Back here again; in true nature this run and this race. It’s my adopted baby. This is my fourth year here. 2014, 2015, 2016. It’s not my natural baby; that’s the York Marathon. It’s not my estranged first child, that’s the Milton Keynes Marathon. It isn’t my adventurous streak; that would be Snowdonia extravaganzas. But this is the course and the race. Setting PB here, year after year. Always falls around my birthday, all winter training, all the hard miles since the back end of October have been gearing towards this. All the PB’s, rain, sun, boundary headtorch runs, snow, wind chill’s, freezing beards, late nights, early mornings, late and stinkiness, 8 pairs of shoes, bruised ankles, toes, sickness, every single day, just running. It’s all been geared towards this.
Each marathon I do, generally comes in blocks, blocking training out; towards running the marathon on the day. Increasing mileage, quality sessions, fine tuning and then slowing it back down again. No set program, just running really. With each block I always try to race every distance in build up, mainly because I’m in peak fitness shape and there is a high chance of a PB! The Half Marathon came early in January, setting a new PB at Inskip Half. Dewsbury Long Course 10k, brought another PB, 34:48. Norton 9, another PB, 52:09. Getting a Parkrun PB of 17:12. Running well and my highest mile race in training, Hull windy 20; brought another PB 2:02:59. Running well, joining Penistone Footpath Runners in the process. Running 150-170 mile in a week and having run 30 mile some days. Enjoying my running and loving the training, picking up an illness before the Wombwell 5, knocked me for 6 for a couple of week, but my attempt at Hull let me know, that I was there or there abouts.
Times at this event, have always been sub 3 hour. 2:55:02 in 2014; 2:50:04 in 2015; 2:45:49 in 2016. With times coming up ‘short’ after the event, despite running the full distance on a gps watch.
This is my course and I love Manchester. Calling myself a Manchester United fan as a kid. I have a soft spot for plenty of races around here, The Salford 10k on Good Friday being one of them. Milltown to Moors Half Marathon, Cheshire, Wilmslow, Preston, Inskip, East Lancashire 10k, Bolton 10k, Stockport 10; my first ever event was the Survival of the Fittest at SportCity. The day my Nan died in 2012. A 10k assault course organised by Menshealth and Ratrace; with Clayton Davidson in tow.
I love the drive over Woodhead to get here. Especially if the traffic is quiet, makes the journey all the more enjoyable.
The training runs have gone well and was going well up until February time; I probably was in ‘peak’ marathon shape, the day I ran my PB at Inskip. If there was a marathon that weekend or around about in January, I had in my head that I was capable of a 2:35 or under, with an ambitious target of 2:30; that would be the dream. The fall in the car park and bruising my backside at Meltham, knocked my training a tad, but it was only a bruise; it knocked my confidence more on ice. Then getting poorly in the week building up to Wombwell 5; again knocked my training, prior to that I was running 170+ mile weeks with ease and still racing on a Sunday. But since I’ve managed 140+ a week, struggling to get out and do miles and probably not having fast enough racing legs on a Sunday to actually race, feeling a little fatigued. I’ll get back there but it’s a slow process; as it was before. An extra 1% per week! Is all you need. The ambition of a 2:30 marathon time was slowly floating out the window. Having to re-evaluate my ambitions basing it on my performance at Retford and Hull 20. A sub 1:17/1:18 at Retford would give me a 2:35 target. That I did 1:16:58, just. My last longer quality run at Hull raised my ambitions further, the strength building headwind; set me in the mindset that if conditions were right on race day. That 2:35 was definitely within my grasp.
Going out for the first ‘Team Barnsley’ run with Bryan, Jonathan and Lee last weekend was ace. Got me settled and miles passed with ease, legs feeling strong and confident that I could stay on target. I wasn’t going to taper, just run slower and steadier, not focus on a mileage goal but just enjoy running for the week. Monday came, a parcel waiting at the post office and a new pair of shoes. Slipped them on and went for a steady run in them. I buy the same style, just different colourway, having 12 different pair of adios boost now! Since their release. Giving me time to bed them in through the week. Probably a mistake from me, but never the less, done now. Shoes on and before the end of my run, had to loosen the laces; hurting my foot a tad and sending a shooting pain up my leg. I wore my old shoes for the second run of the day. Round to Tuesday, new shoes on for the morning, again, loosening my laces for the remaining miles on my run. Again. Finishing with a slight limp. Old shoes on again for my second run. Buying a Footpath Runners vest afterwards.
Wednesday morning came around, waking up with a swollen lower leg. Peroneus Tendon, possible, lower Tibialis Anterior. Peroneus Tertius or Brevis, lower, lower leg. Really swollen, ice on for the day. Going through crack bags left right and centre. Road league Wednesday night in the Footpath Runners vest. Not expecting a fast time. Leg feeling a little heavy and painful during the warm up; never the less proceeding on to the race. Setting off and climbing around the Lodge Moor course, finding a massive downhill only comparable to Meltham. Getting passed by runner after runner. Finishing in 24th; 31:06. Some way behind the runners that I’ve found myself amongst in recent months and weeks. Scott finished in 1st, 28:20. Recently found form and unbelievable to think I was beating him a few week ago! Leg shot when I finished, going for a very slow 1 mile limp/ cool down. Ice when I got home. Ice. And more ice. Thursday came around, struggling to put pressure down on it. I ran a measely 5 mile and left it at that. Hoping rest would do it good. 5 again for Friday. Tapering isn’t in my nature, angry and frustrated. Ice all day again and even had some crutches on hand. This isn’t ideal preparation for a marathon!
