I ran Manchester Marathon for the first time in 2017, and was pleased to pace 4:45. I had a fantastic time (you can read HERE) and couldn’t wait to return in 2018. The good news was I returned this year to Pace the sub4 #funbus my preferred time. In advance of the event there has been a lot of chat on social media, and I knew I had a big group looking to run with me. So, my usual stats. This was my 35th official marathon, 41st towards the 100 marathon club. Today was also my 47th event as an official Pacer, 10 of which have been a marathon.
As always I laid out my race kit to ensure I had everything I needed. This in truth was the second time I had done this as I obviously had to make sure I had everything to pack. I am really fortunate at events like Manchester. Asics are a key sponsor, and so sent me the kit for me to wear, which I am very grateful for. The night before I was laid in bed having seen lots of comments about people being nervous about their upcoming marathon, which is natural. So I spent some time pulling together some thoughts about “what to expect on Marathon race day“, with a view to ease some nerves.
Race day morning started early for me. I made my way to the race bag drop where I was meeting the other pacers, and it was a slow drive because it was really misty. Fortunately the mist cleared and it turned into a beautiful day, something that was touch and go with the weather forecast predicting rain earlier in the week. I had the role of Pace Team Manager, but in truth I didn’t have to do a lot as it was a group of experienced pacers.
Once we had all the pacers together we went to our respective start lines, with a photo on route of course. It was a longer walk to my start pen than I remembered last year, but the pens are so relaxed it didn’t matter as I found it easy to navigate to where I needed to be.
I knew it would be busy, but it was so fantastic to have so many runners start with me. In my group we had lots of runners aiming for sub4 for the first time, with a few first time marathoners. There were also a few who had ran sub 4 before, but wanted to use me to keep a steady pace for the first half before pulling away to make a bigger dent in their sub4. We had lots of chat at the beginning, a few nerves needed calming, but I gave my typical race brief. I explained how I would approach the race, which usually helps to settle people. In short the plan was to run between 9:00-9:05 for the first half, assess how big of a cushion I had depending on course, and then adjust to get to 25 miles with about a 30 second cushion.
And then it was time. We started making our way forward as runners crossed the start line. It only took us about 5 minutes to get going, and we had plenty of space to run once we crossed the line. This course is really flat, with only a few bumps towards the end. With such a good group and active chat the first 10k went really quickly. Apart from mile 5, which I didn’t see, the first half markers were spot on with my watch. I managed to run a really steady pace keeping to my race plan. There was one deviation where I took the opportunity to stop for a quick wee and then catch people up. I managed to maintain an 8:59 split, although I got to 7 min mile catching others up.
All the runners around me were so supportive of each other, and great company. Manchester Marathon has great crowd support, but even when you reach quiet sections the sheer volume of runners keeps you feeling well supported. I actually think the amount of crowd support was event better than last year. I remember last year thinking that this was the third best for support (in the UK) after London and Brighton. However, I would argue this year that it is certainly more consistent than Brighton.
We reached half way with lots of runners sticking with the group. At this point it is where a few begin to drop off or push ahead, but the group remained large. I find that I’m not needed as much in the middle of a marathon. I spend the first 10k motivating and keeping the pace steady, and I really work hard on the last 10k trying to motivate and keep people going. In the middle miles it’s just about keeping going, so I spend time shouting encouragement and mile times.
Once we got to about 20 miles people were starting to struggle, so I started to get a bit more chatty. A few things about the experience at Manchester. First of all they get the water right; in bottles with sports caps and given out regularly. There was plenty of nutrition although I didn’t try the gels as I’ve not used the brand before. There were also lots of spectators handing out sweets throughout the whole course. The mile markers were good, although they drifted towards the end, but this is likely because of the line I ran rather than anything else. The only negative I would say about the course would be the roads, they really are awful, but to be fair this isn’t really within the control of the organisers. I’m sure there would have been a lot of trips from the amount of potholes around the course.
I spent the final couple of miles coming across a lot of runners who had slowed, and it’s the most rewarding part to be able to get people going again. They don’t all come with me, but many do, and I’d like to think I made a difference to their race. On that note, thank you to all the spectators out on the course, you all make a difference to all our races. If it wasn’t for all the support it wouldn’t be the same.
I crossed the finish line with an official time of 3:59:45. I’m very happy with this time, as were all those around me. At the end I got numerous hugs from runners who had smashed their race. What a fantastic race, finish and experience all round. I had a wonderful time, and always love an erdinger at the finish (or two).
I hope you all had a great race. I’m going to take part in the Great Welsh Half next weekend as part of a stag weekend. Then on to the London Marathon where I will be pacing the sub4 #funbus once again. See you at Manchester next year.