossed the timing mats and found myself on my knees holding onto the barrier for support utterly elated that the pain was over but with legs that no longer performed any useful finction! A marshall hoisted me up and walked me up the tunnel and sorted me out with a space blanket and an energy drink and I was soon on my way clutching the most precious medal of my collection!

My official chip time was 4:00:06. Before the race I would have told anyone that I was ready for a 3:45, but that the primary goal was sub 4 and anything over that I would be very upset with. I totally take that back! Given the conditions I still cant believe that I ran that race in 4 hours and I’m pretty damn chuffed with that! I dont think I could have put any more effort into the run and have no regrets that I could have tried harder or dug deeper. On a better day I’m sure I could have run a 3:45 but thats for the next marathon. Right now I’m just happy to be warm and dry and that I gave my best on the day.

The weather outside is predeicted to be 18c today…. great isnt it?

Manchester Marathon 2012 – Daves Report

Dave Collins report below – but in his modesty, what he doesnt mention is that he finished 3rd Male vet 50 which is an astonishing achievment in the conditions. Dave truly brought a bit of marathon glory to the club with that run.

Daves Report:

GoreTex Dave defies the Rain

My pre-race plan to sit behind the group following the 3 hour pacer, was immediately scuppered, as he hared off at something quicker than my (too fast) 6.45 miling; presumably banking some time for what was to hit us in the second half of the race – so much for the promised even pacing! 

Having looped round Old Trafford and entering the cheering crowds once again, a wise father remarked to his awestruck children “These are the fast runners coming by”. I realised that he was talking about the group that I was running in! 

As I was running along the stretch of open road around Carrington, the wind was cruelly accompanied by a burst of hail which all but killed whatever feeling I had in my legs and arms. 

The last few miles saw me pass a progression of runners who had gone off with the 3 hour pacer. I was so relieved that I had gone for the steady option

London Marathon 2012 – Traceys story

With no early breakfast at her hotel, Tracey was up at 6:15am struggling her way through a self prepared pair of instant porridge pots and a banana to fuel her marathon effort. She left the hotel at 7:15am but got stuck on the tube at Shepherds Bush at 7:30am due to severe delays on the line. Most of us will have had that recurrent anxiety dream about not getting to the start of the race on time, and for Tracey that nightmare was coming true as she finally abandoned the station with lots of other runners and walked 1 mile to the next tube station. 

It was far from the ideal, relaxed build up to a big race, but once at Blackheath around 9ish she had time for an emotional farewell to hubby and Supporter in Cheif Michael before entering the blue championship pen.  Tracey confesses to feeling a little bit special going in the pen, and so she should do having earned her place there with a good for age qualifying performance. After dumping her bags on the lorry and taking part in the traditional pee queue she was delighted to bump into Joanne Goorney from Wesham and Karen Bridge. 

A few minutes chatting and catching up helped settle the nerves and then suddenly  the wheelchair race set off and and it was time to take their places on the start line. For the first 5 to 6 miles Tracey ran along with Joanne, but after the red start and green starts had merged they lost touch with eachother.  A green dragon and a horny red devil (only wearing a pair of red trunks) overtook her, before the slightly less odd sight of Paul Seddon and Dave Waddington came into view as they too passed and said a hello on the way.

When the 6:52 pace marker went past, Tacey made an effort to keep with him.  With hamstrings and gutes beginning to ache Tracey decided the pace was too hot and dropped off the group. A roadside rendition of “Country Roads” lifted spirits and Tracey begin tio wish she was alos on that homeward bound stretch.  Liz Yelling got a huge cheer when she passed on the opposite side, and then Tracey realized “Oh my God – I have still got along way to go yet!”

She carried on counting the miles down, digging in and taking on gels and water and perked up abit around 22 miles.  Just like Dave Waddington the signs for 800m, then 600m put her in mind of track sessions with Wigan Harriers, (twice around the track for 800 etc). 

After the race Tracey discovered a huge blood blister on her toe and the nail half hanging off. Delightful!

In her own words:

 I would like to say a big thank you to my Hubby who supported me and gave up his sundays runs with his friends to follow me on the bike on my 20 and 22 mile pace runs.

London Marathon 2012 – Darrens Story

Wigan Harriers own Darren Jackson lined up in London for his first attempt at the 26.2 distance after solid training build up. Running for the Ron Pickering Trust the pressure was on for our Marathon debutante, and Darren confessed to feeling the nerves jangling as he waited for the off at Blackheath.

Super Darren and trusty sidekick Wonder Platt

He set off at a good pace and passed through the half marathon point in an impressive 1:38. It was at this point that a niggling hip flexor issue begin to make itself known. A drop in pace allowed him to continue until accosting a St Johns Ambulance volunter who he press-ganged into performing a hip flexor sports massage, (something of a change from their normal duties handing out vaseline and plasters!).

