Claire Wynarczyk reflects on a special day at Manchester.
Great Manchester Half Marathon: Sunday 28th May 2017
Shortly after completing Europe’s biggest 10k at Manchester in May 2016 and achieving a 10k PB (1:19:04- since beaten) Great Run posted a video launching their first half marathon in Manchester on 28th May 2017.
This did appeal to me from the get go however I spent from October 2016-February 2017 (before half entries shut) debating whether to play it safe and do the 10k again or set myself a challenge and do their inaugural half. The challenge was too good to miss and in February I got my entry in quickly before it was full.
Fast forward 3 months later after training, increasing mileage, races, 5K & 10K PB’s along the way 28th May 2017 arrived and it was race day. Of course with my achievements in training I was starting to dream that maybe a sub 3 hour time was possible based on recent times and achievements in races and training, but at the same time feared it wouldn’t be guaranteed anyway I was determined to try my best and see what happened. Given the recent tragic events in Manchester that happened in the week leading up to the race I was determined to do it for Manchester. Very poignant and at one stage this week leading up to the race there were fears that the race would have to be cancelled, very grateful to the police and security services for giving it the go ahead.
This was my third half marathon in 3 years but the first half that wasn’t the Great North Run – previous PB 3:24:54
Here is the story of the day:
9am start so after an early breakfast I headed to the start assembly area on Portland Street
Before the start there was an amazing but sombre atmosphere as poet Tony Walsh, aka “Longfella”, whose “This is the Place” recital folded even the hardest of hearts at the vigil for victims earlier in this difficult week read out the poem followed by a minutes silence as the church bells rang out at 9am, what followed was an amazing atmosphere where 8000 runners all started singing along to “Don’t look back in anger”, shortly after we were given the go ahead to start, I was more than ready and was determined to run for Manchester. I felt quite emotional at this point.
Mile 1: 11:06
As I crossed the start line I started a little too fast but was following the crowd trying not to get in anyone’s way I then settled down and dropped back into a regular rhythm, all too soon I arrived at the junction where you look right and could see the finish, tremendous amount of spectators on the sidelines it was then onto the slip road onto the mancunian way (little narrow at this point I must say but once we got onto the mancunian way we could spread out. It did help control my pace though.
Mile 2: 12:05
I settled into a rhythm and could see the road ahead going up and down and knew at the end of this mile my hotel was on the left hand side literally next to the motorway (I would see this point again during the race). I didn’t panic when I saw the hill I just took it steady 11-12 pace didn’t want to push too hard my breathing was fine.
Mile 3 12:19
This mile was mostly uphill continuing along mancuanian way until we reached the junction that led us onto Ashton New Road. Prior to this junction we went under a bridge and I was’nt prepared for the familiar sound of ‘Oggy Oggy Oggy’, something which I only associated with the Great North Run as you approach the Tyne Bridge. I joined in of course, it was then after passing under this bridge the leaders of the race (already at 6.6 miles) could be seen on the other side of the road.
Mile 4: 12:45 5k split time 37:24
Kept it steady, couldn’t believe I was holding onto this steady pace and wondered how long it would last, took on water at water station but at same time did’nt want too much in case it made me want to stop, I was determined not to but decided I would review how I felt when I got back to the water station at 6 miles. I was still heading uphill but I turned left and could see the Ethiad stadium the turning point of the route.
I then saw a friend who I had done a training session with as she was doing the half she was on her way back from the stadium, shortly after I saw fellow Tyne Bridge Harrier Suzanne Dunn who spurred me on.
Mile 5: 12:48
I was pre-warned of a hill to get up to the stadium saw runners ahead climbing the bridge to it but i was determined to not stop, what went up came back down sure enough, atmosphere was amazing this mile running down the hill towards the stadium along past music being played and I felt strong and could see the turning point, made sure to thank the marshals, then it was back over the bridge again after high fiving two very enthusiastic medical staff – Thank You.
