Tag Archives: Manchester

Photo of AM and Gemma

Canalathon – Bring Me Sunshine

So onto Canalathon itself. With the camper van loaded with enough food to feed a small army, we set off on a sunny Saturday afternoon from the Wirral. Ellie had driven up from Cardiff the night before and, after a stint at Birkenhead parkrun, we set off.

Our weekend base for the race

Photo of Littleborough Cottage

We almost didn’t do the race!

Ellie was our super star organiser and found us a fantastic cottage near Littleborough, about 25 minutes drive from the start of the race. I’ll have to try hard not to talk too much about this place as it really was beautiful. The views were spectacular and the house was luxurious. We had underfloor heating throughout the house with digital controls for the heating. Jon will no doubt do a better job than me of describing the ensuite bathrooms with built in TVs! My only complaint was that I wasn’t able to turn down the heating at night. I ended up waking in the night a few times because it was so hot.

We joked among us that we wouldn’t bother doing the race and we would just chill in the house and eat the mountain of food that we brought. As I had developed a cold that week, albeit a fairly minor one, I was seriously tempted!

The morning of the race

Photo of Team Green T shirts

Team Green Ultra Division reporting for duty

It was an early start and even earlier as the clocks went forward that day. The weather was promising. Cold but sunny and dry. Off we went to Sowerby Bridge where the Race HQ was stationed. We had opted to register here and catch the coach to Manchester from where we would run back to Sowerby Bridge.

I had a slight snag on registering to find that they didn’t have my pre-ordered T shirt. I was advised that one would be brought to the finish later and I could pick it up then. There was a bobble hat in my pack which I hadn’t ordered but I was told just to keep it. I was surprised later to find that my results hadn’t been recorded (later rectified with no issues). I was told that I had been recorded as a DNS and I think the marshals forgot to mark me as present because of the T shirt issues.

I have seen comments in other blogs that it seems a bit odd to be given your race pack with the medal in it before the race. I agree: I would much prefer that it was handed out at the end. It would be a nice touch if a marshal could put it round your neck at the end of the race.

The race

Photo of Team Green

Team green ready to start.

The race starts in a car park in Manchester before heading onto the canal. We didn’t have a long wait in the pre-race toilets and, quite quickly after that, we were off. What surprised me was that as soon as I started running, my cold seemed to dry up (I had spent most of the coach journey  trying to stifle my cough) and I felt quite good.

What also surprised me was that the first half was a gradual uphill. Not so much that you noticed it but once we reached “the Summit” it was noticeably easier. But I am getting ahead of myself as we have yet to reach the first checkpoint at 10.9 miles. A welcome sight, it had real food. I found myself rather partial to the ham wraps and the Jaffa Cakes, of course.

On paper the spacing of the aid stations looks ok with 4 stations in total but on the day, I found the gap between the aid station at Rochdale at 10.9 miles and Walsden at 20 miles too great. It was warming up by now and it would have been good to at least have a water station halfway between both.

Photo of Helen Bly and Adam

A sight for sore eyes (and tired feet)

This made the “sweet shop” set up by Helen Bly and Adam Jones, just past the Summit, all the more welcome. Helen saved us a can of proper Coca Cola. I don’t normally take caffeine as I have had palpitations and headaches in the past but I really wanted a drink so I took some. It may have been psychological and it was certainly a boost to see Helen and Adam. I felt ready to take on the rest of the race.

Walsden was a lovely aid station and the marshals there couldn’t have been nicer. They filled up our water bottles for us, encouraged us to eat and generally were very encouraging. I took on some more Coca Cola. I was in danger of developing an addiction, but it tasted really good. Some more ham wraps and Jaffa cakes and I felt ready for the last 11 miles.

A race full of surprises, I remember being surprised at 20 miles that nothing really hurt as it had when doing the Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon. It took until 26 miles before I felt that familiar ache in my hips and quads.

Photo of AM and Gemma

“Bring me sunshine in your smile, bring me laughter all the while”

Gemma and I were still running together.  As Gemma has done this race in 2016, we started chatting about her previous time. She had completed it in 6 hours 59 minutes. Looking at our times so far, I calculated we could beat that so after the last aid station (rocket fuelled by 3 cups of coca cola), we dug in. I am sure know for a fact that Gemma was tired of hearing me saying: let’s get it done!  And we got it done in 6 hours 43 minutes, a huge 16 minute PB for Gemma and a PB  over a new distance for me.

After the race

Photo of Team Green

We’ve all just run 50km and we’re still smiling!

It was welcome sight to see Brian and Jon at the finish, both having made it over the line around the 6 hour mark. I made it back to Race HQ to pick up my promised T shirt only to find that I had been given a 75k T shirt. By this time I was too tired to try to sort it out so I just took it rather than try to get the correct T shirt. Gemma had the same issue.

A reunion with Ellie soon followed, back in the camper van and off to our lovely cottage for the much anticipated roast dinner Ellie promised us. How she had the energy to cook, I do not know. It was a perfect end to a fantastic weekend.

