Manchester marathon was memorable for so many reasons. I headed into marathon weekend full of doubts and questions following a less than perfect taper, of little running due to a niggle I have been babying for a few weeks. The weekend started on Friday with the ASICS UK Frontrunner meeting which was coinciding with the marathon. We spent a lovely Friday and Saturday meeting new members of the team, doing a treasure hunt through Manchester, and lots of photos, presentations and of course all the food. Anyone who follows me on social media knows that I have a huge fondness for all things doughnuts and of Nutella. I was presented with a surprise birthday cake during the weekend which incorporated both of these things, and I’m sure was perfect fuelling day before the marathon!
I felt good upon waking on race morning. I stuck with the usual banana, porridge and coffee combo 2.5 hours before start time and the blood sugars were behaving. During taper I had accepted the fact that sub 4, or even any of my time goals were no longer an option thanks to the ankle. I had barely run and I could still feel it whilst walking. I taped up my ankle and stuck with lets just see how it goes. The only plan was to just run as much as I could and aim for a finish. It felt strangely comforting walking to the start line from our hotel in Salford Quays, knowing that the pressure was off. It is what it is. There is nothing I can do, so just go along with whatever happens next.
Getting into the start pens was straightforward and the usual mix of excitement of nerves hung in the air. You’ve only got to look around you at a marathon start line to see that you are all in the same boat. You are running your own races, but you are still all in it together. Matt @thewelshrunner had said he would start with me. Coming back from his own injury, it was a only meant to be a long run for him. Just run some easy miles alongside me, then drop out when he had done enough. That changed pretty rapidly.
The first few miles flew by in a blink of an eye. We just had fun, chatted, had a giggle. I felt pretty good all things considered, and the ankle, although not perfect, behaved. Mile 11 things started to change, as we dipped in to Altrincham. I loved seeing the faster runners coming back past as they came out, and spotted a few runners to wave hi to. But my glute was starting to seize up, on the same leg as my bad ankle. Before I knew it, it just went on me. Mile 13 onwards was an epic battle just to get home. I really struggled mentally and physically. I could of pulled out, and in all honesty, it probably would of been the wise thing to do. But all I could think of were the months of training that had gone in to this marathon. I was in it, I was doing it anyway, so I adopted the ‘head down, and bollock on’ approach.
It wasn’t pretty. I fashioned some sort of hobble run/walk combo. Even slight inclines were horrid, and the pain of someone stopping directly in front of me causing me to jump to the side or halt was enough to send me slightly crazy. The second half of the marathon was a huge pot of the above, tears (I became ridiculously emotional) and non stop encouragement and unwavering support from Matt. Whatever I was going through, he was there. He didn’t leave my side. He ran the whole thing with me, casually completing a marathon a few weeks after coming back from weeks off with a stress fracture. Not for himself, it’s obviously less than ideal. But for me. It’s quite hard to put into words the emotions and feelings that you go through when doing something as intense as a marathon with another person. I wouldn’t of done it without him. Although, being honest, I did hate him slightly at points, bouncing around grabbing the majority of Manchester’s sweet and Jelly baby supplies from the amazing supporters out on the course. Having that much energy is unnatural. I was done by this point, and couldn’t face another gel or sweet, and this probably led to being incredibly confused towards the finish. I actually dug my heels in like some sort of golden haired mule at mile 25.5 stating I couldn’t finish, I wanted to pull out now, even though I could see the finish just up ahead! Don’t ask.
I loved Manchester, and will certainly consider it again for next years spring marathon. The crowds were wonderful, the atmosphere electric. I didn’t seem to notice many quiet bits. There were a few dotted here and there, but they didn’t last that long. It hurt (marathons do) it was emotional, and it was far from the original goal I had set myself at the beginning of the year. But I crossed the line with a 24 minute PB. I was elated. I still am. I don’t care I didn’t get the time I trained for, or felt that I deserved considering the training. I am just over the moon to have finished, to have won the battle. A PB to go alongside it, is just the icing on the cake. It taught me a huge amount about mental strength. I’ve absolutely loved my training for it, and cannot wait to go through it again once the summer of ultras is over. Chip away, and go again.
First though, I have the small matter of another marathon this week, in Paris on Sunday as part of the International ASICS Frontrunner meeting. Again, I’m heading in, with no expectations. This one is about sightseeing whilst tacking 26.2 miles one bit at a time. Hopefully.