The Manchester marathon wasn't just an enter the race then wait and see what happens event. After my last marathon in October where the training didn't really happen for many reasons but mostly work, I found myself entering Manchester because people commented about my time. My time wasn't terrible and that was the point; how much better could it be if I did some marathon training? The problem is I am competitive, not with the whole world (and certainly won't be winning any awards for running) but with myself, having a competition against my own time was something I wanted to do.
I started training in December after a few weeks rest and a few quiet weeks of running. My training plan had no more than four runs a week, and three of them could be easily completed in about an hour. This suited my enthusiasm, energy and running/life balance. My long run began with eleven miles due to where I was already with my running and until it reached seventeen miles it didn't seem to be taking too long. I will be honest my runs of eighteen miles-plus were very few and that was good because they take so long. In early February I tackled a half marathon that was more hilly than ideal but I managed this in a time which was only slightly over my PB. This made me happy as I had to walk about four times due to the steep hills. In mid-March I took on the Gloucester 20 and ran very well, perhaps too well looking back but it was comfy and a really big confidence boost. (By comparison, in September 2015 I did eighteen miles in 3:35 and in March 2016 I did twenty miles in 3:20).
Unfortunately a couple of days after Gloucester I started to get poorly which led to two weeks off running, many naps and a week off work. This knocked my confidence and I started to think I wouldn't even start in Manchester. A dose of reality reminded me that all I was trying to do was beat my previous time (5:07:52) and even being ill wouldn't stop that. The fact I remained healthy and injury free for sixteen weeks consistent training was important and being ill just meant a steeper taper than normal.
I had ten days of running left before the marathon which I took very easy and just made sure the illness was all gone. From January 1st until April 5th I ran 488km. Just 42km stood between me and my medal.
Manchester is a long way to go but I had heard some great reports of a fantastic marathon. With London being almost impossible to get a ballot place it seemed a great choice.
I'm a calm racer, don't tend to get nervous and just do my best. Saying that we did take the microwave with us so I could have my porridge the way I like it! In hindsight this wasn't a problem and I would do it again.
We walked the thirty minutes to the race village, ensuring plenty of time to drop my bag off before heading to the start. It was quite chaotic and dropping my bag off was a little stressful due to the crowds. Walking back to the start I met another lone runner to chat to which was nice. I found my starting pen but it seemed very casual with supporters mingling with us while we lined up. Back in cattle class we couldn't hear much from the start line and certainly didn't hear a starting horn. But bang on 9am the queue started to move forwards. It was strange as we were all on two sides of the road with a raised reservation area between us. I was on the right hand side and it was moving much quicker than the left which meant I started just behind the 4:00 pacer despite lining up in the pen for 4:30. The start line was very underwhelming with many of us wondering if we had even started Firstpharmacyuk.com/lovegra/ yet.
I was swept along at the beginning and despite trying to slow down I was going a little too quick still. I paused to redo my right trainer up as it felt loose and then started running again. The first mile marker was facing the wrong way (lots of out and back sections on this course) and we went past the 1 mile sign at 1km – this was a little confusing. I missed the first water station as it came very quickly, didn't have very good signage and was swamped with runners. To be fair I didn't need water that early so I was happy to keep going, just hopeful that it would get better as we went along.
The course wasn't terrible, but it wasn't all that inspiring either. It is described as the UK's flattest marathon but it felt a lot hillier than the figures given. It was mostly through residential areas, small shopping streets and quiet country roads. The support was super where the people were en masse and the different groups who came out to provide musical entertainment were fab. But it was so much I quieter than I expected. The organisers had set up PA systems on one of the country roads which was amazing; without the music I think it would have been bleak. Other people complained about the lack of variety at the refreshment stops, just water and SIS gels, and also complained there wasn't enough toilets. I didn't use the toilets and nor did I plan to. I also carried all my own fuel and just used water at the stations so this didn't bother me at all.
My refuelling and hydration fell apart which was a huge shame as it was always fine in training. I had a sore tummy which despite trying a few options of fuel wasn't happy all day. The later in the race I got, the more tired I felt and I think fuelling more effectively would have made a huge difference. But you cannot change how it goes on the day; you work with what you have and I ran my best and all the 'what ifs' make no difference to the final time.
I crossed the finish line in 4:30:47 – I felt elated! Elated to have finished, elated because I got so close to 4:30 despite being ill and considering giving up four weeks before the race. I knocked 37:05 off my previous finish time and despite some thoughts about how lovely it would have been to have finished under 4:30 I cannot complain as I did my best and my best was huge. No what ifs, I did 4:30:47 and I'm so proud to say that.
I staggered down the finish chute, completely out of it and almost missed the medals. The medal weighs so much it almost knocked me over when it was out round my neck. Next up was a goody bag which I wasn't expecting and the T-shirt is amazing – I will be pleased to wear this again. They were giving out pints of alcohol free beer which I declined and in fact I would have declined cider too as my stomach was too turbulent. Sadly the race village was packed with friends and family trying to find their runner which made getting out of the finish area hard work. I then headed to collect my bag before planning to stumble to the pre-arranged meeting point to find Dad and James. I'm not going to write much about baggage, it's all over Facebook, Twitter and the news if you want to know the details. I left my dad in queue for my bag and over two hours later he arrived back at our hotel. James had spare clothes and we made our way back earlier so I could shower and check-out. The organisers will no doubt feel the consequences in 2017 of their failings but hopefully they will learn their lesson. I don't normally use baggage facilities and I don't plan to again.
I finished the day with a celebratory curry in Wedmore and less than a pint of cider before falling fast asleep. What a superb day, now to plan the next challenge!
4:30:47 – No What Ifs!
Cheddar RC were also represented at the race by Phil Johnson and Lee Woodland, both securing PB's. Phil knocked eleven minutes off his London 2015 time to finish in 03:22:12 and Lee finished four minutes faster than his Autumn 2015 marathon in 03:38:58.