Wednesday, 10 April 2019
Sunday 7 April 2019 – The Manchester Marathon
Here I am, being greeted by my masseuse and her daughters just beyond the finishing line. Can you tell that it was a successful outing!
The day began earlier than necessary on a chilly (8C) overcast Manchester morning. Fuelled with a chocolate croissant, and carrying a banana and some chocolate for a pre run snack, I caught a tram from Timperley to Old Trafford soon after 8 am. Lots of friendly fellow travellers with a common purpose. I should have set off 30-45 minutes later, as I finished up spending the best part of an hour at the start, dressed in a bin liner.
First, a visit to the athletes’ village to find a loo and say hello to some of the Wythenshawe parkrun helpers. They have a really long and busy day – possibly harder than actually running! Then it’s a stroll down Warwick Road to Chester Road and onwards to the starting area.
It might be fine dressing up for a 5 km run, as I do at Christmas time, but for a full marathon?…these people really must be crazy.
With about 14,000 entries and separate relay and wheelchair races, the start has to be carefully orchestrated. The wheelchairs go first, and the relay runners go last. The mass of 14,000 is split into eight groups that are corralled in separate holding areas, with different coloured numbers for each area. Most people stick to their allocated area, which is based on their rime estimate given to the organisers. I was in the seventh area (G), with the light blue numbers. This suited me fine as I was near the 4.45 pacer. Starting at the back of my group, I was just ahead of the last group of starters – you can see them below with the ‘H’ flag strapped to the back of the 5 hour pacer. My target was to stay ahead of him.
We were entertained by the starting team, and a fairly lengthy interview with Vassos Alexander (formerly of Chris Evans’ Radio 2 breakfast show) who was hoping for a time of under three hours.
9 am finally came around, and the first runners, way out of our sight, set off. The departures continued, each wave leaving five minutes after the previous one. This keeps people well spaced, together with runners of similar ability, and the official timings are based on ‘chip’ times, the chip being a piece of electronics (a chip!) embedded in each runner’s number, that is activated at the start and gives times at certain recording points along the route.
After a while, we slowly eased forward, and I was at the back of a large group that set of at 9.30. Even then it took me a couple of minutes to cross the start line. I don’t know about childbirth, but in the picture below, we have started to move forward, but the start line is still out of sight.
I was aiming for 6 minute 20 seconds (6.20) to 6.30 kilometres, but without Sue Strickland to keep me to that as she did last year, I was running closer to 6 minutes. A loo stop during kilometre 8 took an extra minute, so my time of one hour and two minutes for the first 10 km wasn’t too embarrassingly fast. I passed the 4.45 pacer and didn’t expect to see another one – I would be delighted if 4.45 stayed behind me.
Colin saw me in Stretford – a photo may follow, and it was good to be cheered on by Selwa, Amro and Zakariah at the end of their road in Sale Moor. There were lots of people in the streets supporting the runners. Lots of water stations, mostly ignored by me, but I did try a ‘gel’ that was on offer along Brooklands Road. Yeuch.
Sue was positioned on Stockport Road near the centre of Timperley, and after taking the next picture she presented me with a bottle of coke and a very tasty banana. This was at the 16 km (10 mile) point, so was most welcome. I’d been going for well over an hour and a half and was only just over a third of the way.
As Altrincham is approached, there’s a section where runners entering and leaving Altrincham meet on opposite sides of the same road. This can be both distressing and heartening. Cheering from the Barber family in the middle of Altrincham was definitely heartening.
Soon after leaving Altrincham, another pacer appeared in the distance ahead of me. It turned out to be the 4.30 pacer, who would have set off about five minutes before me in the wave that started at 9.25. Whilst I felt I must be going too fast, I settled for a slightly slower pace in quite a large, chatty, group behind this pacer.
Sue had positioned herself on the railway bridge on Park Road, and I’m seen here approaching my second and last ‘banana and coke’ support point. Plus vaseline for a couple of sore bits.
