Steve’s Race Report – Manchester Marathon – 10th October 2021

It is said that all good things come to those who wait and so, eighteen months later than planned and with the impact of a Global Pandemic hopefully behind us, it was time for my first ever marathon.

Having chatted the plans through with Richard on the Thursday evening I had my race strategy planned in minute detail, down to the playlist I would be listening to, but of course nothing ever really goes to plan. Travelling down later Friday than initially intended due to work commitments it was a late bedtime after a hurried meal in the Salford Media City Premier Inn and then the realisation I hadn’t packed my race number clips or any safety pins – oops.

Saturday started with a short little 20-minute leg loosener with some strides and then a saunter over the Ship Canal to Old Trafford to check out the start area, bag drop and general lie of the land. So far so good. However finding safety pins either in Media City itself or around the cricket ground was easier said than done. Cue 12,000 steps, just shy of 10km walking, a lot of panicking and a good bit of cursing and my wife finally liberated said safety pins from a first aid kit in a Parkour Park she had taken the son to. But of course, by that point I was feeling a twinge in my left Achilles tendon – cue more panicking, more cursing and maybe a little bit of throwing my toys out of the pram 😊 

And then there was the Saturday night meal. We had a lovely little Italian booked for 5pm about 15 minutes away from the hotel, but of course heavy traffic, a cyclist knocked off his bike by a taxi and a one-way system the SatNav didn’t seem to realise existed meant we didn’t actually get to the restaurant until gone 6pm. More panic, more cursing and I think the odd “I’m not running” moment as the stress built pre-race. Still the meal (Prawn Chilli Pasta) was lovely.

Back the hotel it was time to lay out the race kit, pack the flipbelt and “Sh*t,” I’ve picked up my sons shorts not mine. Luckily, I had a pair of training shorts I had used Saturday morning, so all wasn’t quite lost but by this time stress levels were sky high and it was still 12 hours to the start. Some serious stretching to try to ease the tightness in my Achilles and it was time to sleep – luckily, that came easy and for once pre-race I slept really well.

Sunday dawned, sunny and mild as promised by the Met Office and things looked brighter – the Achilles felt OK and breakfast was spot on, and in line with my normal routine. More stretching and then a gentle stroll to the start. Phew I’m going to be OK.

It was, bag drop and getting to start village was all relatively painless despite the COVID measures in place and the organisation was faultless. The walk to the Start Pens was relaxing as runners chatted and discussed plans and then it was time….

From the off I felt great. Thanks to Richard I had got to the start in perfect condition fitness wise and feeling peppy and light. 

I had the race broken down to 5x8km segments and a sprint finish with the Garmin set to lap at those points to signify feeding time. HR target was between 152 & 165bpm, and power target was 262 watts. All I had to do was execute. 

For the first four 8km segments everything ran like clockwork. 38:32, 38:55, 38:10 and 39:34 – metronomic and HR was spot on (152, 153, 157 & 159) and power equally on plan (260w, 261w, 263w 259w). I was ahead of the 3:30 target I had set for myself and heading for around the 3:23 mark. And then the Achilles started to twinge, not too bad at first but getting progressively worse. There was no way I was not going to finish so I had to manage the situation. Drop the pace a little, try to run almost flat footed so as not to stretch the tendon too much. It wasn’t disastrous by any means the 5th 8km segment dropped to 41:34 but HR was still well in control, and it was almost satisfying to be passing people who were obviously struggling way more than I was. 2.2km to go. 

The support at this point from the crowds that lined the route was superb, as it had been for much of the race.  The City Centre, Altrincham, Sale, in places the crowds were 3 or 4 deep and shouting out encouragement and words of northern wisdom to gee the athletes on. But the finish – wow crowds were 4 or 5 deep and the noise deafening. Somehow, I managed to speed up a little and then it was over – 42.2km passed in a flash. 3:29 and change officially – ahead of target despite the niggle.

For a first marathon it was all I could have hoped and more. It was mentally tough but physically fine, I didn’t hit a wall, didn’t bonk, didn’t even consider I might not finish. My nutrition & drinks intake all worked a charm (thanks Richard) and now I know I can do it – just need to find 14 minutes to hit my Good For Age target time. Only 32 weeks to Edinburgh 2022 😊

Oh, and the best bit. Coming into the finish straight the crowd were going mental, and I let rip with the ubiquitous stage catchphrase of Bruce Dickinson – “Scream For Me Manchester” – AND THEY DID!!!!

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