Great Manchester Run: Happy Sunday for ‘Shades’

Rob ‘Shades’ Kirtley sends this report

Rob Kirtley

At the weekend, I travelled down to Manchester to prepare to take part in the third of my ‘Great Runs’ in the series of 8 events, The 9th running of the BUPA Great Manchester Run.

It’s a flat fast 10K course starting and finishing in the City Centre.

Following a disappointing 10K race on Wednesday at The Clive Cookson, I was determined to make up for it in Manchester to get a good time and ‘definately maybe’ the sub 40:00 that I’ve been chasing for a while now.

Had a good relaxed Saturday, watching the FA Cup final and then making use of the pool and other facilities at our hotel. Managed to get an early night despite the drunken sounds of ‘the whole of Manchester’ singing in the streets.

Conditions on Sunday looked absolutely perfect as I made the 5 minute walk from the hotel to the start area on Portland Road.

Due to the limited space available on the street at the start & the volume of runners who enter this IAAF Gold Label event, The Great Manchester Run is set off in ‘waves’, with each coloured wave starting at different times. I’d been allocated an Orange number starting in the first wave at 10:34.

I made the mistake of not getting into the pen early and when I did, I found myself quite a way from the start with runners absolutely rammed tight together similar to a London tube at rush hour. I could barely move to lightly stretch my legs on the spot.

I thought about trying to move up closer to the 40 minute pacer whose sign I could just make out in the distance but it would have been impossible to make that journey pushing my way through fellow runners, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would just have to catch up with him once we got started.

As is the case at these Great Run events, they have a compere leading a mass warm up.. this was a complete waste of time as no-one could actually move. So, we spent 10 minutes listening to some pumping dance music with a hyperactive, over enthusiastic fitness dude (remember Mr. Motivator??) shouting out instructions from a raised platform telling us to “work those muscles”, “raise those arms”, “pump that body”, “yo ooooooooo” as we all stood stock still, rolling our eyes at each other smiling and tutting.

After the Elite introductions & a massive round of applause for Haile, the Great Manchester Run got underway on the gun and a claxon. We slowly started moving forward. As the crowd opened up a bit, I got to gently jog up to the timing mat at the start line. We were off !! ….. or were we?

As soon as I crossed the line and started my Garmin, I was forced to start side tracking and weaving to get past people who I had assumed were going to be setting away at least my pace. Unfortunately, this was not the case and I spent a very frustrating 1K weaving in and out of runners who had obviously been a bit over optimistic about their predicted finishing time when entering. I was wondering how much effect this would have on my overall run and was this going to be the ruin of great opportunity to get my sub 40?

I managed to find some open road and to up my pace. I felt good as I turned onto Chester Road and got through my first mile in 6:32. I knew I would have to make up for the lost time at the start & to stay on pace. I was concentrating on my form and the forefoot strike style that I have been getting used to recently in training & was feeling very comfortable and relaxed as the race continued along the A56 and Bridgewater Way. I still couldn’t see the 40 minute pacer but I was making good ground and completed my second mile in 6:27.

Turned onto Sir Matt Busby Way, where we ran past Old Trafford and also where I couldn’t resist a good old ‘from the guts’ hockle on the ground as I passed.

I did my 3rd mile in 6:26 and I was hoping to get to the 5K stage sub 20 and as I passed I looked at my Garmin to see that I was only 19 seconds out. From the halfway stage on Warren Bruce Road, the race is slightly downhill so I knew I could take advantage of that and pushed on still trying to locate the 40 minute pacer.

Trafford Wharf Road and 4th mile done in 6:21. With those important middle 2 miles completed, I was still feeling good and happy that I was maintaining a consistent pace that was setting me up for a sub 40 finish.

Between miles 4 & 5, the race heads back onto the A56 and were now seeing the runners from the White wave on the opposite side of the road who had set away 20 minutes after us. As I hit the 5 mile marker, I felt great knowing that there was only about 8.30 minutes of running left. I remember looking at my Garmin and it said 31:40 with 1.2 miles to go.. It was going to be close to get the sub 40 but at this point, I knew that I was going to get a pb unless something very silly happened in the last mile of the race…. the final push !!

Spurred on by seeing one of my favourite musicians Clint Boon (keyboard player with 90′s band Inspiral Carpets) performing a DJ set on an open ‘Boon Army’ truck & blasting out some Stone Roses .. I managed to raise my hand and shout “Boooooon” as I passed, which he heard & gave me an appreciative thumbs up and a nod of his head :-) .. I rattled on through towards the busy City Centre over Bridgewater Viaduct and the sprint finish (well, what I had left) on Deansgate. I stopped my Garmin as I crossed the line but didn’t dare look at the time. Had I done it? or had the earlier ducking, diving and weaving put a stop to it all?? I did however realise that I had not seen the 40 minute pacer but wasn’t sure if I had overtaken him or not.

