You’ve done these miles.
You are strong.
You can do this.
These were the words I was muttering to myself throughout what turned out to be a very tough race on Sunday.
Last year my goal was to get to the finish line having broken my ankle 9 month previously.
This year I wanted to hit sub 3 hours. I worked out I wanted an average pace of 13:30/mi which given my short run pace is more than doable. For my long runs my pace varies anywhere between 12:00/mi and 14:30/mi. As 13:30/mi is somewhere in the middle I thought if I pushed myself I would be able to hit this goal.
I spent the week prior to the Great Manchester Run religiously checking the weather app on my phone as Sunday was going to be hot hot hot, despite checking religiously, the weather did not change and I awoke on Sunday to see it was indeed clear skies, sunny with no wind in sight. Feeling nervous about the heat I headed to the start line.
The start line
This was the first race I’ve run without a support network, so I walked to the start line alone, snacking on a banana and took in the atmosphere. Walking to the race start line is definitely one of my favourite parts of mass participation events as there’s such a buzz in the air, filled with excitement and nerves.
The start area was the same as the finish area so there was a lot to see and do. Thankfully the toilet queues were quick and the warm up was held on a tall platform so all runners, near and far, could take part.
All participants and spectators took part in a one minute silence to remember those we lost a year ago in the Manchester Attack. Many were running the race to raise funds and in memory of those affected so from the beginning it was easy to see this race meant a lot to a lot of people. The silence was followed by a huge applause and we were ready to go.
The sub 2 hours runners set off at 9am and us slower runners set off at 9:10am.
The start line was a good experience, not too crowded and lots of spectators for the first few miles as we ran through the city streets. I had planned to bank time at the beginning as throughout my training, whether I took it slow, attempted a negative split or banked time, I always struggled at miles 8 and 9. So I knew I wanted to perform well when I knew I could so if my legs fell off later my pace wouldn’t be too badly affected.
And that’s exactly what I did, I actually ran my quickest mile post broken ankle during the first mile, so that was a great boost to my confidence despite the heat.
I continued at a good pace for my little legs, but soon realised this was a quick race! Although there was a large proportion of runners in the 9:10am start for post 2 hours, runners soon started to spread out along the course. So rather than have a crowd around me throughout I found myself among the same group of people as we to and froed with each other. Thankfully everyone was very supportive and often gave words of encouragement to others when they could see them struggling.
The heat was something else in this race. Although not the warmest race I’ve ever run, there was no breeze and no shade so the sun felt relentless. I took on a lot more water than I normally do and witnessed a lot of people who were victims to the heat.
At around mile 8 I started to slow. The heat was really affecting me and I was struggling with my breathing as a result. I slowed to ensure my breathing stayed steady so I could keep my inhaler in my pocket and walked more than usual as my will power started to decrease.
You’ve done these miles.
You are strong.
You can do this.
Through miles 8 and 9 I muttered these words to myself to keep me on track. I knew I could do this. I’ve been running 13 miles every weekend for the past 5 weeks. I’ve completed a half marathon before on less training. I wasn’t letting this heat beat me. I managed to completed miles 8 and 9 thanks to support from myself and the amazing spectators.
At mile 10 my legs fell off. My trainers started to give me blisters which were rubbing with each step – I knew I should have got new trainers – and I was running out of energy. I popped an energy gel and told myself it’s only 3 miles, that’s 40 minutes, that’s what I do for a short run.
My run had resorted to half walking, half running but I completed those last three miles and summoned a sprint for the last 100 metres to the finish line while high-fiving the race announcer.
I’d done it. I’d completed the race.
I didn’t hit the sub 3 hour goal I wanted, but I knew at mile 9 that I wasn’t going to do that and I just needed to get across that finish line.
Although I didn’t hit sub 3 hours, I did take 4 minutes off my time from the Great North Run.
The race village was still buzzing with excitement as the 10k race was yet to start, so as a slow runner it’s great to see hundreds of spectators when you finish.
I received my goody bag, medal and t-shirt and found a curb to sit on to refuel and ring Matt to say how I’d performed. I dug out my phone and already saw messages of congratulations from him and my best friend who had both been tracking me on the app.
Now 3 days post race, 90% of the pain has subsided and I’ve completed a slow recovery run. I’m annoyed that I didn’t hit sub 3 hours but with the heat I know I’m lucky to have finished as many didn’t. To take 4 minutes off my last performance is still something to be proud of I suppose.
My next race is a 10k so I will be concentrating purely on speed for the next few months. I want to work on my strength so will be coming up with my next training plan this week to begin next Monday.
Have you ever ran the Great Manchester Run? What did you think of the race?