Rundown: Manchester Marathon aka My First Marathon

Phew. 

I decided to take last week off from adulting, following my first ever marathon. Granted, I still had to go to work, but I decided to sack off just about everything else- blogging, socialising, grocery shopping- you name it. So now I’m back, let’s talk about that marathon.

Oh my days. That’s the only way to describe it.

The Course: 26.2 miles round Greater Manchester- flat, friendly and fast.

The Goals: 

A. Hit sub 4h
B. Hit sub 4.30h
C. Don’t die and/or poop pants

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Pre-Race

I was very nervous the day before, and I could hardly sit still. But by race morning I was feeling much calmer, and even excited. We got stuck in traffic on the way to race village, so I had to get out and walk 20 minutes. Then there was bag drop- a huge, uncoordinated mess of runners, essentially. It was about 10 minutes till the start and I hadn’t been able to leave my bag yet, and I needed to pee very badly, so I left my bag with a complete stranger (and fellow runner) who checked it for me. Final stop at the loo accompished, I had to run to the start line to find my corral. And the start line was about half a mile from race village. Ugh.

Having finally got to my corral with about a minute to spare (literally), I didn’t have time to warm up, stretch, eat something small, or even fix the wonky insole in my left shoe. Oh well…

The Race Itself

The race started with very little fuss, and we got going. During the first three or four miles, my legs felt tight and heavy, like ugh this is so much effort do we really have to do this? By Mile 6, and old climbing accident flared up: it’s a loose SI joint caused by impact, which causes an inflamed piriformis, which in turn causes a trapped sciatic nerve. I haven’t suffered from this injury for 6 years, not even through training. By mile 6 the entire side of my left leg was in spasm and I was in agony, and so I had to stop to stretch. I was still hitting my paces, and somehow despite the pain, I felt okay. I was high-fiving kids, whooping and cheering at other racers, and generally enjoying myself.

Rock "n" Roll Dallas Half Marathon
(Photo by Peter Larsen/Getty Images for Competitor Group)

I hit the halfway point at 2:01:00, so with negative splits in mind (and how I naturally race), I could have (very tentatively) hit sub-4. But by that point, the pain was overwhelming, and I just knew it was out of the question. Despair arrived just after that point, when I realised there was still half a marathon to go.

Miles 13-16 were a blur of pain, with alternating stretches of walking, running and stretching the away. When the cramp dissipated and I was able to run, the pace was actually quite respectable- but then the spasm came again. By Mile 18 I was in full-on meltdown mode. All I kept thinking was how I’d let everyone down, especially since I’d put my everything into training for the past 4 months, and chewed everyone’s ears off with my endless marathon talk. I’d sacrificed so many things in those past few months, and it all felt like it was for nothing.

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At Mile 20 I said a little prayer and hoped just to finish. By this point I really couldn’t move very well, and so I knew I would have to get over my ego and high expectations. But luckily, we were headed back into the city and the crowds were phenomenal.  I ate as many jelly babies and fruit pastilles as I could carry and used the pure sugar as a much-needed boost. I stopped for a long time somewhere around Mile 22, and only started moving again when I could see the 4:30 pacer closing in on me. At Mile 25 I saw two of my closest friends, Ben and Josh, who’d come to support me, and that gave me a huge boost. They were outside a pub, screaming excitedly as I ran past (because at this point, thankfully, I was at least mustering a jog). Their punny, personalised cheers helped me no end, and I finally made it to the top of the hill where, I was told, I’d be able to see the finish line.

Finish line my ass.  I mean, I could see the finish line, but it was bloody miles away (not literally…obviously…it was probably half a mile!) It felt like a mirage- it never seemed to get any closer! I kept wanting to stop because of the pain shooting down my leg, but honestly the crowd support towards the finish was so phenomenal I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And so, in a blur, I somehow made it to the finish line- I honestly can’t remember it!

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There was no clock at the finish line, so I had no idea how I’d done. But frankly I didn’t care- I got my medal and my space blanket, and sent a quick update to my colleagues, who’d all been tracking me and cheering via our Whatsapp group. Stopping turned out to be a bad idea- apparently my legs preferred to be mobile by that point! So i found a place to stretch, and meet Ben and Josh. There was a palava with the baggage collection (more on that to follow), but Ben and Josh bought me a chicken burger and chips, and we sat on the tarmac in race village to eat. And I’ve never felt happier, or more loved, or more relieved.

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My finishing time, I later discovered, was 4:34:14. I was really disappointed with this- I’d had to come to terms with not achieving my A goal which even I knew was lofty. But I was sure I’d finished before the 4:30 pacer- really, it didn’t make a lot of sense. I’ve been feeling a bit low in the aftermath of race day, but I know it’s just a barrier I need to get over in my head. I need to find a way to recognize that 26.2 miles is an achievement!

So there we have it; my first marathon. It wasn’t the result I was hoping for by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m glad to have at least achieved it. Not everyone wakes up one morning and decides to run a marathon, so at least I’ve got that.

