On Sunday 10th April, Sarah Bulmer and I completed the Greater Manchester Marathon as one of sixteen challenges I am completing for the Alzhiemer’s Society.
It was a lovely, crisp, sunny, spring morning as Sarah and I got dropped off about half a mile from the start. Had a good chat with Sarah about her expectations for her first marathon and it was great to see she was really calm and ready to go. I had no major expectations other than try and run a sub 4 hour marathon.
We were pretty organised and in plenty of time at this stage, had a quick look around the charity village and at 8.20 headed to hand our bags in. Sarah and I had different places to hand our bags in based on our numbers, so we agreed a meeting point, I headed off and efficiently got rid of my bag like I expect to at any race, popped to the toilet and then headed back to our agreed meeting point. 8.40 passed, 8.45 passed, no sign of Sarah and I was getting a bit worried at this stage, 8.50 came and a huge amount of people started running past with Sarah in the group. It turns out that they had told everyone to drop their bags and they would sort them. Poor organisation for a race of this size and adding pressure to runners before they even start the race.
We made the five minute walk back to the start, managed to find the 4.45 pacer for Sarah, said good luck and started pushing my way forward looking for the 3.45 pacer who I found just as we crossed over the start line.
The first mile or two of Manchester are a bit crowded, but I managed to keep to my 8.30 pace as we headed down to the imperial War Museum. Now the plan had been to find Dean at the start who I knew was planning to run a similar plan as I was. I had seen him heading to the start as we went to put our bags in and was a little annoyed that I had missed him. Anyway at the 2 mile mark I get a tap on the shoulder and it is Dean.
The first 7 miles flew by as we had a chat, kept to pace, missed Gill and the boys at the first point as they were somewhere different to where I thought they would be. Got a massive cheer as we ran past the Alzhiemer’s Society cheering point at 11 miles. The atmosphere on the Greater Manchester Marathon is brilliant; lots of great support on the route. The amount of people who shout your name or give you some words of encouragement is absolutely brilliant. It was brilliant around the route to see so many Alzhiemer’s vests and the camaraderie was excellent; complete strangers encouraging each other for a common cause – thank you all of those that urged me on.
We then headed into Altrincham, which is where the only real climb is in the course. We passed through the half marathon in 1 hour 51 minutes and 20 seconds. On target for our sub 4 hours at this stage.
I ran with Dean until around the 17 mile mark and then was on my own. Saw Gill and the boys and their amazing home made posters and kept plodding on. Pace was starting to slow a bit at this stage, as the sun was starting to get warmer and I was tiring. Pushed on to around 20 miles and you head into Carrington and here the caffeine gel kicked in and I felt a bit better for the next mile or so.
I was trying to do the maths on my watch at 4 miles to go and sub 4 hours was going to be achieved what ever happened now, but was I on for a personal best. My average pace was still better than it was last year. Passed the two 22 mile markers! That was confusing and my legs were starting to complain, set a strategy of walking through the water stations to give my legs a little bit of recovery time, pouring water on my head and wrists to keep me cool and running the rest of the mile. It seemed to be working well.
I headed in to the last half a mile and because the finish was on a long straight road you could see the line all the way, but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. Finally got to 200 metres to go, put in a sprint finish (well increased my speed), smiled for the cameras and crossed the line in 3 hours 53 minutes and 9 seconds.
I then did something I have never done at the end of the race! I was promptly sick, throwing up a few metres after the line. Sorry to the spectators who were stood there! The things we put ourselves through! Felt absolutely fine afterwards and went and got my medal and picked up my goody bag before retrieving my bag. I then went to find Gill and the boys and we waited for Sarah to finish in a brilliant time of 4 hours 29 minutes. Really proud of what she has achieved and what she put herself through to get around as she was suffering from a injured knee.
We then waited for an hour while Sarah queued to get her bag. The Greater Manchester Marathon has so much going for it; it is flat, fast and the crowds are amazing. However the organisation this year was poor in many ways; Incorrect number colours and organisation at the start, the ridiculous queueing for baggage, mile markers all over the place, and compared to last year the route came up around 1/4 mile longer on my Garmin. It is convenient for me to run but in organisational terms they can still learn a lot from both Brighton and London, which run like clockwork.
Interestingly I ran a faster pace this year than last year but was still 2 minutes slower due to the extra distance. Over 26 miles there is always going to be some additional distance as you don’t follow the racing line. I am not disappointed that I didn’t run a PB; just one of those things, I’m actually happy I managed to maintain a faster pace for longer. It all helps for the 30 mile ultra run in a few weeks’ time.
Thank you to all those that have sponsored Sarah and I for this part of Sixteen in 16. www.justgiving.co.uk/sixteenin16
Here are the 1/2 mile splits for the race.