On Sunday morning 20 very hardy A&T souls put themselves on the start line, some would say hell, for the return of the Manchester marathon. I think it is fair to say that I have never run in conditions any worse than that day. The wind and rain was relentless and even I, who is known for wearing shorts and tshirt in depths of Winter, started the race with a tshirt under my vest and the cover of a bin bag over it. Myself and Bacon Mon had managed to obtain the bin bags from the kind lady at the reception of the Stretford Lesiure centre. There are perhaps too many stories to be told from that fateful day, from not only the runners but the guys and girls on the water station. I will therefore sum up my own experience in an effort to encapsulate at least some of the feelings of the day.
Even though the weather was horrendous the support on route was tremendous! The first 10 miles or so went by pretty uneventful being quite flat. At about 11 miles things started to change as the route ran out of Altrincham to hit a relentless climb for about a mile and a half! However at the summit there was welcome relief as it dropped down the other side of the hill into Dunham Massey park. Well what can I say, I didn't expect to be running a cross country race in middle of a marathon! The lanes were flooded, muddy and very narrow! At one point everyone stopped in front of me as runners were trying in vain to keep their trainers from getting muddy and wet! Perhaps my cross country mentality kicked in at this point as I ran straight through all the puddles knowing avoiding them was futile. It was also good to see the familiar faces of Suzanne, Dave, Brenda and Craig cheering us on which gave me a bit of a boost as I could feel cramp setting in in both calves! Thankfully the cramp never got any worse than the odd twinge every so often.
Having exited Dunham Massey park and the cross country race we entered open country where the cross winds at times took your breath away but at least we were back on a flat even surface. It was around the 18-19 mile mark that I could feel my fingers freezing even though I had gloves on, which were wet and I decided to take them off. The last 6-7 miles I found very tough going and at more than one point went for a gel in my shorts pocket but my hands were that cold I could not manage to get a hold of them! Instead I relied on the many supporters handing out jelly babies, gummy bears and biscuits along the way, for which I was very thankful. The last 2-3 miles were a blur and I remember seeing stars before my eyes with fatigue and cold. It was a welcome sight to see my A&T team mates at the last water station, not only for the great support but for the knowledge I was close to the finish.
After I crossed the line, got my medal and a fight to put the tin foil around me as my hands were so cold, I felt my core body temperature drop dramatically. Having briefly looked for people I knew, without success, I thought the best course of action was to get back to the car to get out of my wet gear and to try to get warm. My first problem was which way was it to the car park. I have to be thankful for the people who helped direct me in the right direction and who also provided me with an extra layer of tin foil. The slow hobble of around 1 mile, which seemed to me like another marathon, back to the car seemed to take an age. I've never been so cold in all my life. Having found my car I could not unzip the back pocket of my shorts my hands were so numb! I had to ask someone, rather embarrassingly, if they would unzip it for me but at that point I was past caring! I therefore apologise for not being around to cheer on my team mates coming in after I had finished but I admire them for sticking it out in the truly awful conditions! I'm also very, very glad I didn't use the baggage facilities which looked like a complete shambles from what I saw and subsequently read.
Onto A&T race performances, I've not said this before but first across the line for A&T was John Lee running his first marathon with 3.05.30 (CT 3.05.05). It's richly deserved for all the hard effort he's put in over the last few months and he epitomises what gut, grit and determination is, so well done John. Running with John and duly crossing the line second, albeit by gun time, was Colin Rigby with 3.05.31 (CT 3.04.55). Next came the duo of Shaun Moran and Simon Ford who I believe both had their training curtailed with injury, finished with 3.07.38 (CT 3.07.22) and 3.07.40 (CT 3.07.22) respectively. Steve Coleman after competing in a marathon the week before in Scotland finished next with 3.10.42 (3.10.25). The Reason brothers on a posh, or not so posh, training run for Ironman came next with what I believe are PB's with Mike 3.23.38 (CT 3.23.19) and Dan 3.23.40 (CT 3.23.21). Marathon Mon himself Malcolm Collins crossed the line next with 3.28.38 (CT 3.28.20). Next two home, Terry Gardiner and Chris Scholes, were also running their first marathons and posted excellent times of 3.28.47 (CT 3.27.04) and 3.36.46 (CT 3.35.23) respectively, well done guys. One of our latest recruits to A&T and our first lady home, Pamela Hobson, finished next with an excellent time of 3.52.07 (CT 3.49.12). The old gun slinger Ian "Bacon Mon" Hamilton came next by just dipping under the 4 hour mark with 3.57.12 (CT 3.56.06). The Baron followed Bacon Mon in a few minutes later and just over 4 hours with 4.02.25 (CT 4.01.18). A little disappointed not to dip under 4 hours but still pleased with the time considering the lost 3 weeks of training due to injury. Ana Quintana had a excellent run to finish next with 4.02.42 (CT 4.00.56), well done Ana. I thought I saw her in the finishing funnel but at that stage I was somewhat vacant, well more vacant than normal. Michael Geoghegan ran in next on what I also believe was his first marathon with 4.20.32 (CT 4.19.02), well done Mike. Michelle Fairclough had a good run to record 4.51.26 (CT 4.47.47) and looked like she was enjoying it from the pictures I've seen. Next came the trio of Emma Higgins, Tracey Waterfall-Chadwick and Joan Cooke all running their first marathons. What a baptism of fire or should I say water, and plenty of it. They all finished within minutes of each other with 5.20.08 (CT 5.17.48), 5.22.43 (CT 5.20.22) and 5.23.02 (CT 5.20.41). Well done ladies you should be proud of yourselves and sorry I didn't have any spare hats, gloves or bin bags at the start for you. Completing the Manchester marathon A&T line up was an emotional Helen Minshall with 5.37.35 (CT 5.31.51), well done Helen.
I'm pleased to say we all thankfully made it from start to finish in one piece if not more than a little weary, cold and wet. I think most runners would agree that a lot of thanks need to go to all the water station attendants that did a fantastic job on what was a very testing day all round. The support en route was also fantastic and gave me a boost on more than one occasion. Also many thanks to the nameless people who handed out jelly babies, gummy bears and biscuits. Would I do the Manchester marathon again? I'd say yes but not with an overly enthusiastic tone, par for the course with me some may say! Hopefully the race organisers learn from the mistakes made at this race but not everything was negative, far from it, and they did land very unlucky with the weather.