Parkrun Saturday came around quicker than I hoped. The weekend had begun and I am not in the shape to run a marathon. Not at all. Parkrun was an autism awareness event, organised by Samantha Jones, as well as a pacing event. With the 18 and 19 vest free, I was tempted to volunteer my services but went silent on the fact. Mainly because I was unsure if my leg would hold up and was even considering dropping out of the marathon completely on Friday night. I wouldn’t want to let someone down if they were chasing a time and me. Probably a little rude in the fact that I didn’t explain my decision, especially when I’ve done the pacing for it before. So I apologise for that. I was completely unsure of the time I would run when rocking up at Parkrun. Bringing a fast group of runners, in Shaun Dimelow, Darren Middleton, David Hanks, Alan Ford and Rhian Hastey. As well as the usuals in Tom White and of course Scott Hinchcliffe. I set off steady and held back away from them, even the 20 minute pacer in Tim Webster, set off fast clocking a 15 minute Parkrun pace for the first 800metres! I went steady over the line in 18:20; Scott again ran well to a strong PB of 16:40!
Parkrun done and off to Manchester I go, well right after I’ve been for my hair cut and to the gym! Seeing Derrick Baldwin in the barbers chair; hair cut for the marathon, might make him faster. I had the same thought! Off we go, setting off around 1 o’clock. Stopping at Ashton for some parts for the car en route. Ice pack, still strapped to the leg. Crutches also on the back seat, just in case! Getting to the hotel after a trip to Morrisons for some food. No breakfast in this hotel unless you wanna pay £15 and porridge wasn’t on offer, so I bought 2 tubs of porridge and a jar of Nutella instead. Bought a tub as well from B&M cause I left mine at home. Cold water in and soak!
Out for some pasta at TGI Fridays next door and back to watch a bit of Wolf of Wall Street and bed! My knee had also began to swell a little, probably from the lack of movement in the leg, due to pain in my ankle/leg! So the whole right leg was now shot. Having a full compression bandage on for bed, hoping it would take the swelling down! Taking it off in the middle of the night, it was a little tight!
Woke up around 7, this year getting a tram to the start, instead of driving and waiting an hour to get into the car parks! I opted to wear odd shoes, mainly because they were the lesser worn ones, despite the massive hole that we sealed together with safety pins!
Getting to the start in good time for 8.30; race starts at 9. Seeing Ron Hill the official race starter, my ‘streak’ is measly in comparison. The course has changed a lot this year, but still remains flat as ever. Starting in the same area but finishing again outside the cricket ground, making a different smaller loop to begin with and looping off the original course in sections to make up for the early part lost.
I’m here anyway on the start line of the Manchester Marathon; given my condition, either brave or plain stupid. I wasn’t confident that I would finish, I didn’t know where I would end up. The Hotel in 6 mile into the route, if I blow before then, I’ll retire there. I have supporters at Brooklands, if I blow then, I’ll retire there. If all else fails I’ll crawl to the finish. My ambitions of times, goals and all them targets I had in mind went flying out the window around 9 o’clock in the morning on the 30th of March. I had come to that conclusion early. But I definitely wasn’t going to let all of this go to waste.
Off we went, starting at 9 o’clock. ‘We Will Rock You,’ as a pre-race anthem. With the announcer emphasising the fact to set off steady, look after each other, no elbows, pushing or tripping. I settled quickly into a comfortable pace, adrenaline pulling my leg through. Me soon beginning to think, is the whole ‘injury’ some weird concept of my nervous system that I have discovered. Some unexplored area that I’ve yet to find out about. 5:52 first mile done. Not bad that. Still in with a pack of runners, but still yet to settle with a group. There was plenty enough going on around me to not notice whats happening to my body. Looping back around and still close enough to hear the starting area, checking down at my shoes regular to see if they had split yet; you know done a ‘Yates.’ They looked and felt alright. I had arranged to potentially swap shoes at mile 6 near the hotel, standing there with the right foot of all the shoes I had. Just in case they split. Sub 6:00 minute miles with even a stop to check my shoes.