Overall impressions

When the weather is kind, everything is so much nicer and so it was with Canalathon. There were a few glitches with the t shirt and hat and my results weren’t initially recorded. I think there could have been another water station in between miles 10 and 20. There doesn’t need to be a full blown aid station or timing mat but a water station would have been a great help. I’d prefer to be given my medal at the end of the race.

Ultimately though this is a well organised race, the marshals were great, the coach transfer went smoothly and the route is picturesque. For me, what made this race most enjoyable was sharing it with friends. The oft quoted African proverb rings true here: “If you want to run fast, go alone. If you want to run far, run together.” Given my illness, injury and doubts about my ability to complete this, this is what got me through.

The strange thing about doing ultras is that your mindset starts to change. I was adamant that I would never run anymore than 50km and now I wonder if I could do the 75k next year…I do need to earn that T shirt…

 

 

Photo of Race Angels

Angels with Sweaty Faces

It all started with an innocuous message on Messenger. “Hiya! What’s your diary like 8th April?”  A quick check of the family calendar on the wall revealed that it was currently clear but it was in the middle of the kids’ Easter holidays so there was always the possibility that we would go to Scotland.

So I replied: “Intriguing…should I clear my diary?” Well, came the reply, I’m looking for a Race Angel to help out at Manchester Marathon that day…

Now let’s rewind and explain a bit more before we go on. I had seen the Race Angels at races before. I had even been offered some help from a lovely lady in their trademark orange T shirts during the Wirral half marathon (yes, the one I did in 2 hours and 4 seconds – still gutted about those 5 seconds!) I saw them more recently at Conwy Half Marathon but thankfully didn’t need their help.

Race Angels is the brainchild of Adrienne Hall. She did her first marathon at Chester in 2013 and was a couple of miles from the end, finding the going a bit tough when she asked a spectator how far she had to go. Despite not being in running clothes or shoes, he ran with Adrienne for a little bit and told her she didn’t have far to go. Adrienne then repaid the favour at the Dublin Rock and Roll half marathon by encouraging someone to finish. He told her she was his angel and the concept was born.

I decided that it was too good an opportunity to turn down and the diary now had a very important event in it. Arrangements were made to share a lift with Peter (another Race Angel virgin!) and Julie (her second outing as a Race Angel). As we discussed after, because we hadn’t met before, it was like a weird blind date, but with it being the running community, we all got on famously and a big thanks to Julie for doing all the driving with an extra early start.

I joked beforehand that I would get all the race atmosphere without any of the performance nerves. However I still got the night before nerves that I would miss my alarm and kept waking up during the night. When the alarm went off at 5.15 am, I was very bleary eyed.

Race Angels in Warrington

The T shirt handing over ceremony!

We met up with Adrienne and Geoff in Liverpool and travelled in convoy to Warrington to meet Darren, Clare and Stephen, making up the entire team of 8 for the day. Race Angel T shirts were handed over in the car park of a Warrington hotel and then we were on our way to Manchester.

We set up shop at around mile 24. There was a water station opposite a pub where we stationed ourselves. We ran to the start to see the runners go off and lend our support.

A much needed coffee on our way back to our position at mile 24 and we were ready to put our halos on and spring into action. It felt quite privileged to see the front runners, not something I normally see in a race. It was astonishing to watch them running at a pace I would be hard pushed to sustain during a parkrun.

Photo of Race Angels

We always wanted to be on the stage!

Peter would not forgive me if I didn’t mention this: among the front runners, there were so many men with bleeding nipples, it was unbelievable. I grimaced every time I saw one and Peter thought this was hilarious so I started to laugh too. But honestly there were so many. Have they not heard of Vaseline? The pain must have been unreal.

Finally I was summoned to help. A lady in a Knowsley Harriers vest (I think) asked me to run with her as she was trying to get Good For Age qualification. Luckily I was on fresh legs so I managed to pull out my best 10K pace and saw her to mile 25 when she ran on, hopefully a bit revitalised, although I don’t know how she managed that pace at that point in the race.

From there on in, I barely stopped for the next 4 hours. I lost count of the number of people I helped but I remember that I ran with 7 people who were very emotional. Much like myself at Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon last year, the whole experience can be a bit overwhelming and I think that it’s the body’s way of releasing that tension and allowing you to get on with the job. I used that experience and tried to make them feel that it was not silly to be emotional at this point, that loads of us had got emotional during a marathon and, more importantly, they were now at mile 25 and only just over a mile to go. Other people were not so emotional but were perhaps tired and if their race had not gone to plan, maybe a bit disappointed so hopefully a friendly chat and a walk alongside them would be a pick me up.

#Visorclub rules!

