A whole month on and I am finally getting round to blog about Manchester Half Marathon.
My aim for the day was simply to get round the course, it was not about time or "racing". For my training runs, I had been taking water and gel breaks at an hour then half hourly intervals and this was the plan for race day so I knew I wasn't going to run all the way. In the main, my double digit training runs had went well with the exception of my 10 mile run and I had confidence that I could run the distance with these walk breaks. Although not focusing on time, I knew if things went according to plan I would be looking at about 2.35.
On the day there were pacers and I was a bit disappointed to see that these only went up to 2.15. In hindsight, this was probably a good thing as it meant I was running my own race and not focusing on time.
We had booked a hotel near the start and finish lines and with a late check out organised I simply had a 5 minute walk from the hotel to the start line. Owain had left earlier to do a warm up so I headed out about 10 mins before the start to wish him luck and make my way to my pen which as expected was the last pen to go.
While waiting to start, the clouds started breaking through and I instantly regretted not taking my sunglasses - need to be more prepared like Owain!! After no time, my pen were at the front and we were ready to go. I had opted to run with music to try and make it feel like a normal training run as much as I could and had a bit of a panic when less than 5 minutes in my music cut off and I couldn't get it to play. I don't mind running without music but I didn't like the idea of running with my headphones on for another 2.5 hours with no music. Thankfully I managed to get it started and settled in trying to keep a pace that I knew I could maintain over the distance.
The first three miles was a loop bringing you back to the start line before heading out in the other direction. Within about a mile, there were loads of folk walking and all I could hear were people complaining about how hot it was. I had planned on not stopping until taking my gel an hour in but given the heat I stopped at 3.5 miles for some water and felt much better for it.
I was now on the out and back section of the course and knew it was likely that I would see Owain heading back as I was heading out. I actually quite enjoyed this bit as it took my mind off of the race, cheering on the front runners and got a high 5 from Owain as he cruised past around the 5 mile mark. This layout of the route meant that it was really well supported for the whole route and I would thoroughly recommend the race to anyone considering it. Normally as a back runner, the crowds start to thin in the middle sections but that certainly wasn't the case with Manchester.
Shortly after I had my water/gel break and happily continued on. At around the 7 mile mark, the course turns and there is another little loop before you head back towards the finish line. It was around this point I started to struggle. I don't know if it was the lack of runners coming the other way or the unexpected heat but I took a real dip and just couldn't pick myself back up. From here until the finish it was a mental battle that unfortunately I didn't win. At some points I couldn't even motivate myself to run more than one minute. I remember around the 8 mile mark a supporter shouting "you're nearly there" and I couldn't have put it better myself when another runner replied explicitly explaining that we still had a bit to go. From around mile 8 to 11, it was quite winding roads and I just wasn't in a good place. I thought just get to 11 miles, take your final gel and try to pick it up from there. As I approached the 11 mile marker, I saw a row of photographers and kept running thinking it would be good to have some running photos but even that didn't motivate me and after passing a few I gave up and stopped to take my gel - I think you can tell I wasn't in a good place:
Even approaching the 13 mile mark, I ended up stopping to walk - not like me and my usual faster finish.
At this point, the majority of the runners around me were walking and there were quite a few casualties along the road side. As I approached the 13 mile marker I saw a lady sitting on the road side looking longingly towards the finish line. I went across to her and encouraged her to join me but she didn't even have the energy to get off the step. After a few attempts I left her be, summoning all my energy to focus on the finish line and just get across it. I saw Owain and managed to give him a smile and thumbs up just before the finish.
Crossing the finish line, I had mixed feelings. After all my illness and injury woes, I thought I would never be able to run a half marathon again so was so pleased to complete the race. However, I was disappointed that I had walked. My time wasn't of interest to me (2.42 if you are interested), it was more disappointing that I had had to walk so much compared to my training runs. All year this has been the case, I am fine in training runs but come race day I just seem to fall apart. Definitely need to focus on the mental determination.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of the story. After crossing the finish line, it took about 10 minutes to get out of the stadium and meet Owain. As we were about to celebrate with my free non alcoholic beer, I managed to fall off a kerb and hurt my ankle and had to hobble back to the hotel. Not the best finish!
Despite all that, I am now running again and looking forward to my next half marathon which is the Harvest Moon Half as part of the Foxtrail Winter Series. Fingers crossed the blog next time will only be about the race itself!!