Simon Pryde sends this report from the Greater Manchester Marathon 2012
“Bruce Willis is Dead! Bruce Willis is Dead”!
The hail was smashing into my face, and I couldn’t feel my fingers. There were still 5 miles or so to go, the crowds had thinned out, then disappeared completely, spectators’ umbrellas, deformed by the gales and discarded, the only evidence they had ever been there.
All I could do was repeat my mantra. Everyone has a running mantra, do they not? Mine is from a Mr Oizo song, which is on my iPod and is utterly unsuited to running, as it changes speed and rhythm, and could hardly be described as uplifting. But it always makes me smile when it
comes on. No MP3 players allowed in this race (and who am I to break the rules?), so I was left with my mantra. I could no longer think.
The Manchester Marathon, you could say, was always likely to be uncomfortable with it A. being in Manchester and B. being a marathon. It was cold and wet from the moment I first ventured outside at 7 that morning. 8,000 people had apparently entered, far fewer (5,000?) gathered at the start at Longford Park, not far from Old Trafford. The collective shiver of athletes as we waited on the start-line for the announcer to get things going (shut up, get on with it, shut up, get on with it) triggered a tremor registering on the Richter scale at 4.5.
Blimey, the gun was loud. We were off, and heading south, then west. My plan was 7.25 minute miles (optimistic, especially as I’d had 4.5-on-Richter-scale activity in my stomach through the week, too), but, as usual, I shot off too fast. This time, though, I reined myself in. Plenty were passing me as the first 6, 7, 8 miles rolled by (including the 3.15 pace man and his disciples.. surely going too fast?!). Kept the pace steady as we went through Altrincham – great crowds, considering the conditions. Some motivating cries of “Go on Tyne Bridge” as my vest was spotted…. It was drizzling at this stage, very cold, but at least the wind was slightly behind… for now. The route curved north, and just after the halfway point (the second fastest half marathon I’ve ever run – 1.36ish) we found ourselves on a country lane, and a couple of tracks which wouldn’t have been out of place in a trail race.
I ran past a bloke in a Berwick Rangers shirt, and burst into appropriate song (Berwick’s my home town). This was met with a look of distaste and nothing more. My pace dropped slightly, but I still felt comfortable, though the rain was getting harder, the wind stronger. At 17 miles, we seemed to turn right into the teeth of it. We looked the Devil in the eye, and he chuckled at us, a bit like Frank Carson might. I put a lot into maintaining 7.50 min or so miles…. but it took its toll. It was SO cold. Why didn’t I wear gloves? I’d later discover plenty of people dropped out. From the halfway point there were plenty walking…. but I knew it was imperative I didn’t stop. I’d still be there now if I had. By 20 miles I was out of gas. As we looped back towards Stretford I dropped to 8, 8.30, 9 minute miles…. my last was around 10 minutes…. I felt sick, the lactic acid attacking my legs….. people now starting to pass me. “Bruce Willlis is dead…Bruce Willis is dead”. The rain got harder, turned to hail and I ran a considerable distance with my eyes closed. Never have I been so glad to see a finish line in all my life. I crossed amidst a small and bedraggled group – 3.23.46 the time.. slower than my target but still a PB by 28 minutes, so I shouldn’t complain!
Thankfully my girlfriend met me at the end and shepherd me back to the car. It took heater full blast for an hour or so before I could function.
Conclusion: Great fun (and Bruce Willis, as far as I know, lives on).