The Asics Greater Manchester Marathon 2018

A race report by Kerstin Hunter

Two days post race, with my legs just starting to feel like their attached to my body again, I remembered I'd agreed to do a bit of a race report from the Asics Greater Manchester Marathon… nine mighty Metro runners; Dino Roussias, Jayne Addie, Russell Willox, Brian Robb, Claire Smith, Richie Masson, Naomi Milne, George Taylor and myself, took on the challenge. And for some unbeknown reason Chris decided I’d be the person to give you all a run down of the intricate details of the event and enjoying a weekend away in Manchester.

Just kidding – I have absolutely no insight into either of those things, so here’s a little taster of my first experience of the 26.2.

For me the weekend started with a late Friday flight down to Manchester, a train and a taxi later I arrived in MediaCity to a lovely little AirBnB apartment (own cooking only, no risking hotel breakfasts for me thank you!). Waking up the next morning I realised I was right above the BBC studios and across the river from ITV. The perfect spot for a little 2 miles to turn the legs over. A mile to find the race start for the day ahead, and back home again. The rest of Saturday is a bit of a blur of nervousness, excitement and anticipation for the day ahead. I headed into central Manchester for a few hours, and could tell you absolutely nothing about what I did or saw there…

The night before the race was the first of the new experiences that came my way this weekend. Usually I have an expert level ability to fall asleep on demand, but not on Saturday night, something all you experienced marathon nuts forgot to warn me of. So I lay in bed, counting to 100 (this is a theme) and repeating until eventually I drifted off. Next thing it’s 5.50 on Sunday morning and I’m wide awake, Porridge and banana down the hatch, braids in the hair, a couple of mantras sharpied on my arms, watch settings checked, off I set to the Emirates Old Trafford Lancashire County Cricket Club I went.

Messages back and forth with the strong squad of metro runners taking part, attempts at finding each other, good luck messages, and final bits of inspiration…I managed to find none of them pre race, but thankfully finding bag drop and the toilets were much easier! After that it was back towards Old Trafford to find my designated start area. Later I found out that after the elites were off it had pretty much been a free for all, so I probably could have started closer to the start line, and in hindsight, it was probably a very good thing that I got caught in the crowds for the first mile, as it definitely helped me not to go out all guns blazing.

The first 5 miles or so were busy with supporters, and even busier with runners. Winding through quite a few residential streets, it got pretty tight and difficult to get into your own stride at points, but after that the roads got wider and the field started to spread out, I got into my own pace and was feeling comfortable. By mile 10 the anxiety was dissipating, and I was really enjoying myself. Between mile 10 and 13 there were a couple of bi-directional roads, which was the perfect opportunity to try and do a bit of metro spotting. I was lucky to catch Russell as he passed through the half way point, who noted that I looked far too much like I was enjoying myself (and shouted at me to calm down) and to see Claire just before I passed the 13 mile mark. Such a great boost to see team mates on route!

It was then back in around the houses, and time to think about pushing on, mile 13 to 19 were what I am referring to as the “maths miles” – checking my pace I started calculating what might be possible if I managed to maintain my pace, and so that became the target to mile 20. This was all going great, I had an insane check on what might be possible as I passed the 3.30 pacer, having started off the race behind the 3.45 pacer, my confidence was high and I was spurred on the try and up my pace. But then the residential streets lined by families cheering outside their homes tailed off into quiet country roads…and shortly after that I encountered what looked like a war zone. Every couple of meters someone else was tailing off with cramp, doubled over at the side of the road, or stopping to walk. Psychologically, this was the hardest part, and it continued from mile 22 to mile 25, seeing other people giving in. This is where the counting to 100 came back in… I was determined not to be another casualty and so I counted, and counted, and counted some more until I couldn’t feel the pain anymore.

And then, the best part of the race! The course had this beautiful quirk of having you turn the corner just before your final mile, which is a straight line, with the most insane support! With the noise of supporters the images of the battlefield I’d just passed disappeared, a deep breath, and an empty of the tank right into the finish – I have never ever experienced a feeling like it.

At the finish you’re funnelled straight into the cricket ground, and I swayed my round to get my medal and t-shirt. The sway turned into a shuffle to the recovery area, where I found Brian and Russell, and checked my watch for the first time. There were almost tears, very very happy tears…except I think I was a bit too dehydrated for that. Then off to the finish line to try and catch the rest of the team Metro coming through the line… Similarly to my attempts at finding the others pre race, my post race efforts at crowd navigation weren’t much better!

Manchester was my first marathon, and whilst I have nothing to compare the experience to, I can’t fault it! Well organised, friendly, and flat! Hearing from other people about the elation that comes with finishing your first marathon is one thing, actually experiencing it is something completely different!

Huge congratulations to the 9 wonderful people mentioned above, who were each part of what motivated me on Sunday, not just for crossing the finish line, but for the dedicated training that got you to the start line. A massive thanks to all of the wonderful Metro members who inspired me to enter a marathon and for the support in getting through it. And of course the biggest thanks goes to Jackie Stewart, the man with the plan… 26.2, I’ll be back!

Kerstin

Kerstin ran her debut marathon in 3:25:08 with an impressive negative split on a day when most runners struggled late on


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