Manchester Marathon 2019
I’ve written a review oh the Greater Manchester Marathon for the next issue of Women’s Running magazine. So the following is the story of my personal race. I paid for my entry.
It’s always difficult to decide on a race strategy. I always wish there was a fairy that could tell me how fast I’ll be able to run so I can just concentrate on that, knowing that even if it’s not the time I want, I’ll be able to hold it together until the end. I had no such fairy, just a wish that went unanswered.
I set off at 3:35 marathon pace (8:12/mile) which I knew was a big gamble. But 16 weeks is a long time to train not to give it your all come race day. I wasn’t going to play it safe. I’d worked too hard for that. 3:35 would give me a Boston Qualifier for my 35+age group, so I decided to set off and see how close I could get.
I’d had a few niggles in the week leading up to the race which meant I only did one 3-mile run that week and then rested up. Through a mixture of adrenaline and race day magic, all those aches and pains disappeared. But a new one arrived in the first mile in the shape of a stitch. I expected it, it has arrived every race since I had my son and is part of the legacy of pregnancy ailments that still need addressing. I didn’t expect it to arrive so early though.
The miles ticked away quite nicely. I saw my friend Josie and her inflatable banana at miles 2.5, 8 and 16 as well as the finish (oh, spoiler: I finished). The pace felt comfortable and I was having a nice time. My stitch was still there but getting no worse.
At mile 16 I gave Josie a look that said “this is getting hard now”, but I was 16 miles into a marathon, that’s what happens. Somewhere around mile 18 my fingers went a bit funny. My fingernails went numb and my fingers were swollen. But with a bit of jazz hands for a mile they were ok again. Answers on a postcard as to what that was.
I saw a friend of my mum just before mile 20. I shouted out to her to tell my mum I’d made it that far. Something that, the day before, I was unsure would happen. But as soon as I hit the 20 mile sign I had to walk. I’d spent the past mile hanging on to get that far before walking, my hamstrings starting to scream with every step.
My plan was now to walk for 1 minute every mile. I knew 3:35 wasn’t going to happen, so I just wanted to finish without it taking all day. Six miles would be a long way to walk. That first transition back from walking to running was hard. Making it to the 21 mile marker was harder still. But it happened, and I found I could play games in my head to distract myself.
With 3 miles to go I did the maths and even at my run 1 mile, walk 1 minute pace, I could still make it home under 3:45. So when I started running again at mile 23, I kept going with the mantra I’ve used many times before “you can slow down but you can’t stop”.
As we came into the last 800m, the finish line was in sight. I saw the banana one last time and Josie holding onto it with a phone to her ear talking to my supporters further down the finishing stretch. I saw my dad, my partner and my baby, and a little further along, my mum.
I crossed the line in 3:42:52. I have no regrets at starting out boldly. I took a chance and went all in. I may not have booked my ticket to Boston this time, but I’m proud that I managed a second wind from mile 23 to collect a London Good For Age qualifier. So maybe this time next year I’ll be giving it another shot at London. One year older, probably no wiser.
Thanks to all my supporters and thanks to my body for allowing me to run marathons again. Oh, and for holding off two more days before delivering my first period in two years (completely normal thanks to pregnancy and breastfeeding) so it didn’t arrive on race morning.