Fast, flat and friendly
The Greater Manchester Marathon is billed as ‘fast, flat and friendly’ – the UK’s flattest, major marathon. Like so many people who miss out on getting a place in London, I decided to do Manchester, last year it was Brighton (also a very good marathon!) The marathon has been a bit of nemesis for me, I, like many others have struggled with pacing and I’ve often found myself suffering from mile 18 onwards. Having done a rather long run back in October, I was more optimistic that it wouldn’t get the better of me!
I started training in January, but stopped after a couple of weeks as I got a cold (best to get it out of the way early on in the training). I’ve really enjoyed training this time round, partly because I’ve managed to do a few of my long runs with company and we’ve had a great group of people all training for marathons and sharing their experiences.
So, race day, Sunday 7 April. We were up at 6.30am for breakfast (much to the delight of my youngest, he’s 14). I’d booked a car park space at Old Trafford and fortunately the traffic wasn’t too bad. By the time we’d got to the race village, having walked past Old Trafford stadium, it was really buzzing. There were plenty of toilets (I only had to queue for 15 mins). The sky was overcast, the temperature was cool, just right for a marathon.
I said goodbye to Steve and Dan, who were off to get the tram to meet me just after mile 6. I made my way to the start, a short walk from the race village. I was in start F, so I knew I was going to have to wait awhile. That is the one drawback of being a steady runner at these big events, you do have to wait awhile to start. However, there was plenty of noise over the loud speaker, and lots of people chatting in anticipation. And of course, maranoia had already set in and I was sure that the back of my knee was aching and my sock wasn’t right…blah, blah, blah!
We started about 9.25am ish and they did a proper start for each waive which was quite nice.
As I said, my biggest worry was pacing. I had in my head that I would try and pace about 9.45 per mile up until mile 20, then speed up (how she laughs!) Well, I did pace quite consistently between 9.20 and 9.40 per mile – okay, so it was slightly faster than I had planned. But I was feeling good, but I was also trying to be strict as well.
The course is flat, there is the odd tiny incline. It’s not the most interesting of courses – it’s a road race around the suburbs of Greater Manchester going through Trafford, Stretford, Sale, Brooklands, Timperley, Altrincham, Carrington and Urmston – there are a lot of roads and houses, not much by way of interesting landmarks. What it does have is amazing support. The crowds were fantastic. At some points it felt as if you were on the Tour de France, where the crowds gather in and narrow the road, cheering you through. Amazing atmosphere!
There were also some great signs around the course – ‘Run like they’ve called you a jogger’, ‘the last person to finish this race sorts Brexit’, ‘Don’t be shit’, ‘You’re running better than the government is running this country’ – amazing how running has turned political!
I saw the boys just after mile 6, which was great, but I missed them at mile 16. About this point the sun had come out, and it was rather warm in the sun (so wished I hadn’t put on my baselayer). I had been regularly fuelling about every 4-5 miles. I managed to get past mile 18, but by mile 22 I was bored. My mind had wandered and before I knew it my pace had gone to just over 10 min miles. Even though I was trying to tell myself to go fast, my little legs weren’t having any of it. I decided to take on some extra fuel, and then start chatting to random people, which perked me up a bit.
Just to add, that alongside the marathon was a relay race, so every now and then someone came running past me at speed – had to remind myself they were on fresh legs!
When it got to mile 23 I was telling myself it was just a park run to the finish, but who I was I kidding. It definitely took some effort. The other thing I really liked was that there was a bit of a straight about 750m from the end, and you could see in the distance the finish line, which I just thought was wonderful and such a motivator. I did pick up my pace after mile 26 and crossed the line a very happy person. And I felt really good!
You can find out more about Greater Manchester Marathon.