“It’s a twenty mile training run followed by the toughest 10k you’ll ever do.”
Forgive the imperial/metric mix but this is how a Prestwich AC clubmate once described a marathon. Sunday was my sixth and that statement remains true. They are very hard and take guts to train for and run. Marathons eh? Why do we do them?
I tend to focus on my own story on this site but here I’d like to highlight the achievements of some runners I know amongst the twenty thousand others I joined pounding the streets of Old Trafford, Stretford, Sale, Altrincham, Timperley, Carrington and Urmston at Sunday’s Greater Manchester Marathon.
Firstly Mike G, my ofttimes Tuesday 6am training partner. He set himself the personal task of eclipsing his old fella’s 3:12 marathon time and his monstrous training miles and discipline over the past six months have been inspiring. Though his 3:16 fell short of target it wasn’t through lack of effort nor determination and a 12 minute marathon PB is nothing to be sniffed at. I would’ve paid good money to have witnessed what I imagine to have been his Francis Begbie-style ‘get tae fuck’ screams to scare his cramp away. Also don’t worry Mike I’m still striving to be as good a JCB driver as my father.
Dr Ryan. What can I say? I’ll not disclose his age but he was rampaging around Europe supporting the mighty reds whilst I was in the neonatal ward at Townley’s Hospital in Farnworth. His 3:39, GFA for London, was phenomenal running but more impressive were his even splits. The Good Doctor ran alongside Swanny, a man more used to running stupidly steep fells rather than Netherlands flat Trafford Borough. He managed to outdo my fortnight before late entry time by four days and also bagged an eleven minute PB. Nice one Niceswan.
Last May I attended a good pal’s stag do in Reykjavík and in the obligatory WhatsApp group I broached the subject of a morning run to a group of mainly unknowns. Expecting tumbleweed I was surprised when three lads stuck there hands up. Two of the Reykjavík Stag Runners, Ben and Chris, subsequently signed up to their first marathon at Manchester. Both trained hard for their debuts and completed it with creditable times although I hear that Ben nearly ODed on the free gels. Lads I raise a £10 glass of Gull to you both.
The Carrington section between 19-21 miles is unforgiving. It’s almost Western-like in its bleak desolation. I maybe hyperbolising but I find it a truly awful place to run through. The defining image for me of 2018 marathon occurred here and was Band of Brothersesque. Stu lay prostrate on the pavement with his right leg extended upward whilst a spectating Dr Ryan attempted to relieve his cramp-riddled calf. Stu’s run had been hampered by his body but he finished. He entered this year in order to exorcise his 2018 demons and though his 4:03 fell just short of his sub four hour target he was still elated with his performance nonetheless. The Dude Abides!
My first marathon in 2014 was an absolute nightmare. Unpreparedness mixed with being the recipient of errant water bottle discarder at mile 15 sent me off kilter. Though obviously gutting both pride and encouragement can be taken from completing a run that doesn’t go as planned. This happened to my fellow parkrun tourist Guigunator, my fellow RT run leader Linzi and Andrew on Sunday. Whether it be cramp, a knee issue or something else the key thing to remember is that even though it took longer than expected the finish line was crossed and you earned that medal and t-shirt. Strength and resilience through adversity and all that.
Sub three. That’s a time I’ll never achieve but I know a few that did. Byron came in three minutes behind his 2:40 time in Tokyo, you’re getting slower since you entered V45 pal. Matt, Dan, Rob M, John, Jordan, and Sol the Honeyman sailed home in the last few minutes prior to 3:00 appearing on the clock. Fabulous running guys.
What about Louise? Another fellow parkrun tourist and she bagged a great PB with 4:48 although I’m pretty sure she’d knock a sizeable chunk from that if she halved the amount of dickingaboutery she does on the course. Just kidding Lou, a big peace sign coming your way.
Mentions also for The Manning siblings, Rob F (who ran over distance to retrieve his beau’s buff), Steph (another London GFAer), Leo and Leon from Middleton, Lil’ Hilary, Eddie (the prizewinner for possibly the biggest positive split of the day), PC Neil, Danny (with guide Alistair), Sharon, Suzanne, Jenn, Linda, Chris McC, Rob T, Mike S, Evvie, Vicky, Libby, Fairbanks, Aussie Harry and Cat. If I’ve omitted anyone then please forgive me.
Last but not least Dan the Man. Until eighteen months ago I didn’t know that he existed. Being from a huge Irish family means that relatives can often be strangers. On first meeting he basically press-ganged me in to the 2018 Dublin Marathon, something I was ultimately glad about given my finish time. I returned the compliment and on Saturday he left rural Wicklow in Ireland to run in my home marathon, the away leg for him. The poor guy with Liverpool sympathies had to put up with a Man Utd adorned bedroom, drink every brew from a Utd mug and start the race outside Old Trafford but with his 3:48, a 5 minute PB, he closed the aggregate gap to me from 27 to 22 minutes. See you back in Dublin in October col ceathrair.
The 2019 Greater Manchester Marathon was once again a great experience and the support was as always fantastic (even the Timperley Tories). The course proved itself to be both friendly and tough in equal measure and the event is a wonderful day in our area’s sporting calendar.
Anyone up for 2020? Me? Possibly.