My intention was never to run a marathon this year but having been trying to get back into some running before I do some triathlons later this year I decided to go and run it with a friend who was after getting her personal best time.
I have raced marathons in the past and been through the agony of avoiding everyone who sneezed or coughed within a half mile radius of me for the final months up until race day and not doing anything out of the ordinary in case I got injured and all the training went to waste but this time it was completely different. I was really excited about running a marathon and that is a very strange statement to make.
My friend Rachel had been putting the miles in beforehand. She wanted a personal best (PB) and to come in under 5 hours. The challenge was on.
Hanging about at a marathon start line is a weird experience. Runners are a strange bunch of folk. Some dressed like they were going on a month long expedition to the artic, with jogging bottoms, a hoodie and a backpack filled with water and some of them in a vest so thin it was practically see through and the tiniest pair of shorts you have ever seen. Some are standing around looking nervous and some are doing little warm up exercises. We even saw one bloke doing press-ups.
All of a sudden everyone starts to walk towards the start line to filter through on to the course. I think we crossed the start line about 20 minutes after the gun went off. You have a special timing chip built into your run number though so it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get over the line.
Now I did run Manchester marathon in 2014 but it’s funny how much of the course you don’t actually see when you are concentrating on getting a certain time (although that didn’t end up going to plan either that year). As we ran around the course we got to about mile 14 before I recognised any from the 2014 race. At that point in the course you head out towards …….then back on yourself so you get to see everyone else running the other way.
It was along this road that the spectators were there with little bags of jelly babies already made up for the runners and I stashed some in my pockets for later on. We were over halfway now and although we ahead of target for time Rachel was conscious that we may have set off a little too fast and we were going to pay for it later on in the race. The out and back section seemed to go on forever and we were thinking about how some of the runners that we saw coming the opposite way would be near the finish by the time we got to the turnaround point.
The hardest miles of a marathon for me are the ones between 18-22 miles. You have come such a long way already and things are starting to hurt. You see other runners starting to walk when the cramp starts to set in, or if they have set off too fast at the beginning.
We walked a bit/ran a bit/walked a bit/ then ran a bit more from this point until the finish. There is support around Manchester marathon most of the way but that final mile as you run along towards the finish at Old Trafford is amazing. You can see people 3 and 4 deep at the barriers shouting and willing you on, even if you want to walk by this point you can’t. You can see the line from about ¾ of a mile away and we knew we had plenty of time and were going to get that target.
We crossed the line in 4:49 with a massive 20 minute PB for Rachel.
I enjoyed every minute of that day. Running with no pressure and enjoying the marathon experience is something I would definitely do again.