Then off I went for the last ten miles or so. I’m seen below some way behind the 4.30 pacer, who is just to the left of the green traffic light. (Click to enlarge the image.) This is familiar ground. We live about 200 metres away, down some steps at a gap in the railings behind green jacketed Sharon from number 26. I’m sure we aren’t the only people to discover friendly neighbours by supporting the marathon from outside our homes. Sue got blisters from ringing our ‘dinner’ bell. My feet stayed mercifully blister free though at this stage my dodgy right knee, and a sore left calf, were both concerning me.
Sue took a few more photos, whilst I trotted on after Mr 4.30. You have to admire James, in this rather warm costume, on Timperley Bridge.
Having caught up with the 4.30 pacer, I decided to try to stay with him up to beyond the 30 km point. That actually involved dropping my pace a little, so after being my quickest 10 km split last year, this year the 20 to 30 km section was my slowest 10 km split (albeit in the same time as last year).
After 32 km I was feeling ok, despite being in the rather less populated zone along Carrington Lane and Flixton Road. I decided to pretend that I was just starting a ‘10 km in an hour’ run. The next three km were my fastest of the day; they seemed even faster, as I was overtaking lots of other runners – I probably overtook about 3,000 during the course of the marathon. By the time I entered Urmston, and lots more encouraging support, my legs were telling me that perhaps my brain had been wrong to cast away memories of the first 30 km, but it wasn’t until the last 4 km that my pace dropped significantly, and rather annoyingly, just near the end, the 4.30 pacer jogged past and I couldn’t maintain his pace.
Never mind, I finished just behind him, in less than 5 hours after the 9 am starters. Can you spot me at the finish, just inside 5 hours?
I was then accosted by Michelle the masseuse and her daughters, one of whom took the title picture for this posting. Sue had recommended (and booked me in with) Michelle, after she had helped bring Sue’s Achilles problem under control, and a 45 minute leg massage on the Friday before, and the Monday after the marathon certainly did me no harm!
With lots of people finishing all the time, the Wythenshawe parkrunners team had their work cut out to keep people moving through certain pinch points at the finish and in the athletes’ village, so it was just a brief “hello” to Andy and others after collecting my t-shirt and making my way to the tram stop.
By 2.30 or so I was at home in our garden with Sue, celebrating a most successful outing.
Shown below is a screen dump of my results. (As usual, click on the image for a better picture.)
My position of 9367 is taken from the 9 am start, so my ‘chip position’ would be much higher, perhaps around 8000, not that it matters. The ‘Good For Age’ time that gives one a better chance of getting into the London Marathon is 5 hours for those of us aged over 70. That was my target, and I’m delighted to have met it. (I could even have popped home for a cuppa when passing our house, and still met that target!)
There’s something wrong with the position data in the above information, as I would have gained many places after the 30 km point, not lost them, as it appears. I’ve noticed the same with other athletes, so I guess the position data should be taken with a pinch of salt.
I’ve summarised my Garmin and my ‘chip’ data for all my marathons below. This time I seem to have finished slowly (it certainly felt like it), but my Garmin measured 2.7 km rather than the 2.4 km on previous runs, probably compensated for elsewhere as I noticed the Garmin was telling me I had gone slightly further than the markers on the course indicated.
For anyone interested, here’s this year’s route. The upper ‘runner’ waypoint is the start, the lower one is the finish on Talbot Road. There’s lots more on the Marathon website. Next year the route will be changed to include part of the city centre.
Having gained a qualifying time under the current London Marathon rules, I hope to be there next April, again raising funds for the Levana School Partnership.
My fundraising this year is going well, with my current target of £1,500 having almost been reached as I write, but with quite a few ‘regular’ donors still absent from the ‘attendance list’. Here’s the link!
The reports on my previous marathons are shown (for my benefit) below:
And all my ‘Marathon’ labelled postings are here.
Phew! And thanks again to all who have supported me.