Manchester Marathon 2015

Training

I’d been training for the Manchester Marathon for over 6 months. I really enjoyed the training since coming back from a back injury in September, bouncing those miles up gradually. After successfully completeling a 22 mile training run in March, I felt incredibly prepared. That was until I went on a running weekend 2 days later, incredibly stupidly timed on my part. During the UKrunchat weekend I managed to bust my knee. I spent the next 3 weeks nursing a damaged knee not knowing if I was going to run the Marathon at all. The week before the race I decided to test out my knee and did a 10 mile run and managed to complete it in a fair amount of pain. I knew if I ran the marathon it wasn't going to be easy.

So decision time, do I waste 6 months of training or do I run on an injury? I’m not sensible at the best of the times, especially when it comes it running, so I decided to run on my injury.

Toilets

The morning of the marathon came and my usual pre-race nerves had already kicked in. Unfortunately having to leave for the marathon so early, meant that trips to the loo hadn't even begun before leaving the house. So first step upon arrival was to locate the toilets. Now one word of advice, if you ever do run the Manchester marathon don’t bother wasting your time queuing for the toilets at the race village. It’s a farce. After 20 minutes of queuing and not going anywhere I tried the VIP loos, 10 minutes there and I was discovered in the queue just as it was my turn and I was thrown out. Gahhh. So off to the start line, hurrah no queues for the loos. My best tip: head straight to the start line for the toilets.

Start

The start was located on Chester road. I don’t think the area was very well sign posted. My number was yellow which was meant for around the 4:30 mark. Although I wasn't sure I was even going to make a sub 6:00. I walked the length of the road before finding the first sign post and had to walk right the way back to where I’d come from to find where I had to stand. After the gun went off it took a good 5 minutes to cross the start line from where I was starting. I couldn't have run more than 2 minutes to witness 20-30 men lining the sides of roads peeing. I mean is it really necessary when there were loos right next to the start line? I didn't see any women squatting on the side of the road even after Paula Radcliffe's public call of nature a few years ago. Disappointing boys.

Shortly after starting I saw that the pacers were miles ahead of me and this confused me. Even the 6 hour pacer was around the next bend. I’m not sure where they had started from but I was sure I wasn't running that slowly and even though it took 5 minutes to cross the start line I was sure the 4 hour 30 pacer was right behind me. I already felt sure I was going to write a letter of complaint to whoever these pacers were. How off putting I thought and then I began to think I was genuinely running a snail’s pace.

The Race

The course went through some of Manchester’s landmarks that I hadn't seen before, despite living here. I ran by the Coronation Street studio and the Imperial War Museum. Then the streets started winding back through the back streets past Old Trafford. I could hear myself being told by the lady on runkeeper I was going at a decent pace. The cheers from the crowds really helped and when I ran past the couple who were running hand in hand it really made me smile.

I kept my mind busy with watching other people, which was easy as there were so many others, calculating when to take my next energy gels and listening out for my pace on my runkeeper. Trying to maintain an even time. This seemed ok until around 10 miles and I could feel myself getting slower and my right leg was getting painful. I’d already brought ibuprofen to dose myself up at 2 hours. As the pain coursed in, I could feel myself getting colder. I could feel the negativity creep in. I wasn’t half way yet, I wasn’t going to make this. I was going to have walk this if I was going to finish. How could I walk the rest of the way? I carried on regardless through the pain, topping up my pills at 2 hours. I ran through the half way point and the time said 2 hours 10 (it was actually 2:05, minus the 5 minutes gun time). The next 4 miles were torturous mentally and physically, had the crowd not been pushing me on I would've stopped completely but a nice man shouted ‘come on Helen’. I had tears in my eyes and this spurred me to run on through the pain. I hadn't quite made the mile 17 marker and my legs had had enough. I had to walk. I limped along and got my phone out texting defeat to those who would listen. Seeing the texts of good luck and love spurred me on a bit further. Come on legs just keep going I thought, walk, run, walk, run. We can do this. The crowds never let up along the course and were a constant course of encouragement. The water stations were a great help too.

I was never more pleased in my life to see the 20 mile marker. Only 10k to go I thought. I can do 10k even if I have to walk most of it, even limp most of it, I can do it. So I limped, I walked, I ran, I jogged, I dragged my legs. It hurt until the tears were streaming from my eyes.

At about mile 22 I passed a man with a stitch who was walking his way to the finish. He wasn’t giving up either.

I didn't recognise the streets or the fields which I was running past nor would I probably recognise them again I think I was in another world. I must have looked bad because many of the marshal’s asked if I was ok. But I faked a smile and trudged on. There was no way I wasn't going to complete this marathon now.

At mile 25 a lady shouted at me hey I’m on ukrunchat too. I've never been so glad of some company in my life. So I spent the last mile chatting to Collette from Twitter. We walked and ran the last 1.2 miles together, we chatted and smiled, actually laughed too. This lifted my spirits hugely and made me realise what a lonely journey the marathon can be. I hadn't had anyone on the course cheering me on, except the stranger shouting my name :) I even managed to run through the finish.

So I finished the marathon, with a dodgy knee. It hurt, a hell of a lot. It took me 4 hours and 34 minutes. I grabbed a hug from Collette and posed for photos. I was on a post marathon high. I'd done it. All 26.2 miles and what a journey. Now I am quite happy with the time considering the pain I was in but I know I could have done a lot better had I not been injured. I collected my medal, was quickly wrapped inside a foil blanket and my collected my goody bag. It had a great t-shirt inside, drinks, vitamins?! And some yummy chocolate. But it doesn't stop there.

Post Marathon injuries

Everyone gets the normal aches and pains post marathon. A bit of DOMs is normal. A few broken and black nails, completely normal. Blisters, yes everyone gets those. Well I managed two infected toes and 2 possible stress fractures (both feet). Painful, just a bit. So now I am not walking. The lesson, don’t run on an injury, it’s silly. Learn from the master of silly.