Eventually, after removing my timing chip and collecting my goody bag, I took a look at the time on my Garmin. My watch recorded me completing the 10K in 40:10 and my official time was 40:26 & a negative split, knocking 72 seconds off my previous 10k pb which although not sub 40, was enough for me to be happy and to know that the superb quality of training at Tyne Bridge Harriers is paying off and I’m heading in the right direction.

my Mile (and a bit) splits: 6:32 6:27 6:26 6:21 6:33 6:30 1:21

GMR is a great fast course, very popular with excellent support all the way around. I’d love to see what the faster paced lads n lasses at Tyne Bridge Harriers could achieve on that course.  Being a Great Run event, it’s overpriced (as usual) but I’d highly recommend it. Just make sure you get to the starting pen early to claim a good spot up front of your allocated wave !! (unless you’ve been given an Elite or Fast Paced number). Awesome experience to be running in the same race as the legend Haile Gebresalassie and top runners such as Chris Thompson, Martin Fagin, & Helen Clitheroe.

I’d also like to say congratulations to top local athlete, Ian Hudspith from Morpeth Harriers for a superb run in a time of 29:42.


1 H Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) 28:10
2 C Thompson (GB) 28:21
3 S Lebid (Ukraine) 28:25
4 C Mottram (Australia) 28:36
5 M Fagan (Ireland) 28:39
6 J Walsh (GB) 28:42
7 S Overall (GB) 28:49
8 J Mellor (GB) 28:50
9 A Ledwith (Ireland) 29:02
10 R McLeod (GB) 29:04

18 I Hudspith (GB) 29:42
479 R Kirtley (GB) 40:26

1 H Clitheroe (GB) 31:45
2 C Daunay (France) 31:58
3 G Momanyi (Kenya) 32:04
4 S Moreira (Portugal) 32:11
5 A Incerti (Italy) 32:35
6 B Adere (Ethiopia) 33:07
7 K Wootton (GB) 33:14
8 H Whitmore (GB) 33:37
9 S Samuels (GB) 33:43
10 L Whittle (GB) 33:47

If you would like to make a donation to my Great Run Challenge 2011, please visit my Just Giving page for more information.


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    • Double D on 16th May 2011 at 08:59
    • Reply

    Great report Rob. As I’ve found out from past experiences, a decent start is essential if you’re after a good time, so considering the cramped conditions as you set off, I’d put money on you breaking that elusive 40 minutes next time.

    • Mark Reynolds on 16th May 2011 at 11:24
    • Reply

    Great to read your detailed report on this race Rob – well done on a great run and a new PB in crowded conditions. That elusive sub-40 must be only just around the corner – sure you’ll be there very soon.

    • Kerry Reed on 16th May 2011 at 12:11
    • Reply

    Brilliant running rob, and I loved reading your report. Im still laughing at the hockle bit…Im sure you’ll get the pb your hoping for very soon. Very well done. Ps i still need to buy the copy of your CD??

    • Deka on 16th May 2011 at 12:32
    • Reply

    Well Done Rob you are getting very close to that mile stone of sub 40 mins now
    and i am sure you will do that this summer

    • Paul Hilton on 16th May 2011 at 15:56
    • Reply

    Excellent run and report Shades !

    Few more weeks of training in ye and you can wave goodbye to 40mins.

    • Sean Kelly on 16th May 2011 at 17:18
    • Reply

    Your report created all the atmousphere, excitement (and frustrations) of competing in a ‘big city’ road race. I’m sure that we could class it as an ‘unofficial’ sub-40 10km performance! We should invite Clint Boon to perform a DJ set during the Morpeth 10k – that should push you under the 40 minute barrier for sure! WELL DONE SHADES.

    • daniel b on 16th May 2011 at 21:25
    • Reply

    great stuff Rob, you’ll be gunning for Haile soon!

    • Sparrow on 19th May 2011 at 01:32
    • Reply

    “Oh you’re into running are you? Have you read that book… 501 days of running by Rob ‘Shades’ Kirtley. It really places you in the mind of a runner – all the way through his training to race day”

    Awesome report, certainly echo what Sean says about the atmosphere. Make sure to save all your thoughts so that we can read about your chase of that illusive sub 40!

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