Mile 6: 12:55
Back the way I had come felt downhill, started to feel what I thought was a blister but was not stopping just kept it steady could see the 6 marker ahead felt positive I was doing well I knew if I had done roughly 5 miles in an hour I was in for a good chance I was going to review time again at 10k and halfway
Mile 7: 12:42 10K split time 1:17:08
Got back to the water station took on more water but decided not to stop for loo break I didn’t want to stop my rhythm, I felt alright, still strong couldn’t believe I hadn’t stopped yet, in training I tend to hit the wall at 7 miles and that’s with plenty walk breaks – non stop so far. Reached 6.55 miles halfway in about 1:21 and thought at the rate I was going there was a slim chance of 2:45. Surely not, it did boost me a bit, back onto the mancunian way the way i came.
Mile 8: 13:39
Felt as though I was starting to slow down dropped pace (especially when I saw an ambulance at other side of cordon, passed my hotel again, recovered pace again by the end of this mile and knew sub 14 was still good. I could see the city centre and knew soon we would be taking a left up to Old Trafford meanwhile could see people heading down to Deansgate and the finish.
Mile 9: 14:06
On to continue the familiar part of last years 10k route (bar a shorter route for the half marathoners) so I knew what was to come in terms of the course and gradient etc kept my pace mostly below 14 minute mile until the wall came and hit me at 8.9 miles i could see the 9 mile sign and had just seen Suzanne (Dunn) again at the other side of road smashing it at 12 miles but still giving me encouragement – Thank You. My first walk break at 8.9 miles (never ran that far before without stopping I am happy). Worked out I had about 1 hour 5 minutes to do the last 4.1 miles knew it was still possible if I did’nt give up
Mile 10: 14:23 15k split 1:59:53
Passing the 9 mile sign I picked myself up knowing my dream of sub 3 was still on I just needed to work for it, after 4 minutes walking I picked myself up and my pace improved a good 6 minutes of running got me to Old Trafford where I caught up with some girls who I met at the start line. I did’nt expect to see them again but one girl was having a problem with her knee and I was encouraging them with a ‘parkrun to go’ whilst at same time trying to encourage myself.
Mile 11: 14:50
I tried to find the get up to continue running but it wasn’t coming, this mile went up and down in terms of pace reverted to run/walk. 10 miles done in about 2:09 I just had to convince myself I could do the last 3.1 miles in under 51 minutes surely???
Mile 12: 15:22 (only mile above 15 minutes)
A mile of 2 half’s started off well. I went through a lovely shower on route after the Imperial War Museum before heading back round to Old Trafford walked again until water station but then a downhill section boosted me briefly. At 11.7 miles I could see Deansgate tower where it finished, knew I was going to finish and had 25 minutes for 1.5 miles started to get confident again after a spell of maybe its going to slip away and convincing myself I had sub 3. I was encouraging the last participants of the half at the other side of the barrier at 9 miles heading to Old Trafford.
Mile 13: 14:52
This was the time I had to make it count, visualised my home parkrun course, it was like running from just before Wylam Brewery at Newcastle parkrun to the finish, kept it steady with what I had left with a few walk breaks to save myself for the last part, went through the last shower with about 1k to go. Quick look at my watch at 12.7 miles I had 10 minutes to do the last 0.4 (ended up being 0.5) 2:50 at this point
Home straight the final 0.2 3:01
I gave it all I had left could see the finish, heard someone shouting my name (turns out it was Katrina who I had seen in the run earlier) came in for a strong finish stopped my watch to look at final time.
I DID IT, FIRST EVER SUB 3 HALF MARATHON 2:56:53
Just a little 28 minutes 01 second PB on 2016 GNR time
The training and progress my club can give me.
Great experience at Great Manchester Half 2017 on the most poignant of weekends to host it. Crowds and supporters were very good found the course a little less tough than GNR anyway but hard to say as I have improved with the club since my last GNR so time will surely tell at GNR 2017.
Great Manchester Run 2017- 2:56:53!! previous PB 3:24:54