Dave and myself ran the majority of the race together but with slightly (well very) different endings so our write ups are combined for ease of reporting. We are together in most of the photos!
It might be best if you settle down with a brew to read this one….
I had contemplated a road marathon for some time, coming close to entering Chester last autumn. I decided I would never feel there was a perfect time so took the plunge with Manchester. I had run four trail marathons but this would be the first on the road. Training started with a trio of road races to assess where I was at, 10 mile, 10k and half marathon. During this period I was struggling with a hamstring niggle. I had regular physio to ward off the aches but come race day that was the only real doubt in my mind.
I would have preferred to slot in a few tune up races into my training programme but it proved to be too tricky to slot them in. Assessing what pace to run at was difficult, shorter races are easier, you run hard and hang on in there. I decided to run with my regular racing partner Dave and target 7 min miling for as long as possible.
I took Tony Morgan’s advice on where to park and after a brief scare with a Closed Road sign I parked up and exchanged a quick hello with Tony, April and friends. The next hour or so was something I hadn’t really thought through. This was evident in me walking 10 minutes to the race zone without all my kit. I guess I just thought it was nearer but at least it kept me occupied. Thankfully I made early use of the sanitary facilities as the queues that developed were horrendous.
It was good to be around familiar faces before the race although Dave did describe me as a bad smell he couldn’t shift! Yes Dave I will remember this when we are running alongrside nettles at Harrock, revenge is usually a dish best served cold!
The first mile felt a little hilly relative to the general flatness of the area. After two miles I got a hot spot on my right foot, slightly alarming as the one thing everyone always says is how fresh and good you feel in the opening miles. This little niggle needed forgetting quickly as there was plenty of work to come and besides Dave certainly wasn’t entertaining any grumbling.
There was plenty of Harriers support on the course (thanks to everyone for the cheers, it was a great lift!) rather than usual faces of concentration, Dave and I provided as many smiles, waves, thumbs ups, shouts, high fives as was physically possible. Might as well enjoy the first half of the race, milk the crowd as much as possible because I knew somewhere along the way things might turn a little messy. After a few miles Howard popped up between us much to our shock. We assumed he was long gone but Howard being Howard had experienced a few navigational issues at the start, we encouraged him on not wanting to slow his progress towards a hopeful sub 3!
We ticked the miles off trying not to go too fast, it’s really hard to throttle back. We ended up running the first 5 miles at 6.55, 5 seconds quicker than plan. Dave was tracking the 5 mile blocks and I was shouting the mile splits after each one. We eased back slightly but still managed 6.57 for the 2nd block of 5 and 6.58 for the third. My first wobble was at about at halfway, my right glute and hamstring was feeling tight and for the first time I felt like I was making some effort to maintain pace and rhythm.
Things settled down again and it was just after a water station around 18 miles where the wheels started to come off. I gradually drifted back from Dave, not able to close the gap back up. It was around this point where we had some support from Paul, Julie and Darren. I tried to make an effort for the fans but it was starting to be a struggle. I kept an eye out for Waddy fearing a rollocking for slowing. He had said he would be at 18 miles but the silver fox was nowhere to be seen.
By 20 miles I was in the downward spiral. I no longer could see Dave and the runners were well spaced out. There was now starting to be a regular number of runners passing me but I kept digging deep trying to keep some pace. I wasn’t thinking about end times just trying to keep ticking over. Occasionally I passed some poor soul with cramp which gave small solace that at least I was still running.
Just past 21 miles I saw Jacqui and Dave ahead, I managed a quick wave which I figured Dave might allow in the circumstances. The next 5 miles was a gradual slowing, being overtaken by plenty of runners. I was expecting Jayne to come past and at around 23 miles she came alongside and in seconds was gone. I was slowing to a crawl. Every now and again I had a pulse of cramp shoot through various points of my legs. This was my real fear as I did not want to walk to the finish. The roadside was now littered with “roadkill” who had suffered this awful fate. I tried to breathe really deeply every time I felt it and it seemed to ward it off.
A brief highlight was managing to throw a water bottle in a roadside bin from 20 feet away, tiredness didn’t deaden those skills! Some swine had moved the 25 mile marker so my brain couldn’t cope very easily with there being a massive difference between sign and Garmin. I could see Old Trafford so I knew the end was coming but still the pace dropped. I say the pace dropped but at the time I didn’t really have a clue as I was ignoring my Garmin. The stadium disappeared behind other buildings which made my heart sink as I couldn’t see the finish. Suddenly mile 26 marker appeared and around this point the 3.15 pacer flew by with entourage. A sharp left turn and there was the bloody finish. Reality kicked in and for the first time in an hour I thought about my finish time. Could I cover that distance in the 45 seconds I had to get under 3.15? I should couldn’t get my head round it so I just tried desperately to pick the pace up. 3.14.45, talk about cutting it fine, I was very lucky to make it inside GFA.
First road marathon, what did I learn? Plenty but nothing to put me off London 2016!
Now over to my racing partner who did a much better job of the last six miles….
I think you pretty much know the story of my marathon since you spent a large part of it with me!
Obvious shared memorable moments were Howard appearing on our shoulder and the man with the flapping jacket. Once you’d abandoned me then two incidents stick in my mind. One is the 25 mile marker appearing at about 25.4 miles. I now remember that someone was holding it up and suspect that the idiot had moved it. At the time I had a trauma because I’d tried to stride out for home at what I thought was 25 miles (Garmin). A bit of mental arithmetic suggested I would now not hit my target time! The second incident is seeing Tim on the floor, but I’m sure that will be covered elsewhere.
You know better than most that I seek comfort in my slower times by age-grading them. Well, this was my best ever age-graded marathon performance – better than my sub 3. Not sure if that is good though because it means that I will have to run relatively harder to ever see sub 3 again!
Final thought, Dave mentioned the man with the flapping jacket. Regardless of how ridiculous he looked he still beat me! Mike.