This is a brilliant event and an excellent alternative to the prestigious London Marathon. I have been in Manchester for this event for the last three years and have run it two out of those three times.
Like London, the Manchester Marathon is quite flat (probably a little bit flatter if push came to shove) and the atmosphere is amazing! People come out to line the streets all through Manchester, Sale, Altringham and everywhere else it passes through.
The fact that this is a flat race also makes it a great event for anyone who hasn’t done a marathon before, and also the experienced marathon runner, wanting to get a fast time.
That’s why I was there; I wanted to go for a PB, which currently stands at 2:56 done at Liverpool last year.
Spoiler alert! As you may have been able to deduce by the way I worded that last sentence, I didn’t get the PB. With my packed schedule throughout February and March, I only really gave myself three weeks to train for it, and in the final week, I fractured my big toe. The odds were very much NOT in my favour for this one.
My quandary at the start line
I felt in reasonable shape and good fitness, but knew I hadn’t put the miles in and my big toe was not 100% yet. So do I set off slow, ease in and make certain of a semi-decent time? Or do I set off at PB pace and hope for the best?
It’s a reasonable question.. If you set off at PB pace, it’s not like you can just slow down a bit later; that’s not really how it works. If you set off too fast and burn out early, it’s potentially race over!
I had a little think and decided to go with the “no guts, no glory” mentality. Five minutes into the race, I had caught up with the three hour pacer and decided to push on. I reckon in hindsight, if I had stuck at this pace, I would have likely just about made the sub-three time. But that wouldn’t be a PB, so what’s the point? I put my foot down and cruised along at 6:30min/mile pace and pondered which mile it would be before I burnt out…
Mile 16, I burnt out!
Coming to terms, and the final few miles
Pretty textbook really, I threw down some jelly babies and isotonic drink and patiently waited for ‘the wall’ to hurry up and go away. I was still managing a laboured 7min/mile pace here, so hadn’t given up on the PB just yet and at mile 19, I finally got my second wind.
Unfortunately, this second wind lasted only a couple of miles, then at mile 22 the wheels completely fell off. I literally had nothing left in the tank.
To add further insult, my previously broken toe decided this would be a good time to make its voice heard again. The constant pain and the ridiculous ease runners were flying past me now made for a very uncomfortable final hour.
I tried to maintain a jog, as I feared that if I stopped for even a second I might not be able to get going again. As predicted, the three hour pacer and following group of runners then swanned past me still full of energy. Nothing I could do about it, I just had to try to enjoy the atmosphere for the remaining three miles…
Absolutely amazing day out in Manchester; the support from the crowds was top draw! They helped immensely as I struggled down the last mile and rounded the final corner towards the finish.
I decided at this point that there was nothing riding on the time anymore, so just before the finish line, I stopped, turned around and moonwalked over because I thought: when am I ever going to get a chance to do that again?
What do you take from a race that on paper went very wrong?
In a strange way, even though I didn’t really get close to the time I was after and my gamble didn’t pay off; I can be very happy with the way I finished. I was in high spirits and didn’t just give up because things didn’t go to plan.
Plus as a lot have people have reminded me under no uncertain terms, 3:10 (or whatever it was) is still quite a respectable time.
Good race times don’t just come from being ‘good at running’. You do have to actually put in the training. Given that two years ago, I ran this very race five minutes faster will testify to that.
I came to terms with the fact that PB’s don’t just happen by virtue of turning up anymore last year after my local half-marathon. It’s great while it lasts, but now as an established runner, I do have to work for PB’s, which makes them all the more satisfying when they do happen.
So I guess the moral of this story SHOULD be that if you know you’re not 100%, don’t go out too quickly; there’s always a risk of completely burning out. Sadly this is not how my brain is wired, and I feel confident that I would make the same decision 100 times over. My tactic of deliberately set off too fast, then try to hold on for dear life when it all falls apart will probably live to fight another day!
Finally, before I sign off, best of luck to those running in the London Marathon next week! Remember to enjoy yourself out there and give it your best all the way through! 🙂