Lots of love,

Pippa x
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53 thoughts on “Rundown: Manchester Marathon aka My First Marathon

  1. I did Manchester and didn’t enjoy it one bit. Organisation at start was poor. I had no idea where the start line was or where my corral was. Its made out to be flattest marathon but i think its a really tough run. Well done on keeping going through the pain and finishing.

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  2. Congrats! Way to stick with it and fight to the end! I know it wasn’t the result you wanted but remember, there are always other races. Repeat after me: there are always other races!! The toughness made you a grittier runner in the end and you really had to fight and earn that medal, so kudos to you!

    Plus, you are a MARATHONER now! You get that title for the rest of your life! 50 years from now you won’t care about your finish time, you’ll just remember how proud you felt to cross the finish. Most people don’t run sub-4 on their first try – this just means that you’ll get a much bigger PR when you run your next marathon!

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    1. Thanks! Hopefully that’ll sink in- it really feels like I didn’t do it at the moment! I set out for an easy 3-mile run and couldn’t really get my head round the fact i’d done that nearly 9 times over… weird to think!

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  3. Considering the issues with your leg and old injury, finishing anywhere south of 5 hours is pretty damn respectable. And it was your first marathoN!! No one cares about first marathon time! Just rest up, give in to some of the things you’ve sacrificed over the past few months, and then look for another race to run 🙂 The next marathon, no matter what, will be easier. Trust me.

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  4. Congrats on the accomplishment. Many of us very envious that you took on the challenge, fought through obstacles, and finished more than respectively. These accomplishments in running translate into life real nice I am finding, even at my age (51). GREAT JOB!

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  5. Seriously well done! First marathon and a great result. The fact that you’ve got used to training at distances mean you don’t fully appreciate you’ve just done something the vast majority of the population can’t and wouldn’t attempt let alone complete. Give yourself a break and be proud of it!

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  6. You are in possession of a very respectable marathon PB. Just finishing in such pain should give you the confidence to know that a sub-4 is a serious possibility. I did my first marathon on Saturday and was hours slower than you (quite literally hours slower) but I’m still a marathon runner. Rest up, enjoy the smug glow of achieving something 99% of the population never will (invented statistic, don’t quote it as fact). Next time that mental toughness will enable you to do even better. Well done! Hx

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  7. After a very tough marathon, a wise friend pointed out that sometimes simply finishing is a win in itself. You had a a lot of pain, but you were tough and made it to the end. Regardless of time or goals, finishing 26.2 miles is a mega achievement (and the first one is a PB!). Besides, you have a perfectly respectable time and a new goal to beat …
    Now reflect on your experience, bask in the glory and enjoy the recovery.

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  8. congratulations on pushing through all the obstacles and pain and getting that first marathon done! i think everyone’s first marathon hurts like crazy but the accomplishment is forever.

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  9. That is awesome!! You shouldn’t feel disappointed at all with your time. You are a marathoner, and very few people can say that. You faced the monstrosity of your first marathon, with an injury from mile 6 onward, that is 20 miles of grit and endurance!!! That is a great effort, and 4:34 is a very respectable time. You should feel extremely proud of yourself.

    Congratulations!! You are awesome!

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  10. You definitely shouldn’t feel disappointed in your time, you did awesome – especially given the circumstances! There are people that run multiple marathons and still haven’t hit your time. As Hanna mentioned, there will be other races. It’s never fun when the beginning of the race is disorganized because that makes the situation more stressful than it needs to be. But I did see on Instagram that you were out for a run this week so hopefully you’re recovering well and can be back at it again. What’s next?!?!

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    1. Thank you, circumstances definitely weren’t ideal! I got 3 miles in yesterday (weird to think that i ran like 9 times that distance a few weeks ago…) so it’s just nice to be back out there! Dunno what’s next exactly, I’ve gone a bit existential in my post-marathon crisis, I’m entered into Budapest in October but I dunno if I want to take a longer off season, race some shorter races and build up strength, and then maybe do a spring race in 2017…

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  11. Just awesome!! I know you are disappointed with your time but you DID A FREAKIN MARATHON and you were only 4 minutes from your goal…that is a huge accomplishment showcasing all of your hard training. I always use my first race in anything as baseline – you can only go up from there 🙂

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  12. i dont care what anyone says that time especially for your first marathon and all the crap you went with is AMAZING! you are a total rock star and that lost photo is epic. congrats on pushing through the stupid pain and achieving the goal of not pooping your pants! i think any day that doesnt happen is a gold star day 😉

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  13. Once again, way to go! 26.2 miles is unreal! I know how hard it would be to suffer an injury or just a nagging ache during such a big moment in your life, but the important thing is you made it – YOU finished a 26.2 mile race and you have the medal to prove it. I struggled with having a time goal for my first half I recently did (I still have my medal on my bedside table…), but reasoned while it’s nice to have a time to look for, for your first one, all that’s really important is that you were there, start to finish. No matter the time, it’s already a PR. AND now that you know you can do it hurt, imagine how well you’re going to do on your next one!

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