April is spring marathon season, culminating in the best of the best, the London Marathon. Another year, another failed ballot entry. I nearly got in with a club place, but that was also snatched away from me. I was able to take part as a volunteer though which was fun. In any case I had another Marathon that I was training for… the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon 2018. It’s been a long six months of training but the day finally arrived, on 8th April 2018.
Pre-race build up
On the Friday before, I went to see my dad first of all and spent a few hours with him before I set off. I then started my journey to Manchester at around 3 pm. I thought there was no point in me going up any earlier then that as the traffic should not be too heavy, since it was still the school Easter holidays. Google Maps told me it was going to take about 3 hours 20 minutes or so. That was not overly long, I thought I should be able to make it all the way in one hit. It was not too much further on from Telford, and I had driven there fairly recently. It turned out that there was still a lot of local traffic for some reason, nothing apparent.
On the M1, going north, traffic was flowing well. It was not going as fast as it could have been. As I made my way onwards Google Maps kept on telling me that there was traffic up ahead a 17-minute delay here, a 17-minute delay there, and so on. All along the M6 were accidents. It had rained a little bit and it was spitting, when it rains people seem to not be able to drive properly and it causes accidents!
There were a couple of accidents along the way, which made my 3 hours 20 minutes journey ending up taking me 5 hours! And I didn’t even stop at a service station either! I was busy sat in the car listening to my podcasts, so it was fine but it was just longer than it should have been! It was around 8 o’clock in the evening when I ended up getting to the hotel!
I was staying in the Old Trafford area. Basically, right in the Old Trafford Cricket Ground. The Hilton Garden Inn Hotel, some rooms actually look over the cricket ground. I wasn’t in one of those though, but it is a lovely brand-new hotel. The first room I got was on the first floor and was really spacious. Everything is basically brand new. Very modern it was really nice, however, when I went into the bathroom there was no bath! There was only a shower! After a marathon I would like to enjoy a good soak with my Epsom salts, in a bath.
Once I had a look around the room and saw that the bathroom didn’t have a bath I immediately rang down to reception to see if there was any available rooms that also had a shower. Lucky for me there was! 🙂 I ended up being on the fourth floor, still on the same side of the hotel though. It was still a spacious room but it had twin beds instead of double bed. This was fine by me and the twin beds weren’t the tiny ones. It was perfect fit for me. The new room had both a bath and a shower, so I was happy with that. The only problem was the hot water didn’t get as hot as I would have liked, but you can’t have everything. It was already fairly late in the day when I got situated and I had several snacks on my way up, I didn’t need to have dinner, I just went to bed.
Parkrun tourist at Stretford Parkrun
The following day was for me to do as I pleased. I was expecting some kind of expo, but there wasn’t anything. However, it was Saturday, and you know what that means… Saturday is parkrun day! I ventured up to parkrun Stretford, which was held in Longford Park. The park was about a mile away from the cricket ground, I did a slow jog in the parks direction with Google Maps to guide my way. Once I got to just before the park I saw people running in that direction and I just basically followed them.
The start and finish is in Longford Park Stadium, on the athletics track. Whilst waiting around you could tell that there were more people attending because of the marathon. I saw a couple of people that I recognised from St Albans parkrun, which is local to me. There was a lady that I’ve seen more often in races as opposed to parkrun, but I know that she’s from St Albans Striders. I’ve also seen her volunteering at St. Albans parkrun a few times as well. She really gets you going, really loud when she’s marshalling, she’s fun. I went over and we chatted while we were waiting. She then saw others from her running club and went over to join them.
It was nearing 9am and I didnt here an announcement for the new runners briefing so I went over to ask some of the marshals about it. We had a nice chat and I explained how this is my first marathon in “my new body” and all my expectations for the race. They were doing the marathon too, that’s why they were volunteering instead of running, and they were saying how it’s a really nice flat parkrun and detailing the course.
The run started after the new runners briefing, which was mainly Manchester marathoners to be! The course was a loop of the track before you leave the stadium, and then you run around the park twice and then you re-enter the stadium for a final run around the track again to the finish. It’s very hard to contain yourself from going fast because it was flat. I had to hold back as much as I could and I was really trying to test myself because I hadn’t been feeling too good in my runs since the Bedford 20 Mile race. I had recovered from tiredness and muscle aches, but in myself, when I was running even single miles, my engine wasn’t kicking in. It felt like something inside was holding me back. But thankfully for that run, I was fine. I had no problems. I probably could have gone faster if I wanted to, but I ended up running it in 27 minutes 22 seconds, my normal park run pace.
Stretford parkrun is definitely a PB worthy course, so if you’re in the Manchester area get yourself to Stretford parkrun. Really friendly people and lovely flat course and then you can unleash your inner Mo Farah on the track for the finish. I couldn’t resist picking up the pace at the end. It was a good run, I enjoyed it. On the way back to the hotel it was raining. In fact it started to rain halfway through parkrun. I sort of jogged-walked back, soaked. The route back to the hotel was a little different and I ended up getting a little lost. 4.5 – 5 miles was run that day! Oops… Probably not a good idea the day before the marathon, but it was okay. I got back and had a nice breakfast!
My fellow members from Stopsley Striders joined me later on in the day. They were not staying at the same hotel though, probably a mile away. Travelling up on a Saturday, they seemed to have had a better journey than I had had. It only took them about three hours or so. I did think that maybe I should have gone up on a Saturday too. I’m glad I did arrive earlier though, as it enabled me to have a better rest and to enjoy a different parkrun. It all adds up to another notch on my tourist parkrun sheet 🙂
Whilst they were traveling up, I went to Manchester City centre to the shopping area and did a little bit of shopping for my holiday. I also got something to eat, a light snack. We were going to meet up for dinner, and afterward come down to have a look at the event Village and the start area of the race. There seemed to be more dining options nearer to where they were staying, so I walked up to their hotel. We ended up having dinner at the Beefeater.
It was really good to spend some time with other people doing the race. I normally go to these things on my own, so it was nice to share the same experience with others. It was both Vicki and Marias’ first marathons. This brought back the memories of my first marathon and all the excitement that you feel, and the nervousness, and the fear of the unknown and all that stuff. We were just talking about it all. It was brilliant to share that experience with them.
We then walked down back towards my hotel to have a look where the event village would be. The “finish line” was resting on the floor in the car park. We took selfies with it and we touched the clock for some good luck 🙂 It was interesting to see it all being put together and I could see a lot from my room. As I could see into the carpark, and I could see all of the setup as it happened. We could also view, but not get to, the area where the stalls would be for trying out nutrition products, and where baggage would be left.
I did a lot of walking that day, ending up doing about 18,000 steps in all! Not a good idea the night before a marathon but, I felt good for it. I think I had some nervous energy to expend. We then went back to our respective hotels to start preparing for the BIG day. I pinned my number on my Stopsley Striders vest, and got the rest of my gear ready.
Check Part two of my Manchester Marathon 2018 race recap! Or if you can’t wait to hear how the race went please watch my video recap below. 🙂
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