Friday, May 04, 2012


Greater Manchester Marathon

Last October, I ran the inaugural RunLiverpool Marathon, where I had a bit of a torrid time. I staggered the last six miles, tipping bottled water over my screamingly painful knees, telling myself I'd never, ever be so foolish as to run another marathon. Then, when I'd finished, I instantly decided that I'd actually really enjoyed myself and I'd sign up for another one in the spring.

I chose another first-time race, the Greater Manchester Marathon, figuring that some of my friends from the area might also fancy a crack at it. They told me where to go.

Around mid-March when we were enjoying some particularly clement weather, I began to fret that an end-of-April marathon might be a bit on the warm side. After all, this is what the last weekend of April was like last year:

Alright for bloody Frankel. Alright for me too actually, as I'd picked Dubawi Gold to come second.

However, the end of April this year was wet. Very wet. It had been peeing it down for weeks and weather forecasts were for a month's worth of rain on the Sunday (race day) with pretty robust wind. This meant that, of the projected 8,000 starters, a couple of thousand thought better of it. Not me though. I'm dead tough.

Look at that weather! Makes you glad to be alive

After training like a lunatic for the last couple of months, I was hoping to make it round the course in 3:10, which would make me 'good for my age' according to the criteria of the London Marathon website. I had a bit of a race plan, which involved going easy-ish for eight miles, picking up the speed until halfway, then hanging on until 20 miles, then really, really, really hanging on for the last six-and-a-bit. Of course, as soon as they let us go, I got over-excited and steamed off like a gibbering, wide-eyed mess. Not quite Frankel, but you get the idea.

Spotters badge!

The day was grey and wet, but there was a lot of support and encouragement around the course. At one stage we passed through a country park which had been turned into a bog by the weather conditions, so unlucky to anyone who fancied finishing with clean trainers. Towards the end of the course, we also got sent through a subway, then up some steps, which really isn't what your legs want after 25 miles of continuous pounding.

The country park in good weather

Most of the way, I felt ok. When I started to feel tired, I'd slow down a bit and try to work out Japanese verbs and their opposites in my head, which proved sufficiently distracting. After a heroic last 10k (I improved about 80 places, although I suspect this was more down to other people being in tremendous physical distress than any olympian burst of speed on my part) I waddled over the line in 3:09:49, making me officially good for my age. In fact, as age 33 is the equivalent of a scratch handicap, my time makes me officially just good, albeit by a rather more slender margin than I would have liked.

What wasn't good was the baggage reclaim fiasco that followed. Everyone's identical 'Greater Manchester Marathon' bags were in a disorganised heap in a tent with no means of being sorted or searched. I ended up waiting about ninety minutes in my piss-wet running gear with a piece of tin foil to keep me warm and I think a fair few people ended up needing medical attention. At one point, I found myself stuck in line next to a guy who'd finished more than an hour behind me.

"When I finally get my bag back, I'm probably going to cry," I told him. "Especially if my wallet's been stolen."

Happily, I did eventually locate my bag, thanks largely to the fact that my tracksuit bottoms were sticking conspicuously out of the top. The lack of organisation and co-ordination at the baggage tent though had caused a completely avoidable emergency and, had I read in the following morning's paper that someone had died of hypothemia, exposure, or simply old age waiting to get their bag back, I should not have been surprised.

The Greater Manchester Marathon is currently scoring about 50% approval on the feedback section of the Runners World UK website (to put that in some kind of context, most events have to do quite badly to get less than 80%) and the organisers have issued an apology online for nearly killing everyone.

A couple of other marathons were taking place on the same day: Milton Keynes ended up being a bit longer than planned as the course had to be altered at the last minute to avoid a flooded area, while the Shakespeare Marathon became the Shakespeare Half Marathon at very short notice after some parts of the course were deemed unsafe. Apparently some of the runners didn't realise this had happened and were a bit taken aback to find out at 10 miles in that they were nearly finished.

Since the weekend, I've been walking like a womble with his shoelaces tied together and getting back on the beer after a month's abstinence. I also need a new pair of trainers, if not a new pastime.

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Well done, mate. Excellent running. I wish that, like you, I could have found something in that final few miles but the split times were just getting slower and slower. Good luck with your good-for-age entry (as I understand it, it's not automatic qualification but you stand a much better chance, right?). Might have a nosy at some of your old posts and will keep an eye on future ones for sure. Happy running! :-)
Great blog - I got lucky with my bag do I managed to avoid 'Death by waiting'

Keep blogging !
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