The Manchester Marathon in 2022 hit all the right notes. I came off an injury riddled 2021, where I missed 9 months of training due to two torn adductor tendons. I put together a 16 week Return From Injury programme for myself which began, very gently, in mid-December 2021. Realistically the first three weeks were so easy this was more like a 13 week marathon programme. Still, as the first week came and went I managed 11 miles at a very slow pace. Man was it good to be back out running.
There were four of us heading over to do the Manchester Marathon. I was only coming back to the sport so I decided early on to do all of my training on my own. With my lack of training, I was starting to put on some weight at by the end of December. The target for Manchester was a sub-three hour finish. if I was totally honest with myself I was just happy to be training for something once again. In order to hit that target I had to focus on two things. I needed to lose a stone and a half weight and also get through the first few weeks pain free.
Preparing for the Manchester Marathon
There were some scary points in the training programme. After about three weeks the pains I had from torn adductors started to rear their head. I ran through those difficult weeks and eventually the training started to fall into place. I spent the month of February in southern Spain and got four weeks of lovely dry and mostly warm weather. As with most areas of Spain there were plenty of hilly runs and plenty of good miles along the coast.
By the beginning of March, when I arrived back home, I was starting to feel lighter. My running fitness was coming around nicely as well. At the start of the first week of training my weight was 174 pounds. Additionally, my weekly average resting heart rate was hitting 60. On my Monday morning weigh-in on March 7th my weight was down to 161 pounds. My weekly average resting heart rate of 45. My fitness was definitely getting there. As I really needed to ease into the plan I had to backload a lot of the bigger miles towards the end. This left me with only a ten day taper but by race day I felt really good. On the Saturday before race day my weight was down to 155 pounds and weekly average heart rate down to 42. My fitness was back, but there was still a big question. I hadn’t raced a single event during the entire course of this plan. I had no idea what kind of race shape I was in. This was going to be interesting.
My daughter, Catraoine, lives in Manchester and I was staying at the flat of a friend of hers, Jason. Catraoine and Jason were also both running the Manchester Marathon as well, so the logistics were real handy. There were four of us from Enniskillen who flew over from Dublin on Saturday morning. We all went our separate ways upon our arrival, with me heading to Salford Quays. I planned on playing it safe as far as my evening pre-race meal. We had a lovely pasta dinner with garlic bread to fuel us for the morning. I had learned my lesson from Chester in 2019. We had an early night and I slept as well as I’ve ever slept the night before a marathon.
Race Day Prep
I woke at 6am, showered, and dressed into my gear with my throwaways over my race kit. For breakfast I had porridge, two slices of toast with peanut butter, coffee and a pint of water.From there it was back into my room to pack my bag for the drop and double check everything was in order. Soon we headed off for the 10 minute walk to Catraoine’s. Catraoine’s boyfriend, Harry, as well as her flat mate, Orlagh, were running the relay and all five of us set off for the bag drop. I needed to be there between 8:20 and 8:30 according to the Manchester Marathon organisers. We arrived on time and bumped into my other Enniskillen friends. We all got ready, deposited our bags at the drop tent and made our way to our starting pen. The sun came out and although it was still cool, the weather was really shaping up to be dry and calm.
One of my good friends from Enniskillen, Tara, and another friend, Keith were planning on staying close to each other. Keith was on form and had run his previous three marathons under three hours. He offered to pace a steady sub-three hour race. Tara and I both had the same marathon PB at 3:06. We were both hoping to stay with Keith on our sub-three hour attempt. That was the plan anyway.
The Manchester Marathon Race
The conditions were near perfect when the gun went off at 9:15am. As is the case with any city marathon the first few hundred metres were spent finding our space and getting into a rhythm. Keith was out front and I found a wee window of space behind him. The last I saw Tara she was just behind my left shoulder. That was literally the last I saw of Tara. Keith and I hit the 10k mat at 43:08, just outside our target time. We hit the halfway point at 1:30:31, just outside the target once again. If I was to run sub-three I would need to run a negative split. I had never run a negative split!
The second half of the course offered a few more hills, particularly during miles 16-18. Believe it or not, this section of the course was my fastest. The first half of the course had to be mostly flat or downhill as my quads were reminding me by mile 12. During my training I was taking gels at miles 15, 19, and 23 and those intervals were working fine for me. I got my energy boost and my stomach handled them nicely. During the race I took my first gel at mile 14.5 and my second at 18.5. Everything was going fine. We hit the 30k mark at 2:07:54, back on target. This was certainly going to be interesting.
I took water now and again as well so I was pretty well hydrated. It wasn’t warm by any stretch but it wasn’t cold either. I wasn’t sweating a whole lot, so it was ideal racing conditions for most people. At mile 23 I should have taken a third gel, but I was feeling good and taking the gels and water always takes me out of my rhythm so I thought I’d be ok without the last one. This may have been where I went wrong. Miles 25 and 26 ended up being 7:06 and 7:15 which knocked me off my sub-three hour pace and I crossed the finish line in a time of 3:00:29.
For many people this would be crushing. However, for me, I was absolutely delighted. After missing the majority of the previous year I had come back and in my first race back I knocked out a six minute PB. I know I have my first sub three in me and all going well I’ll get it this year.
Keith stuck with his plan and ran his steady pace to finish side by side with Tara who did run her first sub three hour marathon in a time of 2:59:48. When I crossed the line I saw the two of them and I knew she had done it. The three of us were brimming with smiles as you can see from the photo above. That photo was taken on the finish line just after receiving our medals.
The race should serve as a lesson in city marathon organisation and planning. Everything was done perfectly and the people of the city owned the race on the day. There was so much support and noise on all the right locations. I can’t say enough about the organisers or the people of Manchester and I enjoyed that race more than most. I took great satisfaction from putting together a running plan, nutrition plan, and a strength & conditioning plan that worked well. It allowed me to run a huge PB after what was an awful hard year. I cannot wait for the next one. Next is some post-marathon recovery.