Greater Manchester Marathon

Today was the big race that I've been working up to over the last few months.  I have done a marathon way back in 2008 which I did in 2.53 so sort of remember how difficult it was but for all intents and purposes this was my debut at the distance since I've started to run again.  I chose Manchester in part because the timing was right, it is a flattish course and also because I discovered that certain marathons are used by England Athletics as qualifiers for 'age group marathons'.  What this effectively means is that if you come in the top 5 for your age group (in my case 35-39) then there is a chance that you can be selected to represent your country - assuming you register your interest with them beforehand which I duly did some months ago.

The last few weeks have been quite new to me training wise; typically I max out at about 85 miles a week but then I've had a few niggles along the way which often meant having to cut back on training.  Three weeks ago I took a week off work and really decided to take my training to another level for one week only where I managed to do 115 miles.  Needless to say my legs were shattered for the start of the taper and over the following week I was worried that they were still dead.  Finally last week they started to come good and for a change I had no niggles to worry about.  On the other hand my wife has had a steaming cold so was constantly paranoid that I was about to catch it from her, but thankfully it stayed away.  I was also struggling with the carb load phase a bit where it felt like a new phenomenon to almost over fuel the body to make sure everything was kept topped up.


We went up the night before to the Holiday Inn at Media City which meant we only had about a mile to walk to the start on the day.  The weather was more or less perfect, mostly sunny, about 10 degrees and little wind to speak of.  About 15 minutes before the start I entered the pen and to my horror I was a good 20 metres back from the start line.  I had purposely intended to start a little way back but this was too much.  With a bit of weaving over the next 10 minutes or so I eventually managed to get to about 5 metres from the start line which was perfect!

Having now fought my way to somewhere close to the front!

I had no preconceptions what time I was going to aim for.  I thought possibly 2.30 was potentially possible but 2.33 - 2.35 was more likely.  I had no idea how my body was going to hold deep into the race so just tried to play it by ear.

The first five miles came and went and to be honest I felt pretty good.  The first mile was a bit (6 seconds) slower than I had intended, but this was mostly due to my Garmin stating my pace was faster than it actually was in practice.  The first 5 miles were completed in around 28.27 which equated to about 2.29 marathon pace.  I had no idea what position I was in and for the most part I was running by myself although there were runners just ahead including a group of 5 who were together that I assumed were probably working to a 2.30 marathon time.

Start - not in view.

Miles 5-10 were pretty good although from about mile 8 I was certainly starting to work a little harder to keep the pace going.  Whilst I was still mostly comfortable I was also thinking crikey, how am I going to keep this pace going for another 18 miles?!  I was also a little worried that I was going at a sub 2.30 pace that I would not be able to sustain.  Over the course of this section I was again mostly running by myself but with others in the general vicinity.  I only remember overtaking one person and as I did so he made a squat dive for the bushes!  Whilst I didn't know it at the time, at the 10k mark I was 18th overall and my pace equated to just under 2.29.

Miles 10-15 was where it started to happen.  I had managed to reel in the remnants of the group who were ahead of me including a couple of runners who were just behind them.  I don't think it was down to any injection of pace on my part but they were slowing down ever so slowly.  By about the half way point I had overtaken a couple of runners and was just behind two that were in the earlier '2.30 pace' group.  At the half way point I was 15th (this was the first time I knew my position as someone in the crowd shouted it out) in a time of 1.14.26.  Miles 14 and 15 were slightly strange - I had intended to just keep the same pace going but instead of doing 5.40 - 5.43 mile splits I did a 5.38 and 5.36.  Okay, not much faster but it was enough to lose the two runners I had taken ages to catch up so now I was 13th.  By the 15th mile I had now started to rapidly catch up 3 more runners who were strung out ahead - these were the faster runners from the group I mentioned earlier.  Again, I just sailed past them and now I was 10th.  Another half a mile later another two overtakes meant I was 8th, but this time there was a bit more work to make my passes stick.

It was all becoming a bit of a blur to me, part of me was thinking okay your 8th - you are doing really well, stay in 8th and I'll get some prize money!  On the other hand I was thinking, my god this is feeling tough and there is still just under half the race to go!  Don't hit the wall, don't hit it!

