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TriHardAlan - Tales of an Age Grouper
TriHardAlan - Tales of an Age Grouper

Greater Manchester Marathon

TriHardAlanby TriHardAlanApr 24th 2014
The last few times I have done a Spring marathon I have struggled with injuries. Nothing major, just niggles I stupidly ignored, made worse which then impacted my run fitness for the start of the Tri season. But I was keen to do one as I wanted a Good For Age place for London next year as having done my first marathon, or any race for that matter, at London in 1995 next year will be the 20th anniversary so it seems fitting to go back. By the time I dithered and thought about it Brighton was full, Europe was out so Manchester it was. And with only 54 meters of elevation gain it’s the UK’s flattest marathon as a nice bonus.

The training had gone to plan. I changed a lot of things this year to remain injury free, main differences being running more often but shorter distances, only doing my long runs every ten days or so and doing all my running in my Newton minimal shoes. I had set good times at 5k, 10k and half marathon in the build up so my speed was good which bodes well for the Tri season which was always the priority but I felt also gave me a chance of a sub 3 even though the GFA time for my age is only 3.15. I suspected the reduced milage may leave me short of strength in the last 10k but felt confident I could handle a meltdown sufficiently to come in under 3.15 still.

On the day I drove from my hotel which was 6 miles away from Old Trafford where the start/finish/event village was leaving myself plenty of time for any road closure induced diversions, got to the ground easily following the signs to be told by a steward this was a cash only entrance. I had pre paid my parking as advised by the event organisers. His directions “you have to go round”. Turns out he didn’t know where “round” was and after 20 mins driving round the block neither did I so paid again for the parking. Minor niggle but if you are thinking of doing this race print detailed maps including the road closures so you know where to go. After short walk from the car park to the event village I arrived still an hour before the start. No major queues for toilets or baggage and with about 20 mins to go I handed my bag in and trotted round to the start for one last toilet stop and a gentle warm up.

I was stood about 10 feet back from the front and about 5 feet back from the 3 hour pacer, which was fine. I took my first gel 5 mins before the gun with the plan to take one every 5k, so hopefully every 21.5 mins on sub 3 hour 4.15 per k pacing. For drinks, I carried my own 750ml bottle which had just water and a High 5 Zero in it. The gun went on time and we were of and no delays getting in to a stride and wasn’t too manic at all, first K 4.17, second K, 4.13 so all seemed fine and felt comfortable. I had dropped a bit further back from the pacer but I always start slow so wasn’t bothered and he wasn’t now pulling away. Went through 5k in 21.13 so that was spot on and 10k 42.27. At this point I was a bit closer to the 3 hour pacer and decided I would get on his shoulder by half way. When we got to around the 12, 13k mark I began to notice the pace going up and down. A 4.27 was followed by a 4.10 and with other people making similar comments it wasn’t just me or the Garmin having a blip. I was in no hurry to drop the group as we were running in to a slight head wind and the numbers offered some protection but after going through the half way point at 1.29.53 I went past the pacer without intending too and knew again it was his pace varying. I went with it this time and decided to do my own thing. Not sure how much of a gap I opened but by the time I got to 25k, and still on target, I could hear the crowds behind me saying “oh look, sub 3 group” and similar. As we got closer to 30k I was starting to struggle and could hear the group closing as my K’s slipped out to around 4.25/4.30 and just about on 30k the sub 3 train came steaming past. At this point I simply melted. My pace dropped of instantly and within a K I was walking. How much of that was mental? I don’t know. It felt physical at the time! First walking break I kept to a count of 30. Then ran to a count of 100. Oh, I’ll do another 100 before I walk again. Another walk count of 30, then 3 counts of 100 running. Walk count of 50. I will run to the next K marker this time. K’s 30 to 39 were variations of this. Managed to keep a couple of them under 5 minutes, did a whole K at 36 in 4.46. When I was running there were plenty of people running slower, not that was much of a consolation as the usual kind of “I’m never doing another marathon” kind of dark thoughts consumed me. As I approached the 39k mark looked at the watch and it read 2.54 so knew that sub 3.15 GFA place was secure if I could keep moving so finally manned up and vowed to cut the walking breaks for the last 3k. Concentrated at this point on shortening stride and trying to increase cadence. Apart from my hips I wasn’t in any physical pain so that was good and kept my mind occupied by trying to pick a few people of. A guy with a “Seb Roe not Coe” printed on his vest was first, like me he had been in the sub 3 group, a pretty girl called Sarah (names are printed on run numbers) who was getting more cheers than me (can’t imagine why) and a guy in a Plymouth Triathletes vest was also chased down as didn’t want to be beaten by a fellow Triathlete (like there wasn’t any others in the field). We came of the main road, turned back towards the stadium and a short dash and a minor increase in speed (not a sprint finish) to make it look like I was actually running when I crossed the line in 3.08.58.

With a couple of weeks to reflect how do I feel about the race? Not entirely sure. Not thrilled but not disappointed. I have my GFA place for next year and for the first time ever I was able to manage a short 3k recovery run the next day and back in full traiing by the end of the week. All the changes I have made this year have made my durability and recovery better than ever and when you look at how much I have raced in the last couple of years they weren’t bad to start with. But that failure to get the sub 3 does irk a little. I have done one before, but that was back in 2006. But then maybe that’s the problem, the drive to prove a point and dig that bit deeper in the last 10k maybe isn’t quite there. Not sure what I will do in London 2015, I will be there for sure, may have another attempt at sub 3 and change the training again, may have a look at the various fancy dress world records, some are quite achievable. With Manchester my 18th marathon (ignoring my IM ones) there is also the possibility of trotting round one slowly at the end of the year to make London my 20th and maybe final one. We will see.

I have raced the April F3 Dorney Duathlon since and will report on that and the Full On Duathlon next as I take a break from the long dull ache of long course racing and reintroduce myself to the preferable short, sharp pain of short course racing!
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