The Manchester Marathon
An account by Matthew Harrison.
For the first time in 14 years I headed for the start-line. I have to confess I felt nervous. This wasn’t just the first time I had raced 26.2 miles since 2003; it was the first time in almost a decade-and-a-half that I had run the distance at all. One last mouthful of Muller Rice, a swig of water, I couldn’t delay this any longer. Feigning confidence, I wandered over to Zone B to meet my fate.
It was all so familiar. My co-runners jogged, stretched and chatted in preparation. Friends and relatives shouted encouragement. An announcer told us to drink plenty, have fun, and refrain from defecating in anyone’s front garden. Beneath the shadows of the world’s most famous football club and one of the world’s many most famous chip-shops, we waited. I was just one of 15,000 singlet-clad masochists participating today. Some were straining at the leash, desperate to be untethered. Others stood there, resigned, like debutant soldiers expecting a good harpooning.
Significant preparation had gone into my second marathon debut. Injuries, responsibilities and over 10 years of chronic indiscipline had punctuated the years since I skipped nonchalantly down the Mall in my club-issue micro-shorts. A year ago our youngest daughter had turned one year old, and my wife pointed out that I had achieved the impossible: it was me, not her that needed to shift the baby weight. But now, at the age of 40, I was fitter, lighter, and grumpier. The previous evening had ended stressfully, with the disappearance from our house of any Elastoplasts not featuring Disney characters. Having emptied the bathroom cabinet I had finally located 4 long, plain plasters, which today I had criss-crossed over my nipples like Lady Gaga in Alejandro.
Suddenly, the starter gun! Inevitably, Chariots of Fire starts to play. We were off! Like many thousands before us, we fled Harry Ramsden’s.
One lumpen mass of humanity, we gambolled through residential Stretford, finding the pace. My GPS watch made this easier than in 2003, when I had reached the first mile marker without any clue as to how fast I was running. Friends and club-mates cheered my name as I passed them. As I approached mile 4, I saw the day’s first casualty – a chap from a club in the Midlands who had been heading towards Sale at close to the land speed record.
My adopted home town awaited, as we galloped down the A56. I was slightly ahead of target pace, and feeling good. Outside The Volunteer, a group of terrifying men bellowed their encouragement, accompanied by a cursing dog. As we turned into my home neighbourhood, I saw a clubmate I vaguely knew and decided to stay behind him. He looked like he knew what he was doing.
And into Sale! My daughters shouted Daddy. My wife handed me a Lucozade. My lovely neighbours and clubmates cheered me on. What a pleasant morning this was turning out to be. The encouragement continued down Brooklands Road, and again into Timperley, where my friend Mike Hatch was keeping a wary distance from 3 Frank Sidebottoms. Once we’d done Altrincham and were passing 16 miles back on Brooklands Road, I was starting to realise that this was a long race. I had to be up for the fight. Menacingly, I lowered my compression socks.
In Ashton I was still running well as I passed my training partner and official Lucozade supplier Lee Kaufman. I had broken the back of this race. Just a lunchtime run - 8 miles - to go, and this would be a good day. My slightly aggressive target of sub 2:52 looked within reach; although my calves were starting to ache and the bottom of my feet were becoming sore.
We crossed the boundary into Carrington, where I do much of my training. Normally the terrain is flat here, but just for today the good people of the Greater Manchester Marathon had turned the road into a 40-degree incline. At least that’s how it felt. For the first time in the race, one or two people were passing me and it was obvious that I was slowing a little. A bloke from Coventry who I’d been talking to earlier slapped me on the back and told me to keep the pace up.
And then, the turning point of my race. I had just been stabbed in both calves with a rusty dagger. My legs stiffened, my back jolted. The easy runner’s gait I had adopted for the previous 19 miles was replaced by the posture of an electrocuted meerkat. This was a once-in-a-lifetime case of cramp. I hobbled to a lamp-post to stretch, before continuing gingerly, 2 minutes later, and again, a shocking pain. This time I had been head-butted in the calves by a stampeding warthog. I let out an agonised cry and stretched against a garden wall.
Suddenly everyone was going faster than me: waves of runners; a love-struck couple walking their dog; the construction of the Sagrada Familia. I was also hit by a wave of hunger. A kind lady came out of her garden and offered me a handful of jelly babies, which I devoured straight from her hand. I was in all kinds of trouble. 100 metres on, another man offered me jelly babies. I tore his arm off at the elbow and ate the sweets out of his hand as I ran.
In front of me, other runners were falling. A man in a blue and white vest sat on a bench in agony. Another, clearly dehydrated, staggered into the arms of a helper. Others stopped, stretched, hobbled. I made a vow that if I lived to see the end of this race, it would be my calling to tell my children and my children’s children about these Killing Fields of Carrington.
