We made our way down to Manchester from our Lakeland base early on a foggy Sunday morning. Traffic was light from this direction and heading into Manchester you would have no idea that a big city marathon was taking place. Signs for official car parking were soon evident, which was good, as there was no way of spotting Old Trafford through the murk. Some opportunistic local entrepreneurs attempted to divert the traffic from a roundabout with ‘Official Car Park’ signs and hi-viz jackets, but their set-up in a small industrial unit just didn’t quite cut it.

By the time we parked next to the home of MUFC, the weather was lifting and conditions seemed ideal for distance running. A short walk towards the cricket ground and suddenly we were in amongst the 13,000 runners and their supporters.

The legendary Ron Hill gave a pre-race pep-talk and we were away at 9:00. The first 3 miles was a loop around before heading south from Old Trafford. The main issue here was avoiding the minefield of potholes, which was no mean feat in the early congested stages. The field started to spread as we headed towards Stretford and Sale and I settled into my goal pace. The route crossed the Mersey into Cheshire, down to Timperley and Altrincham, before doubling back.

The crowds and atmosphere were brilliant and were similar to the Great North Run, with copious amounts of sweets and high-fives being handed out. All of the different areas try to outdo each other with the entertainment and noise and it was a real motivator by the time 16 miles had been completed. It was also great to hear a friendly shout from Tim Evans, who was supporting wife Karen.

The route headed out in a north-western direction to Carrington and Urmston and it was around this time that I started to feel the gap in my training plan. However, I reached the 20 Mile mark bang on target at 2:30 and thought that a 3:20 could be achievable.

The last 6.2 miles was a struggle though and I had a short walk at 22 miles before a painful finish with cramp and burning thighs. The level of encouragement from the other competitors, marshals and spectators was amazing and without it I may just have got a tram home! The finish line came into view and the final run-in seemed to go on forever. I was a bit of an emotional and physical wreck by the time I crossed the line and can hardly remember grabbing my tee shirt and medal: It was then time to eat and drink everything in sight after meeting-up with Barbara, who was in coach-mode and insisted that I do my stretches.

Karen Evans was not far behind in an absolutely superb 4:25:12 on her Marathon debut: What a great advertisement for the Jags Couch to 10k course that Karen completed just last year!

So, Manchester: The course was flat and fast as promised (if you discount the potholes!), the atmosphere was electric and the people were friendly. Would I do it again? Why not?!

Neil Button

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Neil Button3.27.48YES & New Age Group RecordSILVER
Karen Evans4.25.12FTBRONZE