Sunday 2nd April – Manchester Marathon
For people of a certain age Manchester is all about The Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays, the mad for it culture of baggy jeans and baggy attitude. For those a little older Manchester was always more Morrissey and Marr than Ian Brown and Shaun Ryder, I suppose which camp you fall in could be determined by which good for age target you were aiming for. For me, as The Smiths once sang, it was a case of “Please please please let me get what I want, Lord knows it would be the first time”.
And what did I want? Well, a few days prior to the start it was a case of just making the start, full of cold, tired and achey even just running was up in the air but as the week progressed and the race loomed I started to feel more and more human, confidence was returning but under the surface I was, again with a Smiths reference, “Still Ill”, how ill I wasn’t quite sure. At least I had stopped sounding like I was smoking 40 a day but I certainly wasn’t raring to go and bouncing with health and vitality, but then do you ever as the taper provides its own mental turmoil?
It was nice to be doing what was effectively a low key alternative to London, as the weeks ticked by Manchester certainly became more and more attractive, less palaver, less hoopla, no pre race number collection, no expo to mess with your head. No Saturday afternoon trawling round an exhibition hall looking at things you either can’t afford or don’t need while your confidence is eroded by thoughts of how much time you are spending on your feet when you should be sitting down with your feet up. A leisurely 90 minute drive north just after lunch and we were in the hotel before the final whistle had blown for the after noon kick offs. Easy, straightforward, hassle free. A meal in Altrincham, a pint to steady the nerves and relatively early to bed having pinned numbers to vests and alarms set.
Race day dawned early, as is often the way, followed by a short drive to Altrincham to catch the metro to Old Trafford alighting in the shadow of the test match venue rather than the premier league ground. There was plenty of time to either get worked up or to steady the nerves depending on which direction you were coming from. I tried to convince myself there was no pressure, I had ready made excuses, affected by a cold, interrupted training, not the best build up and felt reasonably relaxed as I’d been saying anything under 3.15 would do me. But still as the start time approached there was the inevitable feeling of just wanting it over. Time to change into race kit, Vaseline up, for one of the group to realise that in the sleep befuddled early hours he had put his shorts on back to front, a short walk to the start before wishing each other luck and making our separate ways to separate start pens and joining in the inevitable nervous shuffling from one foot to the other as the minutes ticked away. After a count down we were under way, waved off by running legend Ron Hill down the broad expanse of dual carriageway, trying to hold back but feeling the joyous release of finally getting under way, for a three mile lap around Old Trafford before reaching the start point again. Three miles in as we were going out towards Altrincham, towards where we had parked the car for effectively a lap round the car park and back again.
The course took us out through Stretford and along Chester Road towards Altrincham, rather than Chester, passing the 6 mile point and turning right towards Sale, a few twists and turns through the leafy suburbs around Brooklands and halfway, a loop around Altrincham running around the town and back towards Sale, through Carrington and past the Manchester United training ground, through 23 and 24 miles along the long straight Stretford Road. Counting down the miles and approaching the finish, passing 25 miles before coming back onto the familiar sights of Chester Road, sights that I passed in the other direction some three hours previously. A slight turn into Talbot Road and the finish is in sight, unfortunately so is the 26 mile marker and you realise quite how far away that finish line is. Each step takes you closer to crossing that line as the clock ticks away and you summon up the last of your reserves to just get it over with and stop the watch. Now is the time to stop running and walk, through the gates into Old Trafford and follow the boundary rope towards a free pint of alcohol free beer that either puts you right or tips you over the edge, opinions differed. As your body is rebelling against you and all the blood is finding its was back to the right place you don’t know what to do for he best, you want to sit down but know you shouldn’t but you sit down anyway, even then such an act, the act of just sitting down, has to be carried out in instalments.
And DK came home instalments too. Stuart Perkins had been travelling well and was the leader on the road until about 8 miles when the illness he has been suffering from all week got the better of him and he gradually dropped back through the field to come home in 4519th place in 4.05.01 the thought of a promised medal for his daughter keeping him going when all logic was telling him to stop. Andy Weaver finished in 3807th in 3.55.45 and Steve Parr was just ahead in 3097th in 3.47.29. Simon Blizzard had come home first for the club in 626th place in 3.08.03 with Mark Homer again producing a metronome like performance ticking off mile after consistent mile to cross the line in 3.11.50 to take 781st place. Due to the vagaries of starting pens I finished ahead of him but also behind him, crossing the finish line in front but as I had crossed the start line considerably further ahead it was all relative and my chip time placed me 8 second behind in 3.11.58 in 790th place. Not quite the sub 3 hour time I was hoping for, I gambled and the gamble didn’t pay off as I faded after being on target up until 20 miles, on target but hurting, holding it but know I couldn’t hold it much longer. Not a bad time, still respectable, still learning. Maybe, as The Smiths sang in the early eighties “you just haven’t earned it yet baby, you just haven’t earned it son, you just haven’t earned it yet baby, you must suffer and cry for a longer time.”