At 19 miles the marathon begin to bite and Darren was locked into the mental battle familiar to so many distance runners when the body wants to give up but the will to finish drives us on. Darren wasn’t about to admit defeat after logging all those tough Winter training miles, and he focussed on the advice given before the race by fellow Wigan Harriers to run through the tired legs and enjoy it.

The last 10k were a mix of pain and joy as he fially crossed the line to record a 3:51:50. It may not have been the time he hoped for but the row of blisters on every toe end is testimony to the effort and determination it took to run through agony, (and a sign that he needs bigger running shoes too!). His fellow passengers in the first class carriage back to Wigan may not have been as impressed as he displayed his war wounds on the way home though…

The last we saw of Darren he was jetting off to Lanzarote to bathe his weary feet in the sea, but he sent his thanks to Dave the coach and the rest of the Wigan Harriers Endurance Group for all their help and support on the way to his first Marathon finish. Super-Darren will surely be back to run another 26.2 in the not too distant future….

London Marathon 2012 – Daves Story

Marathon day was going smooth, Dave Waddington (your writer), Jacqui Jones, Julie Platt and Barry Abram had all made it to the start in good time after a 7:30 meet at Euston tube station.  Jacqui and Julie went their separate ways to their start pens (Jacqui to Blue and Julie to Green good for age), whilst Dave and Barry went off to the “Red fast good for age” start pen.

But no sooner had they got to the entrance than they split up as Barry nipped off to the bushes saying “I’ve got a weak bladder”, rather than go in and queue for the loos inside. So I was left on my own for 40 mins with about another 2000 runners. A couple of visits to the loos and getting gels into position meant the time soon passed. The final visit to the loo was I’m sure courtesy of a “Beetroot shot” I’d just downed that Jacqui and Julie had brought back from the marathon exhibition the day before. They were sold on the sales patter “perfect for marathon day”.  With about 15 mins to race start I took my place in the start pens. There was a fair bit of chatter about what pace or time people where hoping for, I heard a “6:15 pace” and then “going for 2:45”, I felt that maybe shouldn’t have managed to get so close to the front.
It was 09:45 and we were off, I missed the first mile marker (how could you), the 2nd mile came, 13:45, right on target. I went through the first 4 miles at 6:50’s pace (sub 3 hour pace allowing for a few dropped minutes in the 2nd half), then at Cutty Sark I caught Tracey Dutton up. “Alright Trace” I said, the reply was something like “….too fast”, I couldn’t hear with all the shouting from the speccys.

I managed the same pace up to mile 9 then spotted Barry Abram just in front, I went wide past Barry I don’t think he spotted me (he had his dark glasses on).  Then got to mile 10 and all of a sudden I thought this is feeling a bit hard already. Would it be an early bad patch I’d run through, or was the dream of sub 3 gone already?  Half way came in 1:29 and realism hit: now it was a question of how much past 3 hours would I go.

Each mile was counted off “get to 20 then 10k only left” I told myself . At about 15 mile a runner with a stick appeared on my shoulder and I thought “whose this **** in fancy dress?”. Then I realised he was a pacer for an even 3 hour target and I almost got knocked over y by the scrum following him.  From that point on it was a real slog, the Docklands Railway stops were getting more and more inviting; I was having a good argument with myself to stop jumping on the next train. The 20 mile marker came, 10k to go, I thought of all sorts of incentives and justifications to keep at it (at that point I’d have probably dealt with the devil). I felt a spasm of cramp in my hamstring and my pace slowed  more, I realised it was going to be an even bigger slog to the end.

After about a mile my cramp eased and I ran on in what seemed like 10 min mile pace but it was probably 8 min mile. As the miles crawled by I started to think about Barry, Tracey and what about Kevin Edwards, I’d seen him in the start area briefly as we passed in the loo queue. I thought it wasn’t a matter of if, but who would be first to come past me. What about Jacqui and Julie as well?  Just after 23 miles the tunnel at the Embankment came, (lots of runners escape from the crowds here and  walk in peace). I can’t stop, I thought, I’ll never get going again.

I was on the way up the slope to the exit an heard “Come on Dave”. It was Barry, “I’m knackered” he said as he drifted past me effortlessly.  I thought get with him and tried to go a bit faster, then bang, cramp in my left hamstring, I had to stop a walk for about 10 yards then hobbled on and saw the 24 mile mark. I looked at the clock, I had about 25 mins to get under 3:15 my “good for age” qualifying time.  I was desperate to get under that time, so off I went shuffling along feeling sorry for myself.

Birdcage Walk eventually came then a sign “800m to go”; nearly there – dig in only 2 laps of the track to go”. Then after what seemed like an age came a sign 600m to go. Runners poured past me with their last spurts to the line. I looked at the clock and shuffled my way in to a time of 3:09:28. I was very pleased to get under 3:15 but boy did I ache: every step was met with a bolt of cramp. Barry was leaning on a barrier “3:07” was his reply to my inevitable question. He said “it was hot, and it was a lot hillier than I’d remembered” I agreed wholeheartedly.

