I never thought I would run a marathon, especially not after having my little girl just over 2 years ago. Then a disappointing summer of running, coupled with the fact that even though I still had almost a stone of baby weight to lose, the baby that caused it was fast becoming a little girl led to me entering the Manchester Marathon.
After four months of hard training, usually accompanied by Becki and Mandy, I arrived in Manchester on Sunday a bag of nerves in a Harriers vest, with Mr W having agreed at the last minute to run with me. We found some of our fellow Harriers in the event village and marvelled at the queues for the bag drop before heading off to the starting pens quarter to 9. Safely in position for the start, there was time for a few quick pre-race selfies before the crowd started to move forward. 10 minutes later,with the start line in sight, our group started to split up. At this point I felt a bit panicked that I wasn’t going fast enough, but my conscience (Gary) told me to hold back and take my time. The first few miles around Trafford were great, the winding course meant that it was easy to spot other Harriers and everyone was still alert enough to cheer each other on. As we made our way past Old Trafford, passing the start again, the music and the crowds gave us a great lift but again my conscience told me not to get carried away.
From there, the road straightened out and we were into the serious miles and the very serious business of running them. Those early miles from Stretford to Sale ticked quietly and easily by. Mr W and I rarely get to run together these days and it was nice to run and chat and enjoy the sunshine. On 8 miles we entered Sale where we saw Julie and Darren cheering us on. The crowds were out in force and we barely went more than 50 metres or so without someone offering us jelly babies or haribos or wine gums…It was amazing – although it does go against the mantra of not trying anything new on race day!
As we headed through mile 9 our paths crossed once more with the runners at the front of the pack and, for the next few miles, Gaz and I played a game of Spot the Harrier that carried us all the way through Timperly.
After what seemed like a lifetime (it had actually only been just over 2 hours) we were in sight of Altrincham and the halfway point (and some cheering Harriers who had decided that a hill was the best place to get photos of us all – You know who you are!) In all honesty, I started to feel a bit emotional about it all and overcome by how far we still had to go. I was really thankful to have Gaz at my side helping me to re-focus and keep my pace going.
Soon we had passed the halfway point and were making our way back through Timperly, with the sun high in the sky I was glad of the shade provided by the trees and even gladder of the flapjacks in my running belt. Mr W, having stepped in at the last minute, was less well prepared so I sent him of to forage for his lunch amongst well wishers and he returned moments later with some jaffa cakes for himself.
Before too much longer we had hit the 16 mile marker – the mental halfway point according to Gaz. I still didn’t feel too bad and by this point my legs were doing their own thing so I just left them to it. As mile 16 turned into mile 17 we saw Jacqui and Dave – or rather they saw us and shouted and cheered and shouted some more and then it registered that we knew them and I gave them a wave and, before I had really acknowledged them, they were gone.
At mile 18 I was hurting so I decided that painkillers where the order of the day. Over the next two miles they got to work and I arrived at mile 20 feeling relatively fresh and able to enjoy the country air as we made our way out to Carrington. A lot of people have said to me that a marathon is a 20 mile warm up with a 10k race at the end and, somewhere along the way, I must have taken it to heart because something in me started to push on, for the first time I felt like the finish was in sight. For the last 6 miles Gaz steered me round runner after runner and kept me on the racing line.
By the time we had covered 24 miles every step was hurting and every inch of me wanted to stop, but I kept telling myself that the only way I could do that was to get to the finish line so I pushed on. As we passed the 25 mile marker I was really struggling; Mr W, having done well so far, encouraged me to keep going – You’ll see Imogen soon. – of course he underestimated the high levels of emotion that I was experiencing and earned himself a few choice curses while I wiped my face and tried not to cry all the way to the finish.
Before, After and later! 😊
As we powered through Stretford (no really, it just didn’t look like it from the sidelines) Rachel and Paul were there again cheering us onwards and taking yet more flattering pictures. Then it was round the corner and the finish line was in sight. As my watch beeped to say that I had covered 26 miles I suddenly felt like I was running through sand and burning sand at that. It seemed like rather than getting closer, the finish line was moving further away. Luckily at this point the crowd’s cheering carried me on, I put in a last burst and crossed the line. Staggering down the finish chute and back into the village Gaz – who had very gallantly crossed the line a second after me – caught up and together we looked at my watch…I had hoped to go under 5 hours and possibly even – if I was very lucky – 4:50…With a watch time of 4:45:18 and an almost matching chip time of 4:45:17, I am over the moon with my marathon result. I am officially a better runner now than before having Imogen – something that 2 years ago – as I struggled to finish a 5k in 37 minutes – I never would have thought possible. So I’d like to thank all the Harriers that have cheered me on, and encouraged me and run with me over the last 2 years – especially those times when I didn’t feel good enough or fit enough – I couldn’t have done it without you!
Gary smiling so worth showing again. 😄