Plodding on and speaking to runners as I catch them or be caught, hoping it would pass time and hoping they would tag on to form a group. A lot seemed reluctant to help each other out and just stormed ahead, only for me to catch them again later in the race. I had seen Stephen Maddison a runner, I speak to at races around the start area. I knew if he managed to catch me, at least I wouldn’t be alone! There was also Steve Fowler running that I knew of anyway. The first loop off came around ‘Sale’ going through to center and seeing choirs, bands, water stations, kids with sweets, friendly cheering supporters. Right before the out and back section to Altrincham. A runner near me, must have had his splits set to every 0.1 mile, because quite frustratingly after a while; the watch would beep and split. To begin with was a welcomed noise. My first sherbet lemon went in around Sale, some cheaper variations from B&M, they were different, had more fizz and left a powdery taste in the mouth, only to be solved by another. That’s if you need a review anyway! The road to Altrincham is mainly out and back, lasts for around 7 mile. Its long quite boring on the way out, but pace is picked up on the way back when you see the other runners going through the same pain or worse then you. My Mum and Dad were at Brooklands before and after the road to Altrincham, if I was to drop out it was going to be then. But a strength came in my mind, approaching mile 8. Some great genius of my own. I’ve done this before, albeit not injured, but I’ve done this before. For every mile proceeding this one my task was to think of every run I’ve done that is equal to the distance remaining, picking the worst. Mile 8 was 18 mile to go, so the key to mind was a run I did from home towards Ingbirchworth via Cawthorne, monster climb, pouring rain, waterproofs, blowing a gale, freezing cold, getting lost looping round, alone and eventually pushing it and nearly being late for work. Sherbet still in and rocking. Pace begun to drop, this is the boring bit. Over 6:00 minute miles now, not under. All the way down to Altrincham. Keep ticking them off, keep plodding. Mile 9, 17 to go. Last weeks Boundary Adventure with Lee, Bryan and Jonathan, fresh and key in my mind. Leg begun to hurt around 9 mile, saying ouch out loud after 4/5 strides. Difficult to move focus away from it now. Shoes still in tact but leg, not so much. Pace really feels like its dropping, due to my leg, but the rest of my body feels fine! Even considering just hopping, it might be quicker you know?
Eventually reaching Altrincham and the half way mark. Splitting in 1:19:05. Not bad and sub 2:40 could actually be in reach?Mile 13- Every half marathon I’ve done since Snowdonia Marathon last year; but then I couldn’t help but think of the gale force winds blowing us apart at the Isle of Axholme Half Marathon, with water in sealed packets. Mile 14- 12 to go; a lot of my runs are 10-12 mile picking up either the trail or looping around Silkstone and Silkstone Common, taking in the majestic Cone Lane. Anyway, jogging on and soon to be joined by Dan Kestrel (Chan) who was using it as his last run before London. Different class though, I managed to tag on chatting to him for a couple of mile, right in the interesting part of the journey to and from Altrincham, seeing Dave Norman as a spectator in the process. He soon left me in his dust after that. My pace had picked up on the return leg.
Seeing my Mum and Dad, and Rachel Jardine, shall I or shan’t I call it a day? From here on out, I’m on my own, looping towards the country lanes at Carrington. Pace had managed to drop down again, leg was really beginning to throb; altering my style to compensate. Averaging 6:15’s really between now and finish, a quick calculation in my head meant that I could run 7:00’s and still be sub 3; I would be happy with that to say I had a set of crutches in the car! Groups of runners now fragmented and small, running mainly on your own. Second sherbet in around Mile 15/16, only to rid my mouth of the powder from the last one, they also came in a rip with teeth packet. Probably keeps them fresher for longer but did hurt my teeth ripping it out the wrapper. Mile 18, 8 to go, made me think of my 8 mile run Wednesday when I ran 3 lots of 8 mile through the day, same route, improving each run in terms of pace on each try. Out on the lonely country road to Carrington back to some sort of normality, surrounded by fields, in my element. Who needs the busy roads of London, when you can have the peace of the country lanes. Pace did begin to drop, but I also settled so did my heart rate when looking after the race. Mile 20, split in 2:00:58, a new PB within the race – I probably could finish this now? Dewsbury 10k, long course, Meltham 10k, Bruised Bum, Percy Pud, Ward Green 6. Mile 21- the last few days, when I could’ve quite easily given up my streak, I took strength from that. Leg throbbing, altering to a hobble an amble around Carrington. Manchester isn’t great for potholes and grates as well! Mile 22- when I was poorly otherwise bedbound, but still found the strength to go out and complete some miles, my warm ups at most races. This is it now.
5k to go. If I can knock out a ‘steady’ 25 minute parkrun I knew I’d at least PB, I was picturing where I would be on course at Barnsley, picturing the climbs, the people, dogs, moments of celebration, cheers, then going past the other runners and cheering them on, ‘well done, its only a hill, its a small hill, come on race you, fantastic, keep going.’ Ticking off my imaginary lap times. 2 to go, can hear a bit of a buzz. Getting back towards the main road buzz in Stretford, The Last Mile dash. Nearly Home.
I finished in:
13 mile- 1:19:05
20 mile- 2:00:58
23 mile- 2:19:49
My leg now throbbing, struggling to walk, swollen and currently at 9.30 at night in a bucket of ice, the rest of the body feels fine, untouched and ready to go again, the mind does too. It does make me wonder and reflect:
What Could Have Been?
Looking at my HR data, was I really that relaxed and meditating?
Do I need to buy the bigger size shoe?
Just Keep Running!
Guess what though, the T Shirt is Blue!