I had stuck to the training plan well, but my husband had tailed off between weeks 7 to 11. He hadn’t done anywhere near enough miles in the midweek, then tried playing catch-up in the last few weeks. He ended up with a calf injury. But he was determined to run and said he would get round, whatever happened. We had trained to a 9:30 minute/ mile pace, which would take us 4 hours and 9 minutes.
We stayed over the night before at my mother-in-law’s in Cheshire. We set off at 7am to drive to Altrincham to catch the tram to the start line at Old Trafford. We were supposed to arrive at 9.10 for a 10.25 start. But there were no problems with parking, crowds or waiting for the tram, so we arrived very early.
The forecast was for a very cold morning and it wasn’t wrong. It was supposed to be 1 degree at 7am, rising to only 9 degrees at 2pm. After much deliberation, I wore my long leggings and two layers on top. But I still wore my cap and suncream.
The athletes’ village was in the car park of the Old Trafford cricket ground. With a staggered start – elite athletes setting off at 9.05 and the slowest runners setting off at 10.55, theoretically it shouldn’t have been too busy. But there were very long toilet queues! We pretty much spent the whole time queuing for the toilets over and over again.
We started heading for the start line just before 10. As each wave of runners set off, the next wave moved forwards, so it wasn’t crowded at the start. From a very cold start, the sun came out and the sky was bright blue. Although it was still cold, the sun made it feel much warmer. I began to question my long leggings and my two layers. Along with everyone else, we ditched our top layers of clothing for charity and crossed the start line slightly early – at 10.20.
We set off at a good pace and were enjoying the crowds and the atmosphere. Being such a big race in such a big city, there are lots of spectators out pretty much the whole way. You have to admire their dedication – the fastest runners would have passed them hours before we did!
The route is pretty much a series of smaller loops, passing through Manchester’s suburbs and nearby small towns – Stretford, Sale, Timperley and Altrincham. There isn’t much in the city centre, but there is an out and back up Deansgate between about four and six miles.
Around eight miles, my husband announced that if we kept up the pace we were running, we would finish four minutes ahead of schedule.
At 12 miles, I realised that a friend of mine, who started 40 minutes earlier than me and would run it in about 3 hours 40, could be finishing. When I shared this information with my husband, he wasn’t happy. The sun was much hotter than forecast and he was already struggling mentally. This seems crazy when you consider that he’d run a very boring 22 mile training run three weeks earlier with no support. But there’s no telling what a marathon will do to you.
I tried to get him to feel positive and we carried on running. By this point we’d already stopped twice to adjust his uncomfortable socks and once to go to the toilet. We were both being very sensible with hydration and fuelling, so energy levels weren’t a problem.
At mile 16, in Altrincham, we saw my husband’s cousin, his wife and son, which gave my husband a much-needed boost. They very kindly handed us a small bag of jelly babies each. As the course starts its return journey in Altrincham, we saw them again a few minutes later. By this time, my husband was struggling with his legs too – his calf injury and pretty much everything else.
Shortly afterwards, we stopped to remove a layer, which helped my husband a bit. It turns out I lost an AirPod at this point. I’ve been running with AirPods for months and have never dropped one. I was pretty gutted to realise a couple of miles later that it was gone.
I’d promised to stick with my husband whatever happened, so I walked with him up a couple of hills. The course is reasonably flat, but there are some short hills. He decided he would set himself short targets – run from 18 miles to 19 miles. But at 18.5 miles, he needed to walk again. He told me to run on without him – I’d trained for the race and it wasn’t fair to hold me back. I said I wanted to stick with him, but he was insistent he would be fine.
So I picked up the pace and ran on. As I’d been going a bit slowly before, I passed a lot of people once I was running at my proper pace. As the runners had thinned out by now, the crowds were all shouting my name, which was a real boost.
Although I realised my own legs were really hurting too! I literally hadn’t noticed them when I was focused on my husband. I kept thinking I shouldn’t have left him and worrying about something happening to him. I knew he hadn’t filled in the emergency details on the back of his number because we were running together.
After mile 20, there were so many people (nearly all men) walking or stopping to stretch. My husband clearly wasn’t the only one struggling.
But I kept running and the crowds kept cheering. My legs were aching and my remaining AirPod stopped working, so I ran the last four miles without music. I turned the corner to the finish line and it looked a really long way away!
I crossed the line in 4:16:53 – slower than planned, but not bad considering all the stopping and starting. I picked up my medal and my Tshirt and immediately started phoning my husband. When he didn’t answer, I panicked and rang my son. They’d been watching the live stream and were monitoring the tracking. The tracking isn’t live, but it gives an approximate idea of when a person will finish – my husband was at 42.2km (the end).
He finished a few minute later – just 11 minutes behind me. He hadn’t answered the phone as he didn’t want to break his stride and knew he was close to the end. He’d felt better when he let me go, as he didn’t have the guilt of holding me back and could just run and walk as he needed to. He settled into a rhythm of running three quarters of a mile and walking a quarter.
He did brilliantly to finish with his injury, but he says he’s NEVER running a marathon again!