I jogged in pain to 23 miles. The cramp was easing off a little, and jelly baby power was starting to take effect. Lee, looking alarmed for my safety, appeared from behind a tree and offered me a banana. I gulped it down like a gorilla at feeding time, and vowed to take the rest of the race 1 mile at a time. At 24 miles, one final stretch.
At this point, ‘the moment of the race’. A vision of running perfection was gliding towards me like a modern-day Christopher Dean. This guy wasn’t just keeping the pace up, he was getting faster! Behold, The Talented Mr Shipley! He bombed past me at a ferocious pace, shouting encouragement. I asked him to find my family at the end of the race and tell them I loved them. And then, as quickly as he arrived, he was gone.
The final 2 miles were less painful than the previous 5 but there was nothing I could do about that. I had forgotten how brutal, exhilarating, cruel and enriching the marathon is. This race excited me for 19 miles, then chewed me up and spat me out. I jogged to the finish to further shouts of Sale Harriers encouragement and managed to scrape in under 3 hours. Disappointing, but at least I had qualified for London 2018. The problem is I can’t bear to wait that long before doing this again. I’ve just entered the Nottingham Marathon in September.
Other Sale Harriers who took part included:-
Tim Kennedy 26th 2:36:53 and 5th V35. After winning the Heaton Park parkrun in February his obvious next step was to be our fastest finisher in his debut marathon.
Callum Rowlinson 2:37:41 (2nd sen male). Even though a tad disappointed with his result it is still a pb by nearly 2 minutes and good experience for the next one.
Steve McCarron 2:41:08 4th V40. A couple of minutes off his pb from London in 2014. With this result he qualifies for an England vest!
Ben McIntyre 2:48:33 V35. 4 minutes off his previous pb set last year in London.
Peter Shipley 2:57:41 (see above) Massive pb. Knocking 1 hour 28 mins off his first marathon in 2010. (Prague).
Matt Harrison 2:59:43 (also see above). Not a pb but best since 2003.
Craig Bradbury 3:00:45 Debut marathon. Craig was very pleased with his result. (shame you didn’t break 3 hours Craig!)
Helen Armitage 3:08:14.3rd V40 28th female. This result ranks Helen 33rd female in 2017 and 9th V40 in UK rankings. Also Helen now qualifies for the England team to go forward in the V40 age group resprisenting England.
Clare McCarron 3:17:27 16th V40. 30mins off her pb from 2010.
Ken Hunt 3:23:08 Fairly new to running Ken has made a great start with his first marathon.
Janneke van Beijnum 3:27:31 V35. Janneke’s busy job has taken her away from Manchester recently (Cardiff!) but she has done Sale Harriers proud with her performance.
Gavin McColl 3:31:31 V40. Another debut marathon and a great result.
Ian Cope 3:34:36 V50.
Borys Darmas 3:37:46 V40. 8mins off previous pb.
Tim Rainey 3:40:28 V50. Seasoned runner Tim has done many, many marathons and should not be disappointed with this excellent result.
Louise Robbins 3:44:47 V40. Louise did a great job whilst not expecting a great performance after poor training. Only 18 mins off her pb.
Sinead Roche 3:50:15 V40. Another debut marathon and a great result too.
Jackie Cordingley 3:53:01 V55. (12th). First marathon since 2011 and 2nd best result. She wanted a faster time but faded towards the end. This performance puts her in the England team along with Steve McCarron and Helen Armitage.
Kate Duerden 3:53:09 V35. 18 mins off previous pb. London 2015.
Jenny Cordingley 3:55:06 Only her 2nd marathon. She wanted to break 4 hours after getting 4:00:47 last time in Manchester.
Mike Wymer 3:56:37. Only 5 mins off a pb. His 6th marathon so far.
Frank Cordingley 4:25:36 V55. Not a pb but thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The support from Sale Harriers, Altrincham AC, parkrun people and friends, neighbours and friends around the course was fantastic. I think the nice weather helped.
Katherine Sherry 4:39:09 Another debut marathon from someone who is more used to running around a track. In 2006 ranked 4th in 400m.
Matt Oldham 4:49:10 V35. I’m sure Matt will be doing a marathon in 2:40 something at some point so watch this space.
Kate Owen 4:56:02
Matt Bond went through half marathon distance in 1:16:12 but failed to finish. After breaking the Sale Harriers marathon record that stood for 42 years in 2015.
A number of Sale Harriers also took part in the relay competition. The 4 Amegos comprised; Audrey Gresty, Karen Sheen (birthday girl), Diane Hennigan and Dawn Wetherley. Their time 3:52:59.
Posted 08/04/2017 19:24