London Marathon Results

The stories behind this years London Marathon times will hopefully appear here over the next week as out runners get the chance to rest, relax and reflect upon their Marathon journies this weekend. For the moment though, the official results from the Virgin Marathon website are as follows:

place overall place gender place category name   runner no category HALF finish time  
1826 1718 96 » Abram, Barry G (GBR)   31607 50-54 01:31:21 03:07:53  
2430 195 42 » Dutton, Tracey A (GBR)   391 40-44 01:33:05 03:13:26  
4414 3815 611 » Edwards, Kevin D (GBR)   31792 45-49 01:36:05 03:29:07  
13874 10711 5606 » Holding, Stuart (GBR)   25618 18-39 02:01:10 04:12:00  
8732 7028 3588 » Jackson, Darren Paul (GBR)   46213 18-39 01:38:06 03:51:50  
2865 266 57 » PLATT, JULIE R (GBR)   28707 40-44 01:37:50 03:17:17  
1989 1860 247 » Waddington, David (GBR)   32694 45-49 01:29:56 03:09:28  

Well done to all our runners who did us proud today.

Good Luck Harriers!

The countdown to this years London Marathon is nearly over for our contingent of Wigan Harriers runners. All the hard work, nervous anticipation and edginess of taper week will be forgotten as they head of for the capital over the next couple of days.

Harriers largest contingent of entrants in London for many years aim to themselves and the club proud in Olympic year as each chases their individual targets. The Endurance Group wishes good luck and best wishes to Dave Waddington, Jaqui Jones, Julie Platt, Barry Abram, Kevin Edwards, Tracey Dutton, Darren Jackson and Stuart Holding.

Also competing on Sunday is Andy Eccles who will be aiming to finish the Blackrod Half Marathon in time to put his feet up in front of the TV and watch our marathoners safely home!

Go Harriers!

Chernobyl 5K – Race Report 17.04.2012

On Tuesday evening, Shona Taylor and Dave Collins represented the Harriers in the first of a series of three 5K races in aid of the Chernobyl charity. This year the event returned to its 2010 venue at Walton Park, Preston starting from the Welcome Inn. 

This is not the fastest of courses, having a few sharp inclines and numerous gates to run through, and this was reflected in several runners posting relatively slow times.

The PB’s just keep coming for Shona who was making her first competitive appearance in a Wigan Harriers vest, as well as her debut over 5k. Having made huge inroads into her 10k times over recent months, Shona was looking to post a 26 minute finish in Preston. Those pre race hopes were exceeded with an excelent 25.52.

Dave was using the race as a final “blast” before the upcoming Manchester marathon at the end of April, and declared himself satisfied with an 18.35. Well he might be: this performance coming off the back of a heavy marathon training schedule was enough to secure 10th place overall and first V50 over the line.

Mid Lancs Cross Country Awards

The 2012 Mid Lancs League Cross Country Awards were held at Bamber Bridge Catholic Club on Friday 13th April, on what turned out to be an auspicious date for Wigan Harriers. A long and hard season of mud sweat and goosebumps was celebrated by good turn out of mid lancs clubs who enjoyed a splendid buffet before the Mistress of Ceremonies got things under way.

First to collect a shiny thing were the Ladies Team who collected their well deserved silver medals for securing runners up spot and promotion for the club from Division 3. The ladies recorded two outright victories on the way, and were only pipped to top spot by just a single point from a strong Liverpool Pembroke and Sefton team.

The Ladies Vet 35 Team were then called up to receive a second round of silver medals for their fabulous 2nd place overall. They were only denied gold due to the perfect quartet of victories and maximum points recorded by Accrington Road Runners.

Next up were Wigan Harriers Senior Men who were presented with gold medals and the championship shield following their outright victory in Division 4. This hefty trophy now sports a Wigan Harriers badge for the first time thanks to a 1 point victory over Preston B’. Wigan Harriers will now move up a division to compete in Division 3 next season.

The Mens Vet 40 team also secured promotion to Division 2 thanks to a silver medal winning season which saw them finish runners up to Horwich RMI

Dave Collins is delighted at finding the worlds biggest beer mat

Dave Waddington needs help pinning his new badge on


Graham Millington just needs a plastic sword to complete his fancy dress outfit


80's heart throbs Bros ageing badly

Run the Bridge Halton

Darren Jackson was one of over 780 runners who raced over the iconic Runcorn Bridge in the 13th running of the event this Easter Sunday. This swift 5 miler was a perfect way to begin his London Marathon taper, although he wasn’t expecting a blistering time after a heavy 45 mile training week.

A loose shoe lace at 1.5 miles cost a few seconds to stop and tie, but despite this Darren still finished in an fabulous 54th placs just 5 seconds off his existing 5 mile PB. This years time of 32.46 represents a massive performance over last years 37 min on the same course.