I entered Manchester Marathon 2018 in June 2017. It was to be my first marathon and definitely my 2018 A race. Then, as many of you will know by now, I broke my arm on 10 December, so I assume that Manchester was therefore not going to be an option. I never imagined that 17 weeks later I’d be standing on that start line ready to go. Or as ready as I’d ever be, anyway. I’d been “back” from the broken arm for about five weeks at this point. I’d done lots of gym work, two parkruns and Limassol half marathon, but other than that I’d had 14 weeks off running with just walks and the chair bike to keep my legs ticking over.
I travelled to Manchester on the Saturday and stayed in the Premier Inn which is right beside the start line. Colin and Keith Johnstone were also staying there, so Colin and I met up on Saturday night to walk over to Salford Quays to meet some of the others for pre-race pizza/pasta. I managed a fairly early night and slept until 4am, at which point I woke needing the loo and then didn’t get back to sleep properly again.
6am alarm call and I was up and getting ready. I decided I’d run in my arm brace – I probably don’t need it by now but it was a psychological/comfort thing. I also thought that testing whether I did need it was probably best done on a slightly shorter run.
I met up with some of the @ukrunchat gang at bag drop, then we all walked to Hotel Football for the #visorclub meet up and photo.
We walked to the start line and hung around for a bit with Phil Jefferies and his pacing group. He was pacing 5:30 and had gathered quite a crowd around him. I was going to run with Ants and Dave, and our aims were 1) to finish and 2) to not get swept by the sweeper bus. We met Abby Hussain by the start line, so a quick chat with him, a photo, and we were off.
We managed to keep up with Phil for a little while but couldn’t keep that pace up for very long. One of the odd things about this marathon is that I suddenly realised today that I hadn’t been aware of my watch buzzing the miles at me. It must have been, maybe I was aware of so many other things that I just didn’t notice that.
We trotted along for a few miles and eventually started walking a bit in between runs. Eventually the walks would be longer and the runs (which became known as Shuffles!) shorter.
I’d got a message from my 4 year old niece of what she’d say to me if she saw me running, so I’d written this in Sharpie on my arm. I did look at it a lot and it made me smile.
The support along the course was fantastic, and whilst it would be a lie to say that the miles flew by, it certainly helped. We saw Carl, and Rach and Helen although I didn’t realise it was them until we’d passed them.
Mile 13 is as good a place as any for a photo of the three musketeers! It was definitely becoming uncomfortable at this point but I wasn’t stopping for love nor money. I sent a whats app message to a friend, who told me he was proud of me, and this really spurred me on.
We trotted on a while longer then the lovely local folk were offering out bags of jelly babies (which I can’t stand so gave a miss)…….
…. Wispas and hot dogs. I must remember chocolate for future races, just the taste of something lovely really helped.
I found miles 13-16 really hard, because I was then into my longest ever run, as I’d only ever done half marathon distance before. Once we were at this distance, I didn’t know that I could do this. The walking was becoming more and the shuffle was becoming more. And harder to start off the shuffle each time. I had pains in my feet, my hips, my calves, my thighs. The only bit which didn’t hurt was my right hamstring which my sports therapist had taped up for me. I decided that for future races I’d get her to wrap the whole of me in tape like a mummy. The pains surprised me because they kept moving around. It wasn’t everything all at once. My left foot hurt, then my right hip, then my right foot, then my left hamstring, etc etc. I’d expected everything to hurt at once so was intrigued by the moving pain! I messaged my friend again “Mile 18 and everything hurts”. He said “Keep moving forward. Little bits at a time”. Wise advice.
The question of “Shall we shuffle?” was becoming less enthusiastically received and it was harder and harder to start shuffling instead of walking. I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t whine but I did a bit.
We got to 24 miles and I cried. To be honest I’d expected tears, and long before 24 miles but it didn’t happen. But we got to the 24 mile marker and I suddenly realised that (barring disaster) we only had two and a bit miles to go. And that I could do two and a bit miles. I’d done 24, after all. It hit me at that point that, within the next hour, I’d complete a marathon.
Another photo at the 40km point, and on we trotted…..
Incidentally, we had seen a number of ambulances, blue lights flashing, heading down the course at this point. Dave, one of my partners in crime, had collapsed at a race last year and had been resuscitated then had heart surgery. This was his first race back. I’d had more than enough of hospitals. I think every time we saw one of those ambulances we were thinking back to our own experiences of needing the medics at a race, and thinking of the people who were needing them at that point. I’m grateful that there are people who give up their weekends to be medics and volunteers at races.
The last stretch was tough. Over a big road bridge, a right turn, and then the mirage that is the finish line. It’s a long straight home run and you never seem to get there. We saw Carl and Martin as we ran down. I couldn’t go and give them a hug, I need to keep going, keep shuffling, keep trotting, or I’d never get there.
And then – we finished. I’d run a marathon. What do you mean, did I cry? Don’t you know me at all? Of course I cried!