So lunchtime on Saturday I made my way to Manchester for only my 3rd marathon. Sadly it was to be a solo visit with Nick Rowe unable to travel due to his ongoing injury problems. Mind you it hasn’t stopped him running as much as it would have others. Let’s hope he’s back to his best soon.
So what could go wrong.... well firstly don’t arrive at Manchester station and hour or so before the Manchester derby. Station packed and police and security everywhere. So I retire to a very nice hotel a few yards away and spend the usual pre-race sleepless night. Although unlike the unsubstantiated claims in Copenhagen my room did not experience any issues with snoring and bedding was not set up like a multi story car park.
So the morning of the race dawns and I get to experience the Manchester Tram system as I find my way to Old Trafford cricket ground for bag drop etc. That goes ok and is fairly well organised. As normal nerves continue to grow. A quick read of all the good wishes from fellow Shifters gives me renewed confidence and I start the 15 minute walk to the start. This gives me the one view of the other Old Trafford not that is all that.
The usual wait at the start with the start pens somewhat disorganised and people generally ignoring start places. Being a polite Surreyite I stick to the front of my area and wait for the usual rubbish so we can get going. Then we’re off but Wait I can’t see any of the pacers so just get on with it. As usual mix of slow and faster runners trying to find a way through but it soon settles down.After 3-4 miles I catch the 3:45 pacer and drift pass him, at 8 miles I see the 3:30 pacer and decided to stay with him. This is going well if I stick with him a time I never dreamed of was possible. The course is generally open but at points when the road is used both ways it gets crowded and the usual drink station chaos- note the organisers where you can, have water on each side of the road.
As the race goes on I’m doing ok but unlike the derby the day before it is not a race of 2 halves more of 2/3rds and 1/3rd. Having reached half way in my 5th fastest half marathon time we move on. I start to feel the pace at mile 17 and my quads are on fire. By mile 19 I’m in trouble and fall away from the pacer and decide to take my time over the water and it’s a real battle from then on. Mile 19 drops to 8:50, 21 is a 9:19 and 23 is the worst with a 10:12 this feels like running through treacle. The finish is a long 2 mile slog but I rally and finish in 3:34:15 a PB by over 10 mins. A strange feeling I should have been really pleased but tinged with some disappointment at potentially running sub 3:30, I can but dream.
Would I recommend the race?
If you want a fast time yes its flat, generally good in terms of room to run. Support around the course is good as you run through places like Trafford, Timperley, Sale and Altrincham but it’s not one for the sightseer. One big upside was the temperature 12 degrees less than Brighton last year. Facilities generally good and provision of water and energy gels very good. In the last 5-6 miles water every mile.
The downside was the long train journey home on a packed train which meant I almost had to crawl to the tube. Hopefully I did Shaef proud and it’s the first of a number of PBs over the next few weeks.