March 26th 2017
Over the past few years I have spent a lot of my time training on the local Rochdale Canal. So what better than to get a medal for something I already do? Canalathon seemed like the perfect race. I’d seen a lot of running friends complete it over the past few years and wanted to give it a go. I wanted it to be my first ultra.
I signed up early and got in with the early discount. I added on extras of the t-shirt, medal and the meal afterwards. I didn’t add in the optional transport as I knew I was local and would just be heading straight to the start in Manchester.
There were plenty of organisational emails about the race regarding the contents of what you must pack and absolutely no headphones. This panicked me as the longest I had ever run without headphones was only half a marathon. Gulp. What would I do with myself? Sing to myself. Pack a Ghetto blaster? Play the A-Z game for hours?
Race day came and it was daylight savings. Not only up bright and early but losing an hour too. Yawntastic. Food on the go grabbed and heading straight to Manchester Canal starting point (located just near Toysrus on the retail park). Parked up and picked up my pack, the number was enclosed with the t-shirt and medal too. I joked that I didn't need to run to the finish as I had my medal. Then a mandatory kit check at the next desk. No toilets as promised so back to the car and crossing my legs. About 15 minutes later some portaloos arrived and a large queue ensued. I waited for it to go down but it never really did. In fact, the start was postponed by around 15 minutes due to the toilet queue. I hear this happened last year too. Maybe something the organisers should think about. More loos? Be there earlier maybe? Or just tell people you start on time?
There was no explanation of the route as it said there was going to be at the briefing. It was just a case of good luck, run around this car park, follow the cones, onto the canal and go! So we did. We had been led to believe that the course would be coming off the canal at several spots but I assumed this had now been amended as there was no mention of it?! So off I ran.
This was one of the only bits of the canal I hadn’t run on. I was enjoying it a lot and the view from the centre of Manchester on the crisp cold morning was lovely. There were a lot of people playing the overtaking game and I was keen to just sit back and take my time. I did not want to go out too fast. I had a couple of conversations with people in the first few miles all of whom who had done Canalathon before. All saying how they enjoyed it so much they were back for more which I found encouraging.
The morning did not take long to warm up and I was already taking my jacket off within a couple of miles. Luckily, my race plan involved having my food passed to me at stages of the race which meant I could pass my jacket. It wasn’t long before I was in familiar territory, plodding along in Chadderton and Middleton. Knowing the route really helped and I think it really helped me stay calm and focussed a lot of the way. It was here that the first 100km runners started coming through in the opposite direction. There were lots of shouts of well-done from everybody.
From Middleton through into Castleton, regular running ground now. My friend Emma was here waving at me. I gave her a high five. I began chatting to another runner about anything and everything and it kept my mind occupied for a mile or two. Then as I approached the Castleton station bridge (mile 12) Adam was there to take my jacket and pass me my food. A quick swap and I was on my way. I carried on chatting to my fellow runner briefly who dropped behind shortly after. As I approached Sandbrook Park, the first checkpoint, there was much confusion from runners. I heard one marshal directing someone and she looked blankly a