Natalie has written a little
report about her experience at the Manchester Marathon on 29th April
I start this report, I want to say that the people of
Trafford/Manchester gave some awesome support at this event and it
was so lifting. Without them this run would have been far less
I had been obsessively checking
the forecast for days, and it looked BAD. I went up to Manchester
Saturday, blue skies. Still the forecast for Sunday was for heavy
rain, almost zero temperatures and gale force winds. This time round
I have actually been training for a time, I wanted the sub 4 hours
this time. Training had been going well. I feel fitter, stronger and
faster than ever, and shorter distance race times predicting a time
beginning with “3” Best chance so far. I decided I would give it a
good go whatever the weather threw.
I woke up Sunday, 6.30am no rain.
Very windy though. I went through my normal race pre race faffing
routine, and was out for the short walk to the start. As I walked to
the start, the rain started and got heavier and heavier. Then sleet.
Thankfully being an old hand at this (Marathon distance or longer
#8!) I'd put on an old VLM reject fleece with a bin bag on top till
the start. I dropped off my bag with all my warm clothes in at the
baggage tent, and stood in the refreshment hut to keep out of the
rain. It was cold.
The start was a little walk away,
so trudged back over there. Now I was *really* cold. Not much start
zone policing going on, people milling about anywhere they liked
(slow runners at the front!) but to be honest I was so cold I was
past caring! Ron Hill (one of Britain’s best ever distance runners,
and despite being in his 80s still runs EVERY DAY!) started the race
*BANG* and I dropped in to 8.55 ish pace quite happily. Went
past Old Trafford, past my hotel (resisted the temptation to go back
in and have a hot chocolate). At about 3.5-4 miles I had the shock
of my life. Wendy and Heather were at the side of the road, and were
leaping around screaming at me. My face must have been a picture,
and all the people around me were having a good old chuckle - "yes I
know them" I said laughing. It was a great boost knowing I may see
them again on the course and definitely at the end. I never
suspected when Heather said on the Thursday before "we'll be with
you all the way" what they were plotting!
I thought the course was nice in
an urban sort of way, and so many people were out. I am a big fan of
printing names on race numbers, it is a real boost to hear your name
being yelled. After the shock of seeing my mad Dudley Ladies Aunties
:), I was distracted by the smell of the Kellogg’s Cornflake
factory, and the sights in the different areas of Trafford. The
course in the first half went through some built up and well
supported areas, and generally was very well stocked with water
pouches (really good invention 250 ml pouch you squeeze and drink
and it re-seals itself, better than bottles for sure) shot bloks,
gels and Gatorade. I did see a couple watching the race with two
HUGE St Bernard dogs, complete with little barrels round their
necks. I could have done with a nip of something but as I went on I
started to warm up a little. 10 miles 1.30 and First half 1.57.
I still felt great for the next
few miles, until at about 17 miles we hit some sort of country park
at Dunham Massey. "this will be nice" I thought. WRONG! On a dry
day, no problems, it would be a similar surface to the Kingswinford
Railway walk or canal. However most of this bit (well over a mile)
was flooded. I could not be bothered with mincing round the puddles
so went through but tried to be sensible so as not to get too much
silt in my trainers. Some bits were really squelchy and muddy. I've
done cleaner cross country races! This really broke my stride,
people were slowing down going single file to avoid the worst
flooding, and to be honest I could not feel my feet at now due to
I tried to pick it up again. I
sort of did, but I think after this point the course became a lot
more exposed, or god turned the weather knob up another notch to
"apocalypse". I now realised it was time for survival mode - go as
hard as you can given the conditions. The one thing I did NOT want
to do was stop, there were people on the course I saw being taken
off wrapped in blankets and all sorts presumably with hypothermia.
There were some really sorry sights in the last 10 miles or so.
As we came back in to the more
built up areas I felt better, and started to push on a bit. The
supporters were out in their waterproofs, banging spoons on
saucepans, and you've gotta love the person playing a local lad,
Morrissey songs "heaven knows I'm miserable now" from their car. At
24 miles I got overtaken by the 4h pacer, but I had started well
behind and overtaken him in the first few miles so I still had a
chance of a sub 4. I'd been taking things a mile at a time all the
way but at that point I knew I was on for a big PB.
The last couple of miles the crowd
support was even better. They were brilliant. It can’t really be
summed up in words. Going under an underpass and up the steps(!) the
other side was not nice but when I twigged we were in Stretford I
was very excited, so I picked it up a little again, in fact I did
manage a relative sprint finish. I felt very strong despite being
battered by the elements.
A 9 min pb. Yeah!! And big
confidence I can do sub 4 in non-freak weather. 2nd half 2.05 but
given the worse conditions after 11am I'm pleased with that.
I saw Wendy and Heather at the
line, went straight round to find them once I had got my medal and I
was so touched they came all that way for me I actually cried.
At this point we went to get my
bag, and I encountered the disorganised scrum that was the baggage
claim. There seemed to be no one there, bags were just lying in the
mud in the tent and it was a free for all. Some bags had been
chucked outside. All any of us wanted was our warm clothes. Luckily
someone with a brain cell (I don't know it they were part of the
organization team or just a runner/spectator) was picking up bags
and shouting out numbers, I heard mine and we yelled, it got passed
over to me and we walked off down the course to where the girls car
was parked. I was VERY lucky. Apparently things got far worse at the
baggage tent after this, the police turned up to calm the situation!
We stopped in the shopping centre on the way back where I had a
mahoosive hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream, never had one
taste so good.
Despite the baggage fiasco, some
of my faith in the human race has been restored in Manchester. We
met a runner in the shopping centre cafe who was shaking so
violently he couldn't put his sugar in his tea. We sat him down and
he explained his mate had abandoned him in the race (not good) but
that someone was on the way to get him because someone had let him
use their mobile phone. Then someone else had taken pity and got him
a cup of tea as he had no money. Maybe bad planning in some respects
on his part but I hope if I got stranded like that folks would help
Did I enjoy it? Yes I did. A tiny
bit of me is miffed at not sub-4-ing but I am totally chuffed with
my time really. Would I do it again? Yes. Good course, brilliant
support. However I won't be using the bag drop! A big thank you to
Wendy and Heather I had would have had a good day I'm sure, but them
being there made it really special.