Miles 15-20 were kind of strange considering the action in the previous five miles.  For some reason I put on the afterburners and I averaged 5.35 per mile over this section.  I had easily dropped all those that I had overtaken earlier and I was now a very clear 8th.  Yet, up some very straight sections of the road I could see no-one.  There was clearly no-one ahead within two and half minutes of me.  This is going to be a hard slog when I could really have done with someone to work with or to at least catch up.  It was also the only part of the course where there was no crowd support as it was quite rural.  I kept plugging away.  After 20 miles my watch was now suggesting a 2.28 finish was possible so I had clearly banked some time.  In my mind though I was still thinking surely 2.28 cant be possible, but I was now seriously contemplating that sub 2.30 may now actually be achievable.  That said, I was now pretty much maxed out effort wise and didn't really have much more to give, but at the same time I didn't feel like the wall was coming yet...

Miles 20-25 were a real struggle, but then at about 22.5 miles I could see someone ahead of me.  It was a feeling of great, I've got something to work towards and I knew in the distance remaining I should probably catch him considering how only a few miles earlier I couldn't see anyone ahead.  At about mile 23 there was the final aid station and I grabbed a gel but couldn't get it open.  I really needed that gel and no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't get the damn thing open!  Eventually through a combination of teeth and brute force I managed to squeeze it open but not before the majority of it went over my legs and hands and made them all nice and sticky!  It was also at this point that I could feel my quad pulling quite badly, not enough to limp but enough to affect my running form.  Nonetheless by about mile 24.5 I had caught the Tipton runner ahead of me and I was now 7th but in a world of pain.  My muscles were screaming at me, my quad had pulled and my groins had been quite tight since about 15 miles.  Okay, just 1.7 miles to go, 1.6, 1.5 and it was pretty much like this all the way to the finish.  Eventually with half a mile to go I could see the finish and two more runners about 30 seconds ahead of me, but not enough distance left to catch them.  As I got nearer the finish I made an extra effort to get in under 2.28, eventually doing so by a single second!

Normally would't put photos such as this one on the blog, but the pained expression was exactly what I felt coming into the finish.

And another...

Putting in an extra effort to get 2.27.5x

Not quite, but time got rounded down due to the time it took to cross the start line - 2.27.59!

I almost keeled over at the finish and then a very long comedy walk ensued to get through the finish chute which has got to have been best part of 3/4 a mile long and took about 20 minutes to do.  Part of the post race offerings included a free pint of alcohol free lager.  Not really what I wanted but drank it steadily over the following hour!

Not every day you make the Manchester Evening News!

Overall I'm chuffed to bits and it shows that all the hard training I've done over the last few months has really paid off.  I never thought a sub 2.28 marathon was on in my wildest dreams, nor did I think a 7th place result was realistic.  As I was top 10 I think that I've also got a cash prize of £150!  I was also amazed to have achieved a negative split.  My first half was in 1.14.26 and the second half in 1.13.33.  Such was the pace in the second half that I think it was the fourth fastest split on the day, as opposed to being 15th fastest at the halfway point.  It was interesting to see that very few other runners did anything close to a negative split, most being about 3-5 minutes slower in the second half which kind of explains why I just left everybody behind (most of those I overtook just after the half way point finished between 2.31 - 2.34).

Mile splits - see pace injection just after half way.  It wasn't planned, it just kind of happened that way.

5 mile block splits.  Really pleased that I managed to steadily increase the tempo as the race progressed.

Gap to Other Runners
The above chart shows how the race unfolded pretty well.  The runners who finished 3rd, 4th, 6th and 8th were ahead of me by about 3-4 minutes up to the 30k point.  The runner who finished 10th was also ahead of me by about 40 seconds at the half way point.  Over the last 12k the gaps closed considerably as others slowed and my pace increased.  I dont know the splits of the first two runners as their run is not on Strava.

One thing has come of today - I think I can now call myself an elite marathon runner!  Based on last years rankings I would have placed 77th and 20th V35 in the UK.

I have no race plans ahead of me at the moment so really the only plan at the moment is to have a week off, recover over the next couple of weeks and slowly get back into things before deciding what my priorities are going to be over the coming months!


  1. What a great report and well executed race Lloyd. I'm with you that even with a very well paced run, you start to feel it by 8 miles or so. As long as you're not really hanging you've probably judged it about right. Look forward to seeing you get that England call up. :-)

  2. Thanks Jason for reading my musings. Very pleased with how it all panned out. Hope there is more to come!


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