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If you want to run a personal best, all roads lead to Manchester

by Tim Heming
Tuesday 22nd April 2014
 
 

Race report & results: Tim Heming finds a flat, fast course, fit for a PB, at the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon - April 6, 2014

After the medical tent and the sludge-green cubicles that may or may not be Portaloos*, the men’s changing quarters - a marquee destination in the literal sense only - are probably the least salubrious facility of any big city marathon.

But it was here, post-run on Sunday, that I looked up from the agonisingly slow unlacing of my these-have-seen-better-days running shows to see an animated face beaming  back at me. My quizzical look was met unabashed with: “I’m just having a party with Jesus.”

A selection of smelly, naked, follicly-challenged, middle-aged men seems an unlikely spot for the Second Coming, but the remark was delivered in such endearing tones, I engaged enough to mumble: “Sorry?”

“I’ve just broken three hours, you see.” Ah, that magic milestone, so special because it is a mark the Average Joe can attain, but only with hard work over a prolonged period - or dedication to training, at least, which aren’t really the same thing at all.

I am an Average Joe too, and remember when I ran 2hrs 59mins in Reykjavik a few years back. I tried to party, but on a day of near 24-hour sunlight I slightly misjudged the fine balance of lager and whale soup and was in the land of nod before the Ice maidens had come out to play.

Today, I was NOT having a party with Jesus, I was shivering and cramping, but the Good Lord works in mysterious ways and I guiltily threw all my lose change in a charity pot for a local hospice before driving home.

Oh, yes, the race. Well, it’s flat, really, really, flat which makes it fast, really, really fast.

Given I’ve told you that, if you hear folly of the 2014 Greater Manchester Marathon that lays blame on any sort of headwind, at any point, then I suggest you treat it with the disdain it deserves. This is northern England in early April, and we could not have had finer conditions if Michael Fish had predicted a hurricane.

Sadly, and whisper this bit, it’s also a little bit boring. It’s not really anyone’s fault, the trunk roads need to be used to fit the thousands on the course. Even with their considerable girth it was a tight squeeze, not aided at the start by the bus load following a three-hour pacer who blitzed the first mile in about 5minutes 30secs (Yes, I know it’s a tough job).

The local support is enchanting, as local support always is. The children’s choir, the two St Bernard’s, a smattering of bands desperate for a gig after the demise of the Hacienda.

It’s not ‘London’ support but then no race is, and this is a smaller scale affair in a smaller city. Other than the volunteers, those that turn out to dole out sticky jelly babies fresh from the back of a cupboard they have been occupying for the last five years are the real heroes.

As such, they demand the respect of the runners, which is hard to convey when you are wearing headphones – either the BANNED headphones as stipulated in their programme notes, or the NON-BANNED headphones the organisers are only too willing to flog to participants.

There is a time and a  place to plug yourself in and it’s not when some stranger  has taken the time to stand on the side of the road and clap you to the finish. It’s an ongoing, largely curmudgeonly, grumble.

What else? Where there is straight final mile (there are lots of long straights) before a sharp left and the finish emerges in an instant. Worth knowing that, or better still, doing a semblance of research and checking out the finish first, because it mentally had the better of me.

Take-home message:  it’s not pretty but it’s professionally done and if you want to run a personal best, all roads lead to Manchester.

Want proof? As I was trying to relocate my car, I met a man who ran 2:37 wearing his shorts , unwittingly,  on back-to-front.

*Portaloos are a brand of public toilet that may have possibly been known in the past  to aggressively defend their trademark by employing teams of lawyers to trawl the internet for any websites erroneously using the name Portaloo, when they could mean, for example, Port-a-potty.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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