I really enjoyed seeing a lot of my Twitter buddies. It was like a who’s who of the UKrunchat group! Colin and Keith Johnstone, Helen Bly, Anthony Hughes, Michele Taylor, Paul Addicott and Phil Jeffries doing their sterling work as pacers, and Michele Whiffen, and who took this great pic of us. Others waved as they went past, too many of you to mention.

All the Race Angels were working equally hard and I barely saw any of them until I stopped around 3pm. When I checked my Garmin, including the run to the start and back, I had covered nearly 16 miles! No wonder I felt tired. Nothing that a late lunch wouldn’t sort though as we watched the (rather luxurious!) sweeper bus come through.

When I said yes to Adrienne’s message, hand on heart, I didn’t really think it through. I like running, and I like meeting people so it seemed a good fit for me. So the icing on the cake came when, that evening, my social media went into overdrive with lovely comments from runners who we had helped. It felt very rewarding to hear that we had made a difference to someone’s race experience.

Hats off to Adrienne for creating a wonderful concept; proof that the running community is stuffed full of amazing people. I’ll be back at Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon proudly wearing my orange T shirt. Check out the Race Angels page on Facebook and on Twitter @RaceAngels to see if they will be at your next race!

Mad Dog looking for Winter Fun

When I was invited via a fellow blogger Elle (who blogs at this stylish blog http://www.keepitsimpelle.com) to take part in the Manchester Winter Series Run in Manchester, I didn’t take much persuasion. Some friends who had already done the Liverpool race had a great time while I was slogging around the hills of the Helsby Half Marathon. The prospect of polar bear hugs and a shiny snowflake medal was enticing.

Being allocated the early wave at 9.30am meant an early start from my home on the Wirral.  I used the postcode in the pre-race email for my Sat Nav which led to the only hiccup of the day. I drove round the Ethiad Stadium and carried on with the Sat Nav which took me to a terraced street!  No sign of an event car park.  I decided to head back to the stadium and this time, I saw the signs to the event and still parked up in good time. The car park was only 200 metres from the start as advertised thankfully.

At the start of Manchester Winter Run

The welcoming party – is there any brandy in that thing round your neck?

Having worn my Mad Dog T shirt, I had to get this photo with the St Bernard at the beginning. I then had plenty of time to look round the event village and join the relatively small queue for the toilet. I watched the kids 2.5km race go off and then it was time for us to line up and get warmed up. It was quite sobering that when the race announcer asked if anyone knew someone touched by cancer, everyone put their hand up. Some people there had cancer and were currently undergoing treatment so they got a huge cheer. It was a good reminder why the Race series was taking place.

AM at start  of race

Sunglasses! In February! In Manchester!

With the snow machine pumping out snow and “Ice Ice Baby” playing, we were off. I knew the race was two 5km loops around the stadium but I hadn’t really paid much attention that the Ethiad Stadium is the home of Manchester City FC and that it was the venue for the Commonwealth Games in 2002. So when I rounded the corner, I had a jolt of recognition followed by a flash back to a beautiful summer’s day when I attended the Games. It was the night that Paula Radcliffe won her Commonwealth gold medal for the 5,000m.  I remember being hugely inspired by that and really getting into running at that point.

I decided there and then to channel my inner Paula and make this my best shot at a new personal best for 10km. It was a largely flat course with no wind with only a few U-turns to slow you down slightly so I figured I would go for it. Part of the course involved a running track so I had fun imagining the crowd going wild as I crossed the finish line!

Batala Mersey drumming troupe, who had been at Mad Dog 10k, were out in force and provided a boost at 1 and 9 km. There was also a penguin party in the running track with lots of enthusiastic penguins cheering on (not real ones you understand – that would be too weird and/or ground breaking.)

AM and St Bernard puppy

Running and dogs – what’s not to love?

All my training for the upcoming half marathon In Liverpool on 13th March felt like it was paying off as I felt really strong. I did wonder if I was going too fast and was going to fade towards the end but my Garmin stats show that the last kilometre was my fastest. I managed a sprint finish much to the surprise of the race announcer (who also thought I was a man, go figure!). A personal best of 52:04 was in the bag! This is a whole minute off my previous best.

At the finish, I was drawn to the podium with a picture of the Alps in the background. As I got closer, I realised that there were two real St Bernard dogs. The puppy was adorable so I got in there for a photo opportunity. One of the volunteers took this great photo for me. As a dog lover, this was the icing on the cake of a great race experience.

Medal of Winter Run

Lovely race bling

All three Winter series Runs in London, Liverpool and Manchester  were inaugural races. Manchester attracted 3,000 runners and clearly the organisers are hoping to expand on this next year; watch their web site for details of the race in 2017 being announced. I would recommend it as a race for all the family to attend; there was a lovely atmosphere and the loops meant it was spectator friendly. I will persuade Adventurous children along next year. It’s obviously a good one for a personal best too with a nice flat course and the sight of the Ethiad stadium in my case providing inspiration!

Thanks to Human Race for inviting me via Elle to take part. I didn’t have to pay for my entry but all views are my own.