Since the turn of the year I've clocked up over a 1000 miles in training for Manchester which averages close to 70 miles per week. Ive consistently run long runs between 16 and 23 miles from November last year and these have increased in intensity in the final few weeks before the taper. All the races I have done have gone to plan if not better and my confidence has grown week on week with the mixture of long runs, tempo runs and interval based sessions. Most weeks look very similar in the amount of mileage, the key sessions and the long runs but there has been a progression that sometimes isn't always measurable with running faster or longer but is more subtle - its that feeling that even on a bad day I am able to do a decent focused session, the feeling that the longer the session goes on the better I feel and more importantly the target marathon pace just gets easier and easier to execute.
After a taper that was relatively straightforward I felt rested and ready to race the 26.2 miles round the Manchester suburbs.
The first few miles I deliberately held myself back and was in around 45th position at close to the 2 mile point. There were some big groups ahead of me and I felt confident that most of these groups would one by one come back. just stick to the plan and concentrate on my own race. The first 10km was 37:08 and I found myself ticking off the miles feeling relaxed and confident that the race plan was being executed as I wanted it to.
I wasn't particularly aware of my split times as my Garmin didn't function particularly well in the first few miles and although this might have previously panicked me I just switched to using lap times to make sure I was on track for my target time of around 2:35. The first indication of my actual time was at 13.1 miles when I went through in 1.17.00 exactly. At this point I picked up a group of about 8 runners which included the leading lady and although the group was operating at a decent pace I decided to push on and try and reach the smaller group someway in front. I found myself clear of the group within a mile or so and over the next few miles I relaxed and looked forward to the 20 mile point which would represent the "business end" of the race. The 20 mile point seemed to take an age to get to and I passed this in 1 hour 56 minutes and 58 seconds. 67 seconds quicker than my recent 20 mile race at Locke Park.
So it was down to the business end and it certainly helped me to find two or three runners in front who were coming back to me. Mile 21 (5:50), 22 (5:57) and 23 (5:58) made me think that with some focused running I could get close to the club vet 40 record of 2:34.00. To do this I would need a negative split which I kind of figured that this was unlikely. Final three miles of 6: 02, 6:12 and 6:17 felt significantly harder than any of the last 23 miles - gone was the relaxed face it was the race face that was needed.
In the last three miles I did manage to pass two other runners who were clearly struggling slightly. As I turned the corner into the stadium there was a realisation that I was ever so close to the vet 40 club record of 2:34.00 but it wasn't going to be my day so i enjoyed the run in to the finish. I finished in 2 hours 34 minutes and 15 seconds. A massive three and a half minute personal best and the goal of a sub 2:35 marathon achieved.
I could be disappointed to be just 9 seconds (chip time) off a club record (held by Harry Gamble Thompson) that has stood for such a long time (since 1986) but in reality I'm just so pleased to chip away again at my marathon best knowing that with more of the same work and a good build up I can take another chunk of time off that.
17th place overall in a new personal best of 2 hours 34 minutes 15 seconds - I like the sound of being a sub 2-35 marathon runner! Thanks to the Asics Greater Manchester Marathon, MyProtein, Erdinger and Runners Need for all the generous support as an Asics Race Ambassador. Its a fantastic event and one which I would recommend for those looking for a fast time or as a debut marathon.