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Greater Manchester Marathon 2016

I think it’s fair to say that I’d had the best preparation I could possibly have dreamed of for the Greater Manchester Marathon on 10 April 2016.  Over the past year I’ve worked incredibly hard and broken my 5k (numerous times), 10k, half marathon and 20 mile personal bests.  Things were going so well in fact that in March I came within 10 seconds of breaking the 20 mile club record that has stood since 1976.

On that day I’d paced myself perfectly and finished feeling incredibly rather fresh with huge confidence that I’d be able to run a great time in Manchester; I’d even let the possibility of breaking the club record of 2.33 (set by Pete last year) creep into my thoughts.

The marathon is a whole different level and I think it’s fair to say things didn’t go completely to plan!

I travelled up alone the day before the race (unfortunately Sarah had to be at a wedding in Poland which we were invited to after I’d paid for the marathon and the rather expensive non-refundable hotel room) and enjoyed a relaxed evening watching TV with my feet up.  I received what felt like 100s of messages from family and friends wishing me good luck, I even slept pretty well which I was not expecting.

In the morning I opened the curtains to see a beautiful blue sky (which incredibly for Manchester had been forecast) and I scoffed down a couple of porridge pots.  I walked the 1km to the race village and I was genuinely excited.  I dropped off my stuff and jogged to the start.

It was pretty well organised and I took my place just behind the elites and chatted to a bloke from Herne Hill Harriers who knew club mates Simon and Pete.  The start went off without any fuss and I got into a nice rhythm.  I knew it was relatively downhill for the first 1km so I took it easy; with a good taper I felt in good shape and the first few kms flew by.

I had organised my family and friends support teams to be at a few locations across the course which really helped me break up the distance.

At 10km, I was flying along in 18th place in just under 36 minutes; this was a little quicker than my plan but it felt easy.  I still felt good at halfway and was amazed to see the halfway clock say 1.13:44!  That definitely surprised me and for the first time some doubts crept into my head.  Had I gone off too fast?  I’d been going along at around a 3.30 average km which felt fine, but suddenly I looked down to see 3.47; what was going on?  I told myself not to panic and try to keep in a rhythm, but I couldn’t help but be worried.

I saw my support team at about 28km and I put on a happy face, but there was no doubt about it, running was getting harder.  By the time I saw my dad at 30km I was struggling to even keep to 3.45s and gratefully took a gel from him.  I crossed 30km at 1.47 in 22nd place and knew the last 12km were going to be one hell of a battle.  At 20 miles (32km) I was actually still ahead of my PB time from the month before in 1.55; but it was getting harder and harder.

The Manchester course is great for profile and has fantastic spectator support, but the section between 32km and 40km is very hard as the crowds die down and you are very much alone with your thoughts.  I kept on battling, but at 35km my pace took another shift and I was down to 4.32.  I just had to get to the finish.  My original plan had been to take a gel at 1.30 and another at 2 hours, but by now I was taking on any fuel I could.  Water stations couldn’t come soon enough and I was so grateful for spectators handing out jelly babies!  With just a parkrun to go I had clocked my first km over 5 minutes and I knew it would be a very hard final stretch.

I saw my whole support team again with 1500m to go and couldn’t even acknowledge them; their cheers really gave me a great push though.  I had envisaged the finishing straight over and over during the cold dark training runs, and when it finally came I could hardly lift my arms above my head.  In fact, the sun was beaming into our eyes that until I’d crossed the line I didn’t really believe it was going to come at all!

I finished in 2 hours 48 minutes and 47 seconds in 91st place.  I was disappointed no doubt about it, but looking back now almost two weeks later I’m smiling.  My whole aim when I set out was to run a sub 3 hour marathon, qualify for the London Marathon 2017 and break the Hind family record (2.53); all 3 things I managed.  Marathons are tough, no doubt about it; yes I didn’t run anything like a consistent pace (let alone a negative split!) but I’m proud of a great achievement and I can’t wait to try and learn from my mistakes and run even quicker in the future.  The main reason I run is to see what I’m capable of and I learned a hell of a lot on April 10!

My priorities will now shift to running shorter distances over the summer to see if I can keep getting quicker before building up to London this time next year.

I want to thank my unbelievably supportive wife Sarah, it isn’t easy having a husband training 70 miles a week.  I also want to thank my incredible support team who were there for me on race day.  Mum, Dad, Callum, Charlotte, Alice, Elaine, Jonathan, Steve, Jo, Rob, Will, Matt and Laura thank you so much.

I was about to say that I really recommend the Manchester Marathon, but today it’s been announced that the course between 2013-15 was 400m short and so results on Power of 10 have been amended to show ‘SHORTMar’; it was a new course this year and fortunately for me there were no questions about the length.

For those interested, below are my 10km splits which show my struggle in the last 3rd!

First: 34.54

Second: 35.00

Third: 37.13

Fourth: 48.05

The final 5km took me 28.30.

Review of the Greater Manchester 2016

 

Positives:

  1. Brilliant fast and flat course with excellent road surface.

  2. The support is pretty good, some parts it was really loud which really gave me a lift. 

  3. Good public transport links, the tram is really helpful for both runners and spectators.

  4. Decent t-shirt and medal, annoyingly I took a bag from the small pile and didn't open it until I was on the train home, it had a large in it!   

  5. Lots of toilets at the race village and start.  

 

Negatives:

  1. One of the hardest parts of the race (miles 18 to 24) had the least crowd support, it really didn't feel like a big city marathon then; there is a very similar experience at Brighton.    

  2. I was in a pretty bad way when I did get to the finish.  It was completely my own fault, but I really needed help and not one marshal or medical person asked me if I was ok. All I really needed was a sit down and a lot of water, but I could barely stand up!

  3. Lots of people have said about how bad the baggage drop was, but as a sub 3 hour finisher it was absolutely fine.  The organisers seem to have sorted it out as the 2017 race didn't seem to have the same problems.  

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